“damages the ability of the press to hold people in positions of power to account”

As the Belfast Telegraph reports, there’s an Early Day Motion tabled in the name of John McDonnell, secretary of the National Union of Journalists’ parliamentary group, on the topic of “Protection of Journalists’ Sources”. That would be in response to that recent court ruling. Full text of the Early Day Motion

That this House regrets that many police forces fail to recognise the importance of a journalist’s right to protect his or her sources; believes that the protection of confidential sources is internationally recognised as one of the basic principles of press freedom and attempts to force journalists to disclose information to the security services undermine the confidence and candour with which sources will talk to journalists and damages the ability of the press to hold people in positions of power to account; and therefore calls on the Government to issue guidance to police forces across the UK to remind them of the need to respect press freedom.

15 MPs have signed it so far. No Northern Ireland MPs yet, but it hasn’t been up long. Of course, here, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers don’t seem to have even acknowledged the ruling. Not even an anonymous spokesman. It’s almost as if, idle politics aside, they don’t recognise the basic principles of press freedom.. Including the freedom to dissent, to be “lazy”, adopt the “tactics of Satan”, or just to ask “stupid” questions. Adds 20 signatures now, including the SDLP’s Mark Durkan.

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  • “damages the ability of the press to hold people in positions of power to account”

    Pete, sometimes it seems some journalists just can’t be arsed even when they’re handed a story on a plate. Perhaps they and the wielders of power are too chummy.

  • Pete Baker

    “Pete, sometimes it seems some journalists just can’t be arsed even when they’re handed a story on a plate.”

    Nevin

    They’re free to do that too.

  • Pete, and if that story is this one – one about holding ‘people in positions of power to account’ [see above]?

  • Pete Baker

    Nevin

    It might just be that that story isn’t what you think it is.

    You have to allow for that possibility.

    And if we could focus on the actual, wider, topic.

  • joeCanuck

    Would it be playing the man to say that some MLAs and some MPs are pompous windbags?

  • Pete Baker

    Strictly speaking, Joe, no it wouldn’t.

    But it would be avoiding addressing the actual topic.

  • joeCanuck

    Wrong thread. See Thread where Ian Paisley appears, coincidentally of course.

  • Pigeon Toes

    So what do you know about “that story”?

    It has been proven that £55k (taxpayer funded) report doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Departments and “executive agencies” appear to be hell bent on “fudging” the issue.

    It involves £4 million in subsidy, four “governments”,a “whitewash”, passenger safety,which may have set a precedent, possible EU involvement, protection of whistle blowers, DPA, FOI, workers rights….

    An 88p bath plug ad a couple of porn films kinda pales Pete…

  • Pete Baker

    And back to the actual topic..

  • “It might just be that that story isn’t what you think it is.”

    Peter, the story is fairly straightforward; a child of ten could probably understand it with relative ease – or an MLA 😉

    “And if we could focus on the actual, wider, topic.”

    I’m just exercising my right, as an unaligned journalist, to ask ‘stupid’ questions and to encourage ‘lazy’ journalists to hold people in positions of power to account.

    PS The writers of the early day motion presume that the police are acting on their own behalf whereas they may be acting under political direction.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “and damages the ability of the press to hold people in positions of power to account”

    Oh was that not the topic, or is it that only the press can “hold people in positions of power to account”?

    Er Would that not put the press themselves as “people i positions of power”?

  • Pete Baker

    Nevin

    Your, and PT’s, pet project is not the topic here.

    “a child of ten could probably understand it with relative ease”

    You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

    But I’d appreciate it if you refrained from hi-jacking yet another post to promote that project.

    There is a wider and more significant issue at stake. As I said, if we could address the actual topic..

  • “There is a wider and more significant issue at stake”

    Pete, you seem to have let the EDM go unchallenged.

    “PS The writers of the early day motion presume that the police are acting on their own behalf whereas they may be acting under political direction.”

    Why?

  • Pete Baker

    “Pete, you seem to have let the EDM go unchallenged.”

    No, Nevin.

    You’re just missing the forest for the trees again.

