Law to prevent disclosure of official info

The Official Secrets Act (OSA) is a law to prevent the disclosure of official documents and information. Many countries have such legislation in one form or another.

The Singapore law sets out penalties for spying, wrongful communication of classified information, unauthorised use of uniforms, and interference with police officers or armed forces members near a prohibited place, among other offences.

Section 5(1) of the Act deals with information leaks, by making it an offence for anyone who has access to information owing to his position in Government, to communicate such information to anyone unless he is authorised to do so.

The person who receives classified information from a public servant not authorised to give it, is also guilty of an offence.

During police investigations of offences or suspected offences under the Act, it is an offence for anyone to refuse to give information sought by investigating officers.

The last known case of an OSA case involving a journalist was in 1992.

This arose after The Business Times published a report citing the official flash estimate of Singapore's economic growth in the second quarter of the year, before such data was officially released.

The then editor of The Business Times, Mr Patrick Daniel, and BT journalist Kenneth James were convicted along with three other men for breaching the OSA. Mr Daniel was fined $4,000 on two charges, while Mr James was fined $3,500 on two charges.

Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who was then director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's economics department, was among the other three men who were fined for breaching the OSA. He was fined $1,500.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Law to prevent disclosure of official info'. Print Edition | Subscribe