Over the last few weeks the police Operation Yewtree has questioned a number of celebrities over allegations of sex crimes. Each time the papers have known the names of those arrested or questioned, each time the first the public knew about it was when this blog broke the story.
We scooped the press on the arrests of Max Clifford and Jim Davidson. Today we can report that Rolf Harris has also been questioned under caution by police from Operation Yewtree. This has been an open secret in media circles for weeks, journalists and newspaper editors alike have known about the story – yet none has published the news. Why?
No judge has ordered reporting restrictions in relation to Rolf Harris, no super-injunctions prevent the reporting of news concerning him, instead his lawyers Harbottle and Lewis are citing the Leveson Inquiry’s report in letters to editors of newspapers – cowing them into silence. The Leveson effect is real and curtailing the freedom of the press through fear.
In the case of Max Clifford a popular media commentator was our source, with Jim Davidson an ex-copper tipped us off and a local journalist gave us confirmation. This blog is nimble and prepared to take risks, so we are beating all the other news organisations who post-Leveson prefer to await for official police confirmation. This blog is in the news business, we want to beat the competition, we want to be first, we’re proud of breaking stories. We want our readers to be the first to know what is going on.
When the Leveson Inquiry began Guido upset the judge by publishing Alistair Campbell’s evidence before he gave it. Leveson responded by placing a restriction order on this blog. Neatly illustrating by example that the Leveson Inquiry could bring in an era of judicial censorship. It is more subtle than that currently, the chilling effect is that editors fear the prospect of a law rather than any actual new law.
This blog likes being the first to report the news, we would also like to win in a fair fight. The press has its hands tied. A free press ensures that the police do not go about their business in secret. A secret police is a dangerous thing, reporting the arrest of suspects is an important safeguard in a free society – for them and us. We are in danger of losing that safeguard.