Pedicide at the Yard
IN A CLASSIC case of pedicide - the act of shooting yourself in the foot - the Metropolitan Police has announced that on 23 September it will go to the Old Bailey seeking an order against the Guardian to reveal the sources for its reports on failures in the Metropolitan Police investigation of phone hacking by the late News of the World. In an utterly bizarre twist, they plan to use the Official Secrets Act to do this.
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet told the Guardian: "This is a very serious threat to journalists and the NUJ will fight off this vicious attempt to use the Official Secrets Act... Journalists have investigated the hacking story and told the truth to the public: they should be congratulated rather than being hounded and criminalised by the state... The protection of sources is an essential principle which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the European court of human rights as the cornerstone of press freedom. The NUJ shall defend it. In 2007 a judge made it clear that journalists and their sources are protected under article 10 of the Human Rights Act and it applies to leaked material. The use of the Official Secrets Act is a disgraceful attempt to get round this existing judgment."
If the Met want a belated reminder of what has happened when they have used the Official Secrets Act against journalists in the past, they should feel free to contact the Freelance. Among other embarassments for the force, its editor Mike Holderness was one of those who won a House of Lords ruling that naming a key witness, Colonel B, as Hugh Anthony Johnstone was not, in fact, a contempt of court.
Then there's the small matter of Goodwin -v- UK, the case in which Bill Goodwin, with the NUJ's support, got the European Court of Human Rights to recognise journalists' power and obligation to protect our sources. (Goodwin spoke about it at a London Freelance Branch meeting in March 2003).