“Those who have sought to legally challenge journalists to name their sources..”

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport quotes DUP MLA Lord Morrow in the Northern Ireland Assembly quoting the National Union of Journalist’s code of conduct

It says that a journalist: “At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed”. It states that a journalist should differentiate between fact and opinion. The code of conduct also says that a journalist: “Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work”. Those who have sought to legally challenge journalists to name their sources have made very little headway. It usually ends up with the reporter coming out a hero for standing his or her ground.”

So why, when our local political parties had plenty to say about an MLA refusing to revealing his source, do they seem to have had little to say in the current case of the police attempting to force a journalist to do the same? Or is that just another stupid question..

And while we’re on the legal system.. Some parties, of course, seem very keen to tell us what they’ll do if/when policing and justice powers are devolved. [Is it May yet? – Ed]

Just not how they’ll manage to do that..

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  • An Lub

    “At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed”

    Mr Baker, that’s a scoop

  • dunreavynomore

    If any of our ‘politicians’ were going to speak out they would have done so by now. It’s shameful the way parties which trumpet their belief in a whole raft of rights and freedoms have nothing to say in this case including those keen to tell us the wonderful job they would make of p&j if they could only get the powers.

  • ????

    Elected representatives are just that elected by the people to serve the people, it is right they should have confidentially with information. NO one ever elected a journalist to write a story.

    How many more murders will be committed before Breen gives up- her information. SHe should be treated as an accomplice.

  • AA

    I note the anger over exspenses and see that not one Journo over here has noted the MLA Gerry McHugh who has not put in an appearance at the Assembly in well over a year……………….

  • “do they seem to have had little to say”

    Is there a pattern here? Politicians speak out to protect one of their own; media folks speak out to protect one of their own …

    Lord Morrow: “Gross injustices could come about if whistle-blowers are stifled,”

    I didn’t notice any MLAs or media people rushing to man the barricades when this whistle-blower was exposed. I spent quite some time transforming the Government report into a searchable format and you may well be intrigued by the application of quotation marks to whistleblower.

    It’s difficult to explain the rationale for the Government report format and the absence of a customary press release other than a deliberate attempt to bury bad news.

  • Dave

    The Court cannot, of course, force Ms Breen to reveal her sources, but it can give her a period of free accommodation for refusing to do so.

    Section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 states:

    [i]No court may require a person to disclose, nor is any person guilty of contempt of court for refusing to disclose, the source of information contained in a publication for which he is responsible, unless it be established to the satisfaction of the court that disclosure is necessary in the interests of justice or national security or for the prevention of disorder or crime.[/i]

    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/RevisedStatutes/Acts/ukpga/1981/cukpga_19810049_en_1#pb2-l1g10

    Rather than waffle on this section, I’ll quote a legal expert:

    [i]Three points may be noted. First, the Court must determine whether disclosure is sought for one of the four specified grounds. An order to disclose for other reasons, for example, to protect public health, is not allowed. Second, the Court must determine whether the information is really “necessary”. “[P]roof that revelation is merely ‘convenient’ or ‘expedient’ [is insufficient]. The name must be ‘really needed’.” The Court must weigh the importance of the specified ground against the “journalist’s undertaking of confidence.” Third, the court retains a discretion to refuse to order disclosure even when the conditions for an exception are met.[/i]

    http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/right-to-protect-sources.pdf.

    Aside from the points listed above, perhaps the best defence that Ms Breen could offer is to claim that she would be endangering her own life by providing the information. This is certainly true, and I can’t imagine any Court compelling her to comply under those circumstances. But then again, perhaps they will?

    At any rate, it is in the public interest that journalists are not impeded by the state from informing the public about matters that the state would prefer to keep hidden simply because a certain process is predicated on highly organised deception and can only be sustained by it. That is where those servile journalists who have served the state in propagating its organised deception will likely find that their own professional freedom is now curtailed by that state as an indirect consequence of their own duplicity and servility.

    I wouldn’t expect the political hacks to rock the boat on a point of principle either, since those political hacks don’t have any principles. Pragmatism and expediency, and all that…

  • willis

    Nevin

    Perhaps Suzanne Breen is to be regarded as a journalist in the generic sense!

