Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Heavier punishments under secrets act not aimed at media, A-G tells journalists union

Proposed amendments to enhance penalties under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) 1972 are not aimed at journalists, Attorney-General (A-G) Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali told the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) today. NUJ's executive committee, which met the A-G at his office in Putrajaya today, said Apandi told them that the proposed amendments were aimed at whistleblowers who leaked government secrets that could threaten the country's security and stability. He said journalists would be free to do their work as long as they operated according to their professional code of ethics and reported "verified facts", NUJ's exco quoted Apandi saying in a press statement this evening after their meeting. "I also wish to explain that there will be no curbing of journalists' freedom to report verified facts in accordance with their professional code of ethics. "As such, no journalist should worry about the proposed amendments because they will not threaten journalists in disseminating information to the government and the people," Apandi had told the exco members. The NUJ exco also submitted memorandum to the A-G during the one-hour meeting today. Among various points, the memorandum urged the A-G not to interfere with the duties of journalists, including the obligation to protect sources. It also said the A-G had no purview to interfere or obstruct journalists from carrying out their duties as his role was to oversee legal matters and not professional conduct. Earlier this month, Apandi told Sin Chew Daily in an interview that he was considering life imprisonment and 10 strokes of the cane as stiffer penalties under the Act and said these could be extended to journalists who insisted on protecting their sources. The government in November last year announced in the Dewan Rakyat that it was planning to amend the OSA. Apandi's proposal was criticised by press freedom and media activists. The NUJ exco today said Apandi reminded them during their visit that journalists should ensure they knew the source of the information they reported on and whether it was classified under the OSA. – March 2, 2016.]]>

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