Whistleblower Katharine Gun has said she never regretted her decision to leak top secret information to the press in the run up to the US invasion of Iraq.
The former GCHQ translator is now the subject of the new film Official Secrets, in which she is played by Keira Knightley.
It follows her decision to expose a US plot to spy on the UN during the push for the 2003 invasion, as well as her subsequent prosecution for breaking the Official Secrets Act. The case against her was later abruptly dropped.
Arriving at the premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, she told the PA news agency: “In a way it’s great that it’s been 16 years after the event because I can finally talk about it without breaking down or having stress and strain about it.”
She added the role of whistleblowers is more important than ever in today’s political climate, saying: “We are living in an age where it’s difficult to know what the truth is and we have got politicians in charge who actually appear to not really care what the truth is.
“So if you have whistleblowers bringing out facts, things that can be verified that are truthful, then you get some kind of hold on the truth and then from there you can start to make decisions.”
Asked if she ever regretted what she did, she said: “Not really, no.”
Martin Bright, the Observer’s investigative reporter who broke the news of Gun’s leaked memo, is played in the film by Matt Smith.
He said: “It’s very moving to see these events brought to life, it’s not every day that you have a film about a story that you’ve written so it is unusual and I can’t say it’s not an extraordinary thing.
“But it’s very important that the truth about what happened in the run up to the Iraq War is finally getting its day in the sun in this way and cinema can do something that newspapers can’t do, which is bring this to a very, very wide public.”
He added: “I think the role of whistleblowers has changed following the Iraq War and following 9/11, there were a number of whistleblowers who came forward and they now form a kind of network of trust so we are in a different position to where we were before, where Katharine was incredibly isolated.
“This is, I think, I hope, the age of the whistleblower and maybe we can get to a position where this kind of work is not seen as exceptional any more, that this is just what we do.
“These are difficult times for journalists and looking back at 2003 it almost seems like a golden age for journalism and yes, the whole issue of fake news has called what we do as a profession into question, but I have great faith in our profession.
“I think that the role of the journalist, if anything, is more important than it’s ever been.”
Official Secrets is released in UK cinemas on October 18.