  • dunreavynomore

    I heard Ms Breen on radio Ulster this morning pointing out that the PSNI showed no interest in Connor Murphy when he said that he has spoken to the IRA on the murder of Paul Quinn and as the people he spoke to would be known to him and unmasked we must think ‘double standards’. On Murphy , Paxman put it best when he said ‘Connor Murphy trotted off to the IRA’.

    AA. you seem to be on the wrong thread and hopefully that has nothing to do with the possible implications of your signature.

  • willis

    Dunreavynomore

    Presumably the PSNI agree with ????

    To be honest, this is a game they have to go through. They know the journalist has a right to protect their sources, but it is always worth a punt.

  • Willis, perhaps there’s too much smoke. It appears to be assumed that the police are acting on their own initiative on this one.

    It’s possible that either or both governments may resent anyone meddling in this murky swamp and muddying the waters further.

    It’s possible that the ‘chosen’ paramilitary gang bosses may be losing out in the ‘battle’ for local community control and therefore losing their usefulness to do those things that the powers-that-be have ‘delegated’ to them.

    According to the Grapevine, some police officers are convinced that escalation of violence is a matter of when, not if. For example, PIRA could only decommission those munitions that hadn’t ‘walked’ post the 1994 cessation. As for loyalist paramilitary munitions …

    Also, you might well ask why the media hasn’t told us about the BIIC Joint Secretariat’s role in the policing and justice process. These officials are involved in policy making as well as in day-to-day decision making on contentious issues. Maybe that’s something that PICamp will explore.

  • “Perhaps Suzanne Breen is to be regarded as a journalist in the generic sense!”

    Willis, I’m more geriatric than generic in the world of political blogging. I’m, allegedly, a TABby because I keep TABs on various miscreants.

    TA stands for Third Age and for B you can take your pick from blogger, busy-body and b’stard 🙂

  • Pigeon Toes

    “blogger, busy-body and b’stard”

    I would say that’s pretty mild. You are probably referred to in much harsher terms at present!

  • Big Maggie

    “Perhaps Suzanne Breen is to be regarded as a journalist in the generic sense!”

    Nonsense, she’s a journalist in the Nationalist sense and that makes all the difference.

    “AA. you seem to be on the wrong thread and hopefully that has nothing to do with the possible implications of your signature. ”

    LOL!

  • Mark McGregor

    ‘I note the anger over exspenses and see that not one Journo over here has noted the MLA Gerry McHugh who has not put in an appearance at the Assembly in well over a year……………….

    Posted by AA on May 09, 2009 @ 11:17 PM’

    ‘AA’,

    If you are going to attempt a disinformation campaign it would be better to try it on a site where people won’t check the records to find out you are talking crap. McHugh last spoke on 17th Feb 2009 in a debate on Credit Unions.

  • susan

    Speaking of not talking crap, I thought Liam Clarke’s piece in the Sunday Times on the chronology of events from Breen’s first phone contact from RIRA following the March shootings to Friday’s appearance before a judge, on Orde’s history of hauling journalists into court, and Clarke’s views on why forcing journos to reveal their sources “doesn’t help anyone” was remarkably clear and to the point.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/ireland/article6256992.ece

    As to why more politicians aren’t speaking up, I’ve wondered about that since dunreavynomore started asking the question on Mick’s earlier thread. I checked the major party sites in case there’d been a statement I’d missed, but found nothing.

    I have a stupid question of my own. Can it be that there’s so little history of participatory democracy and so few shared democratic ideals beyond the traditional shared sectarian carveup that it honestly hasn’t occurred to anyone, Hugh Orde included, that muzzling the free press’s ability to investigate and report is as much a threat to democracy as RIRA’s stated explicit threat to assassinate the DFM?

    I don’t discount RIRA’s threats. By any objective criteria they have proved they are good at shooting people, and Breen’s reported their explicit intention to shoot any number of people not meeting their definition of desirable behaviour, from the DFM to pizza carriers.

    However, I feel Orde’s chosen course of pursuing Breen through the courts does not bolster public safety, but rather undermines it by fueling the argument that the rule of law applies arbitrarily and/or sporadically, when it applies at all.