Monday, September 19, 2011

Guardian in need of guarding?

Following an attempt by the Metropolitan police to use the Official Secrets Act to force Guardian journalists to reveal their sources, the attorney general Dominic Grieve is under growing pressure to block the police’s endeavour. It was reported on Friday that the Metropolitan police are seeking a court order under the 1989 Official Secrets Act to force Guardian reporters to disclose their confidential sources about the phone hacking scandal. This is an unprecedented move which sees Scotland Yard use this legislation, which has special powers usually aimed at espionage, to coerce journalists to handover documents relating to their sources of information for the phone hacking story. The only attempt to use the Act against a journalist collapsed 11 years ago after a public outcry following the arrest of the journalist Tony Geraghty by Ministry of Defence Police.
The national press, as well as a number of figures from the political and celebrity world, have rallied to the Guardian’s defence. The Times’ editorial described the Met’s actions as “shameful”, claiming that the police are using the Official Secrets Act in order to “prevent institutional embarrassment” rather than protecting national security. In addition John Kampfner, the chief executive of Index on Censorship, in a letter to the commissioner of the Metropolitan police stated that this move was “a severe threat to free expression in the UK”, whilst Hollywood star Hugh Grant described it as a “very worrying, upsetting development” and the Lib Dem peer Lord Lester called it “outrageous”. Despite this considerable nation-wide show of support for the newspaper, the support of only one man could turn over this attack by the Metropolitan police. Dominic Grieve has the power to make the final decision as to whether the police continue to pursue their court order. Currently, he is under immense pressure from the public and a coalition of newspapers to exercise this power.

No comments: