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Rights researcher denies receiving secret Afghanistan data from UK military officer

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] researcher Rachael Reid responded [Guardian comment] Friday to media accusations that she received secret information from British officer Lt. Col. Owen McNally, arrested this week [JURIST report] on suspicion of leaking secret information regarding civilian casualty figures in Afghanistan. Reid accused the UK Ministry of Defense (MOD) [official website] of falsely informing the media that she was the recipient of the information and that she had a "close" relationship to McNally. Reid claims that any information she received was not in violation of the Official Secrets Act of 1989 [text] and that the media reports are a "vicious, false slur." Reid acknowledged that the reports may endanger her life and expressed confusion as to why her government would want her reputation "dragged through the mud." Director General of Media and Communication at the MOD Nick Gurr responded [MOD blog post] to Reid's article in a letter to the Guardian by claiming that her accusations are false and that the MOD did not give her name to the media.

Human Rights Watch has published specific data [HRW report] on civilian casualties in Afghanistan. Last year, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights [official website] expressed concern [JURIST report] that the Official Secrets Act as well as other restrictive libel laws prevented issues of public interest from being reported on. The UK Parliament [official website] recently debated security-related reporting restrictions [JURIST report], as opponents have criticized the Secrets Act for precluding important issues from public debate.

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