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UK Attorney General threatens papers with secrets prosecutions over Iraq leak

[JURIST] English Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has told British newspapers that ran a story on a leaked UK government document purportedly describing conversations in April 2004 between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bush over the Iraq war that they could be subject to prosecution under Section 5 [text] of the UK Official Secrets Act [text] if they reveal details of the material. UK press reports say this is the first time the Blair government has threatened editors with this kind of sanction; previously, the government had merely obtained court injunctions to block publication of leaked material. On Tuesday, London's Daily Mirror reported that the document, allegedly leaked last May to a researcher for a backbench Labour Party MP by a Foreign Service official in the UK Cabinet Office, both of whom are now facing charges [JURIST report], described a disagreement between Blair and Bush over the advisability of bombing the facilities of Arabic satellite television station al-Jazeera, based in Qatar. US forces were then engaged in fierce fighting against Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah. The Guardian has more. The Daily Mirror offers its own story on the warning under the headline "Law Chief Gags The Mirror On Bush Leak". The National Union of Journalists, the UK journalists association, has condemned [press release] the gag as a "double attack on the freedom of the press and freedom of information", saying it "does the government of what is supposed to be a democracy no credit whatsoever." Aljazerra has issued a statement on the original Daily Mirror report.

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