  • Pigeon Toes

    “damages the ability of the press to hold people in positions of power to account”

    How “aligned” are the press with the “people in power”?

    Some elements of the press have been described as “dissident”.

    Why?

  • “You’re just missing the forest for the trees again.”

    No. Really.

    Why aren’t you challenging the assertion that the police are failing ‘to recognise the importance of a journalist’s right to protect his or her sources’?

  • Pigeon Toes

    “There is a wider and more significant issue at stake here”

    Being what Pete?

    Are you actually trying to have us believe that there is such a thing as “Press Freedom”?

    Nonsense ( And if you disagree with with me I will sue…)

  • Pigeon Toes

    “Your, and PT’s, pet project is not the topic here…
    here is a wider and more significant issue at stake. As I said, if we could address the actual topic..”

    Would it it be a “control” issue?

    Nevin we mustn’t discuss what the “people in positions of power” don’t want us to…

  • john

    If this wasn’t so serious I would laugh, during the Suzanne Breen case it was said in the court that a journalist gave police a statement and a list of his dissident contacts ( this was in regard to the Omagh bomb case ) so the police have just burnt a journo in open court, but all the journos in the court did not even do a story on this. Talk about protecting one of your own ! this can only do harm to the respected journos out there, it’s a case of the police don’t respect journos confidential sources, the journos don’t even respect them. The answer must be “Don’t speak to the press”

  • DC

    In a recent speech a judge of the European Court of Human Rights (the “ECHR”) (Judge Loukis Loucaides) has set out the problem from a 21st Century perspective:-

    “One should not lose sight of the fact that the mass media are nowadays commercial enterprises with uncontrolled and virtually unlimited strength, interested more in profitable, flashy news than in disseminating proper information to the public, in controlling government abuse or in fulfilling other idealistic objectives. And although they may be achieving such objectives incidentally, accidentally or occasionally, even deliberately, they should be subject to certain restraint out of respect for the truth and for the dignity of individuals. […] Furthermore they should remain legally accountable to the persons concerned for any false defamatory allegations. Like any power, the mass media cannot be accountable only to themselves. A contrary position would lead to arbitrariness and impunity, which undermine democracy itself.”

  • Pigeon Toes
  • DC

    No Problem, here’s a nice submission:

    Memorandum submitted by Swan Turton solicitors

    The Unrestrained Power of the Press

    ‘Swan Turton has acted for a client who had been romantically linked with a leading parliamentary figure.

    …I made a complaint of press harassment on behalf of that client when she was pursued by photographers accompanied by her infant child near the home of her elderly parents. I wrote to a particular title asking them not to publish an infringing photograph taken in circumstances contrary to paragraph 4 of the Code, but that title nonetheless did so. Although the editor of that title was not one of the commissioners that decided the complaint, all those editors that were on the Commission (that would be the Press Compliants Cartel..sorry Commission!)well knew that had they upheld the complaint their own scope for publishing similar photographs would have been severely restricted, creating a direct personal interest in the outcome of the complaint. Unsurprisingly then the complaint was rejected.

    …The power of the press to wreck lives is no small issue. I have acted for clients who have had nervous and physical breakdowns, seen their marriages destroyed and even attempted suicide in the face of press onslaughts. One non-celebrity client found that a journalist had interrogated her young downs syndrome son about the state of her marriage to a celebrity. Another celebrity client found that a national newspaper was offering her neighbours substantial sums of money to sign a statement saying that she neglected her children. There are many other such stories, but the recent reports of the Information Commissioner and the jailing of Clive Goodman show that the press exhibits contempt for legal/regulatory restrictions of their activities unless they perceive that a credible sanction is the alternative.’

  • DC

    And here’s more:

    In administrative law, natural justice is a well defined concept comprised of two fundamental rules of fair procedure. We are concerned here with the first which stipulates that “a man may not be a judge in his own cause”. This rule against bias is by no means a recent development and can be traced back though medieval precedents to the ancient world. Over a century ago Lord Campbell stated that all tribunals should “take care not only that in their decrees they are not influenced by their personal interest, but to avoid the appearance of labouring under such an influence”. This has since been reformulated in the oft cited quotation that “justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”.

    Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.