UK’s National Union of Journalists argued that the UK arrests of journalists and searches of their homes is violating “press freedom” in a Feb. 13 press release. As we have written, the UK police are conducting three investigations into press wrongdoing for phone hacking, e-mail hacking and bribery of public officials. In the past month, nine journalists from News Corp-owned the UK Sun have been arrested for questioning in the bribery investigation.
According to the press release, UK journalists “feel betrayed” by News International’s turning over “millions of e-mails from its staff” because it could put sources and whistleblowers “at risk.” As explained by the UK Telegraph, the News Corp. Management and Standards Committee “is examining more than 300 million e-mails, expenses claims and payment records to identify any unlawful activity.” The committee was “established by News Corporation to take responsibility for all matters in relation to phone hacking at the News of the World, payments to the police and all other related issues at News International,” according to its website.
Journalism.co.uk reported that the News Corp. Management and Standards Committee, which has turned over information that has led to numerous arrests of News Corp journalists, planned on “redacting the names of confidential sources” unless “the source was a public official who may have been paid.”
The National Union of Journalists’ general secretary, Michelle Stanistreet, likened the arrests to a “witch-hunt.” We wrote earlier this week when the UK Sun’s associate editor Trevor Kavanagh called the UK police investigation into press wrongdoing a “witch-hunt.”
The Guardian reported Feb. 14 that an anonymous source “close” to the committee said it is only turning over information concerning “unlawful material.”
According to a Feb. 15 report by the UK Press Gazette, the NUJ may take “legal action on behalf of a group of Sun journalists” because News Corp. has given the UK police “details of confidential sources.” The Press Gazette added that the NUJ’s Stanistreet explained that anonymous source protection is “an essential principle which has been repeatedly reaffirmed by the European Court of Human Rights.” Stanistreet noted that “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.”
In related news, UK Lord Inglewood called for news outlets to “protect its journalists’ sources.” He recommended that the Leveson Inquiry consider this issue and “make the question of the suitable protection of whistleblowers a core part of their ongoing inquiries,” according to the Guardian’s Feb. 16 report.