Monday 13 February 2012

'Sun journalists being treated like a criminal gang'

Wow! The Sun's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh has come blasting back over the police investigation that led to five more of the paper's journalists being arrested at the weekend.

Kavanagh, writing the op-ed in today's paper declares: "The Sun is not a "swamp" that needs draining. Nor are those other great News International titles, The Times and The Sunday Times.

"Yet in what would at any other time cause uproar in Parliament and among civil liberty and human rights campaigners, its journalists are being treated like members of an organised crime gang."

He adds: "Instead of being called in for questioning, 30 journalists have been needlessly dragged from their beds in dawn raids, arrested and held in police cells while their homes are ransacked.

"Wives and children have been humiliated as up to 20 officers at a time rip up floorboards and sift through intimate possessions, love letters and entirely private documents."

Kavanagh says all the journalists are now on open-ended police bail, their lives disrupted and their careers on hold and potentially ruined.

He asks: "Is it any surprise that Britain has dropped nine places to 28th, behind ex-Soviet bloc states Poland, Estonia and Slovakia, in the international Freedom of Speech league table?"

Kavanagh claims the police have impose conditions not unlike those applied to suspected terrorists.

"Under the draconian terms of police bail, many journalists are barred from speaking to each other. They are treated like threats to national security. And there is no end in sight to their ordeal.

"Their alleged crimes? To act as journalists have acted on all newspapers through the ages, unearthing stories that shape our lives, often obstructed by those who prefer to operate behind closed doors.

"These stories sometimes involve whistleblowers. Sometimes money changes hands. This has been standard procedure as long as newspapers have existed, here and abroad.

"There is nothing disreputable about it. And, as far as we know at this point, nothing illegal. "Without good sources no newspaper could uncover scandals in the public interest.

"Certainly, the world would never have learned about the expenses scandal that landed so many politicians in jail."

Kavanagh says it is absolutely right the company co-operates with police on inquiries ranging from phone and computer hacking to illegal payments but adds: "It is also important our parent company, News Corp, protects its reputation in the United States and the interests of its shareholders.

"But some of the greatest legends in Fleet Street have been held, at least on the basis of evidence so far revealed, for simply doing their jobs as journalists on behalf of the company.

"Meanwhile, a huge operation driven by politicians threatens the very foundations of a free Press.

"We have three separate police inquiries — Elveden, Weeting and Tuleta.

"There is a Parliamentary inquiry and of course the free-ranging Leveson Inquiry into newspaper practices."

Kavanagh concludes: "Before it is too late, should we not be asking where all this is likely to lead? Will we have a better Press?

"Or a Press that has been bullied by politicians into delivering what they, not the readers, think fit?"
  • The NUJ has condemned the arrest of Sun journalists at the weekend as a "witch-hunt".
  • Ex-News of the World PR Hayley Barlow tweets: "With the company at war with itself, I know which side has my support: Team #TrevorKavanagh @TheSun"
  • Brian Cathcart of the Hacked Off campaign gives an alternative view: "The bathwater of unethical and illegal practices in journalism needs to be drained, and the Leveson process exists to do that. There is no reason to suppose that the baby of free expression will be washed away in the process. A far more realistic prospect is that, if we are persuaded to leave this bathwater where it is, the baby will drown in it. Corrupt journalism is the enemy of free expression; it places us at the mercy of monopolists, bullies and lawbreakers. We surely don’t want that."
  • Nick Ferrari told Newsnight: "We are living in a country where Abu Qatada walks free but we are banging up the picture editor of the Sun."
  • Michael Wolff, the US media commentator, told Newsnight: "The US operation has had it with the Brits...I would say the Sun is screwed."


Steve Dyson said...

If recent reports that one of the arrests was regarding a £50 lunch with a copper then the world's gone mad. If that's true, they'll have to be many, many more arrests, as entertaining contacts is standard for any journalist worth his salt. Why, I had dinner and played snooker with one of Leveson's panel three years ago when he was in a senior public position and I was editing a newspaper - does that mean he has to stand down or that I should be arrested?? On the arrests more generally... as a former regional editor and a media watcher, I'm sure that some at News International may have gone too far IF actual payments were ever made - although we should all remember these are 'arrests' only - there are no charges and bails could last months.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad The Sun has stood up for itself (through a columnist) but there is still a certain irony to the piece (as there is with many Trev Kavanagh rants).
He complains about early morning raids, wasn't The Sun criticised last week for turning up with the police when they raided Harry Redknapp's house.
Trev rightly points out there is no Leeveson style inquiry into the banking industry. Isn't part of the problem though that politicians are complicit in the banking collapse, while Leevson dominates the news agenda as so much of it is celebrity driven?