Friday 16 September 2011

NUJ backs Guardian over Met sources demand

The NUJ is backing the Guardian which is resisting a demand by the Metropolitan Police that reporters disclose their confidential sources about the phone-hacking scandal.

Scotland Yard officers are seeking a court order under the Official Secrets Act claiming it could have been breached in July when reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies (pictured) revealed the hacking of Milly Dowler's phone. They are demanding source information be handed over.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "This is a very serious threat to journalists and the NUJ will fight off this vicious attempt to use the Official Secrets Act … Journalists have investigated the hacking story and told the truth to the public: they should be congratulated rather than being hounded and criminalised by the state."

"The protection of sources is an essential principle which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the European court of human rights as the cornerstone of press freedom. The NUJ shall defend it. In 2007 a judge made it clear that journalists and their sources are protected under article 10 of the Human Rights Act and it applies to leaked material. The use of the Official Secrets Act is a disgraceful attempt to get round this existing judgment."

The Guardian's editor Alan Rusbridger has said: "We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost".

Index on Censorship chief executive John Kampfner commented: “Scotland Yard’s outrageous and unjustified attempt to force the Guardian to reveal its sources in its phone hacking investigation is a direct attack on a free press. This is a shocking move to intimidate the media using the Official Secrets Act, one of the state’s most draconian pieces of legislation.

“The Guardian is to be praised for pursuing the phone hacking case where the Metropolitan police failed — and for exposing the extent of the scandal. Protection of sources is a crucial tenet of investigative journalism and must be respected.”

The Met said in a statement:

"The MPS has applied for a production order against the Guardian and one of its reporters in order to seek evidence of offences connected to potential breaches relating to Misconduct in Public Office and the Official Secrets Act.

"The application is about the MPS seeking to identify evidence of potential offences resulting from unauthorised leaking of information.

"Operation Weeting is one of the MPS's most high profile and sensitive investigations so of course we should take concerns of leaks seriously to ensure that public interest is protected by ensuring there is no further potential compromise. The production order is sought in that context.

"The MPS can't respond to the significant public and political concern regarding leaks from the police to any part of the media if we aren't more robust in our investigations and make all attempts to obtain best evidence of the leaks.

"We pay tribute to the Guardian's unwavering determination to expose the hacking scandal and their challenge around the initial police response. We also recognise the important public interest of whistle blowing and investigative reporting, however neither is apparent in this case. This is an investigation into the alleged gratuitous release of information that is not in the public interest.

"The MPS does not seek to use legislation to undermine Article 10 of anyone's Human Rights and is not seeking to prevent whistle blowing or investigative journalism that is in the public interest, including the Guardian's involvement in the exposure of phone hacking."

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