It has been discovered that secret police guidance urges officers to treat journalists as criminals and ‘extremist groups’.
The alarming ‘anti corruption’ advice has been condemned by newspaper groups who say it will undermine police-press relations and hinder the public’s right to know about crimes and how they are investigated.
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Only last week, Police in Merseyside held vital briefings with the media to help the quest to find the killer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel.
Yet at the same time, advice to police forces that had not previously been revealed, instructs them to regard professional journalists as a potential ‘corrupting’ influence.
The Mail Online reports: The College of Policing, the umbrella group providing guidance for the forces of England and Wales, advises that officers must declare whether they have friendships or associations with people such as criminals.
While this advice is public, it has emerged that a secret annex listing the types of associations that must be declared includes journalists.
Earlier this year, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary recommended police officers disclose associations with ‘journalists and extremist groups’.
After complaints about lumping these two together as if they were equal, the inspectorate apologised and agreed to change the wording.
But the advice remains unchanged, and journalism stays on the list attached to the College of Policing’s authorised professional practice guidelines on tackling corruption.
Ruth Smeeth, of the campaign group Index on Censorship, said: ‘Freedom of the media is a bedrock of our democracy and the tendency to see reporters as a threat rather than an asset is something we are more used to seeing with our work in authoritarian regimes around the world rather than advanced democracies.’
A formal complaint has been made to the College of Policing by the Society of Editors and the Crime Reporters Association. Rebecca Camber, who is chairman of the CRA and the Daily Mail’s crime and security editor, said: ‘This national guidance equates the profession of journalism with criminals, extremists, suspects and sex workers.
‘Crime reporters attend police briefings every day all over the country. There is nothing underhand or corrupt about that. In fact, such contact is essential to open justice.
‘Media reporting not only helps solve crimes, but it also helps bring offenders to justice and keep communities safe.
‘Forcing police officers to list association with journalists will have a chilling effect on police-press relations, discouraging whistleblowers from speaking out and deterring officers from having legitimate, essential contact with the media.’
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