New Podcast Alert : Episode 1 Secrets - A Very British Affair

February 20, 2023
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The first episode of a special 3-part series from the Whistleblowing International Network (WIN) and historian Kaeten Mistry is now available to listen to  online on all major podcast providers. 

The series explores the history of secrecy around the world, the importance of holding governments to account in the most sensitive areas of state conduct, and the failure to properly protect national security whistleblowers. We speak to international experts working to enhance whistleblowing protection, defend press freedom, and bolster civil society. And we examine how secrecy and liberty, security and openness became competing concepts within democratic societies. We consider these questions within and across national and regional boundaries, looking at the UK, the US, Europe and Latin America.

Episode 1: Secrets: A Very British Affair

We speak to Martin Bright, Editor-at-Large at Index on Censorship, and Maurice Frankel, Director at Campaign for Freedom of Information, about public interest whistleblowing, government transparency, and state secrecy in the United Kingdom.   

“Ultimately Britain is a secretive society … The Official Secrets Act remains a very strong piece of legislation where in its most brutal expression you simply have no defence, even if you claim you have leaked information in the public interest” – Martin Bright  

We also hear from Andrew Pepper-Parsons, Head of Policy at Protect, the UK’s preeminent whistleblower charity and one of the leading authorities on whistleblowing law and practice. Protect has been a key partner in helping us explore these issues.  

Additional Reading

In addition to the podcast series, we share resources supporting those working on issues relating to whistleblowing, the public interest, and strengthening civil society organisations. 

Below are some resources related to Episode 1.

Briefing on the National Security Bill - Protect
This briefing (2022) outlines the concerns of Protect, the UK’s whistleblowing organisation and legal advice centre, about new offences in the new National Security Bill that may criminalise whistleblowing where it involves disclosures to foreign regulators and journalists.
Introducing a public interest disclosure defence - Matrix and Mishcon de Reya LLP
This briefing paper by lawyers from Matrix and Mishcon de Reya, sets out the basis for the introduction of a public interest disclosure defence for breaches of the Official Secrets Acts (“OSAs”) or any replacement Espionage Act.
When We Speak (2022)
'When We Speak', directed by Tas Brooker, follows 3 whistleblowers: Katherine Gunn, Rose McGowan, and Helen Evans. By cutting between these stories, Brooker highlights their common threads, abuses of power, and exploited vulnerabilities. Crises of conscience, painful examinations of where one’s loyalties lie. We hear the motivation behind the decision to blow the whistle, and we see its dramatic fallout.  The film offers a human perspective, on what can often be quite an abstract discussion. You can listen back to the Whistleblowing Now and Then episode with Director Tas Brooker here.

Official Secrets (2019)
Official Secrets is a film based on the case of whistleblower Katharine Gun who worked as a linguist at the UK’s government communication headquarters (GCHQ). In 2003, she intercepted an email from the US National Security Agency - an email asking GCHQ to assist the US in their efforts to legitimise a war on Iraq. She made a copy of the memo – given anonymously to a journalist at the Observer – as she believed revealing the proposed bugging and blackmail tactics might be enough to stop the war.

If you enjoy the podcast please feel free to share on Twitter using the #WBNowandThen. You can listen to preivous episodes here