The Guardian newspaper confirmed that one of their reporters, Amelia Hill, had been questioned in connection with the phone- hacking inquiry. Hill is one of several journalists investigating the News of the World phone hacking scandal as it develops, and was questioned ‘under caution’ by Operation Weeting (the police investigation team) earlier this week in relation to the ‘off- the- record’ sources she has previously used.
The National Union of Journalists labelled the actions of the police as ‘outrageous’, and have since raised concerns about the way in which their actions represent a slippery slope, ultimately leading to the criminalisation of journalists who are simply trying to perform a more thorough check on the information made available to them. Michelle Stanistreet, of the NUJ, accused the government of using criminal law as a ‘weapon to silence people’. Indeed, if officials are allowed the freedom to continue exercising this sort of power over journalists, it could signify the demise of journalism as we know it. Limiting journalists to the official police line is hugely restricting, and largely undemocratic. As citizens in a democratic nation, we have an unwritten right to live in a society in which the fourth estate acts as a constitutional check on the actions of the government and judiciary.
It must be acknowledged that clear and defined boundaries are useful to some degree; for example when it comes to regulating bribery and corruption between officials and the media. However, restricting people’s ability to make informed decisions is essentially paving the way for increased government censorship, whereby the British media are reduced to a subservient status not unlike that of the reporters subject to the Journalist ‘Protection Laws’ in Iraq.