What is the Official Secrets Act?
The Official Secrets Act No. 32 of 1955 is an archaic law in our statute books, said to be based on a much criticized and now abolished 1911 Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom. The purpose of the Act is to ‘restrict access to official secrets and secret documents and to prevent unauthorized disclosure thereof’. The provisions of the act are outdated and draconian and create leeway for the abuse of power, suppression of dissent and violation of fundamental rights.
There have been instances of previous governments threatening to use the Act to suppress information and intimidate journalists. While High Security Zones (HSZs) have previously been established in Sri Lanka under the Public Security Ordinance and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the use of the Official Secrets Act to establish HSZs sets a worrying precedent and is outside the scope of the Act.
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