Sunday, March 29, 2015

You can hide an awful lot behind a curtain of privacy

John Kay, the Sun's chief reporter: one of the four journalists acquiited of malpractice at the Old Bailey.
The loss of press freedoms far away is easy to lament. Burma’s generals, for instance, seem to have greeted the arrival of the International Press Institute’s annual congress in Rangoon this weekend by locking up editors again. But, for once, try wormwood and gall closer to home.

“Please recognise how disturbing a development it is … that journalists who only ever report the news accurately, honestly and fairly now find themselves prosecuted in our criminal courts,” said Trevor Burke QC, winding up for the four Sun journalists facing prison just a few days ago. And that jury agreed. The four, like more reporters and editors in this stretching saga, were acquitted. Another bloody nose for the CPS and the Met.

But see how much blood lies all around. There’s Ripa of course, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which only now, many hundreds of surreptitious invasions later, will require a judge to agree before the police can demand call information – including the de facto right to track journalists’ sources. There’s that rigid post-Leveson ruling that stops police officers talking to journalists at all, except in the most sanitised circumstances. Civil servants or army officers who talk to the press – or maybe just share a drink with them – stand in parallel peril of dismissal. No secrets involved, nothing classified: just common-or-garden conversation.

Why are Whitehall, Westminster and the Yard allowed to pull the curtains closed so far?  (more...)

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