Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest
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Leaks, Whistleblowing and the Public Interest

The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures

Ashley Savage

This book is the first of its kind to provide an in-depth treatment of the law of unauthorised disclosures in the United Kingdom. Drawing upon extensive data obtained using freedom of information as a methodology and examples from comparative jurisdictions, the book considers the position of civil servants, employees of the security and intelligence services and service personnel in the armed forces. It considers the protections available, the consequences of leaking and a full assessment of the authorised alternatives.
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Chapter 3: Protection as a journalistic source

Ashley Savage


The making of unauthorised disclosures to journalists provides an alternative to making whistleblowing disclosures using official channels. Provided that the individual can remain anonymous from their organisation, they can continue to leak information and potentially avoid any workplace reprisals. The press perform a vital function in democratic society and can provide whistleblowers with a voice which may have gone unheard if they had chosen to use an official route. Journalists need sources and those sources need protection. Where journalists are compelled to reveal a source, their role as watchdog is undermined. Individuals are deterred from coming forward, resulting in a lasting ‘chilling effect’. The threat of prosecution to both journalists and their sources is a problem shared across the globe. Conversely, whilst anonymity can offer protection to the source, it presents potential challenges for the recipient audience. The information concerned may consist of ‘a mixture of substance and disinformation’. The recipient audience of have little way of checking the accuracy of the information, placing significant importance on the role of journalists to check information before publication and to provide explanations as to the importance of the disclosures in question. Furthermore, it has also been suggested that members of the public will ‘confuse self-protective instincts with cowardice and deceitfulness’. The traditional relationship between journalist and source is changing. Wikileaks and other online disclosure platforms now act as a conduit, working in collaboration with several media outlets across the globe.

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