The Guardian's Self-Delusion

The police have tight rules on releasing information to the press for fear it could prejudice a trial and because over the course of an investigation police arrest suspects to eliminate them from inquiries once they determine their innocence. Occasionally a suspect’s name gets into the press. Remember Chris Jefferies, the landlord of  murdered student Joanna Yeates? Jefferies has received “substantial” libel damages from eight newspapers – Sun, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Mail, Daily Record, Daily Express, Daily Star and Scotsman – in relation to “seriously defamatory” allegations made against him after he was identified as a police suspect. There are often extremely good reasons for police investigations remaining confidential.

The Guardian has been gleefully naming suspects in the News International investigation, sometimes telling us who is going to be arrested before they actually have been. The Metropolitan Police have turned in frustration to section 5 of the 1989 Official Secrets Act, which covers “damaging” information leaked by government officials, including police officers, when it is “likely to impede … the prosecution of suspected offenders”. Now bear in mind that the Guardian case against News International is that they had inappropriate relations with Metropolitan Police officers which were corrupt and the sensitivity of this becomes manifest. Nobody is suggesting that the Guardian bribed police officers, but there is such a thing as “client journalism”, where sources trade information and in return the journalist slants stories to make the client source look good. The reward for the source is an enhanced reputation which among other things boosts their prospects of promotion. When the source has a bad news moment, the journalist will cover-up or spin the story and protect their client-source’s interests. This is why client journalism is implicitly dishonest if not corrupt.

Police rules are clear:

“The release of information concerning current investigations may compromise any subsequent court proceedings. Police investigations are conducted with due regard to the confidentiality and privacy of victims, witnesses and suspects.” 

The Guardian has been making hay with the many violations of these rules by News of the World journalists. Once again the Guardian expects to be treated differently from the tabloids. The News of the World’s relationship to the Metropolitan Police was evidence of a corrupt media-police nexus, when the Guardian has an unlawful relationship with a Metropolitan Police officer it is, they froth, “a public interest investigation”. Just as when the Guardian avoids taxes offshore it is not, for some inexplicable reason, like when other firms do it. When Guardian journalists hack phones it is somehow different, journalists have to have the editor’s approval before hacking phones according to internal guidelines. The editor of the Guardian seems to think that his paper is above the law, and that he can be judge and jury when it comes to his paper hacking phones and compromising police investigations.

UPDATE: Metropolitan Police have issued a statement saying “This is an investigation into the alleged gratuitous release of information that is not in the public interest.” Quite.




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