Monday, September 26, 2011

British journalism going through a “dangerous period”

Mark Thompson, the BBC director general, has complained that British journalism is going through a “dangerous period” because of police attempts to force news organisations to hand over confidential sources. In a speech in Taiwan on Sunday, Thompson noted that the affair was part of a “disturbing trend” which involved police forces in many parts of the UK routinely demanding “that journalists disclose sources and hand over journalistic materials”. He went on to add that “at the BBC, we receive an ever-growing number of demands for untransmitted news rushes which the police seem to regard as having no privilege or protection attached to them than CCTV pictures”. Following the riots that took place over the summer, the police asked broadcasters to provide them with footage of the rioters in order to help them follow up arrests; most broadcasters were happy to provide such footage, provided that the police obtained court orders requiring them to do so. However, Thompson seemed to imply that the police had overstepped their authority when they began demanding sources from the Guardian reporter Amelia Hill regarding her exposure of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. Police were due to attend court last Friday to pursue a court order forcing Amelia Hill to reveal her sources, however the Met dropped its application following an outcry from leading political and media figures.

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