Official secrets and sedition

Doreen Weisenhaus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


While Chapter 5 of this book focuses on access to government-generated information and the roadblocks to much of it, this chapter1 centres on a specific category of prohibited government information known as "official secrets," as detailed in Hong Kong's Official Secrets Ordinance (OSO, Cap 521). The OSO is designed to prevent the public release of sensitive information about security and intelligence; defence; international relations, and information relating to the commission of offences and criminal investigations. The OSO is aimed primarily at sources - That is, those currently or formerly working for the government who might be in a position to provide information to the media - more than against journalists themselves. Thus, for the media, the law's greatest impact is the potential effect it has on the amount and type of information that might be released. But members of the media should also be aware that they too are vulnerable to prosecution under this ordinance. When additional laws on national security - including theft of state secrets, sedition, subversion, secession and treason - As mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, are eventually implemented in the manner many people anticipate, an already secret government is expected to become even more so and journalistic liability will likely increase. In the meantime, though, journalists must continue to be careful about violating present law; although prosecutions against the media have been rare, they can arise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHong Kong Media Law
Subtitle of host publicationA Guide for Journalists and Media Professionals
PublisherHong Kong University Press, HKU
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9789622098077
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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