The Guardian’s David Leigh reported that the UK Police are trying to find out who the Guardian’s sources for its reports on the phone hacking allegations against News International are. Specifically in question is the Guardian’s Nick Davies and Amelia Hill’s reports that the News of the World hacked murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s cell phone.
While News of the World had been accused by many people over the years of hacking phones and news outlets had reported on the accusations, the Guardian’s report that the newspaper may have hacked the phone of Dowler — a teenager who in 2002 went missing and was later found murdered — made the allegations against the News of the World a top story. Within a matter of weeks, the newspaper was closed and many — including News International CEO Rebekah Brooks, Dow Jones CEO Les Hinton, and head of UK police Paul Stephenson resigned.
Leigh described the court order “an unprecedented legal attack on journalists’ sources” and noted that the newspaper’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, stated “We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost.”
The police filed the order “under the Official Secrets Act…which has special powers usually aimed at espionage,” according to Leigh.
Leigh quoted National Union of Journalists’ Michelle Stanistreet on the police’s action. Stanistreet is quoted as saying that the order is “a very serious threat to journalists” and that the journalists group would “fight off” the order. Stanistreet commended the reporting by the Guardian: “They should be congratulated rather than being hounded and criminalised by the state.” She emphasized the importance of journalists’ source protection.
Leigh explained the police are calling for the Guardian to turn over “documents relating to the source of information for a number of articles, including” Hill and Davies’ July 4 article on the Milly Dowler hacking.
According to Leigh, the order request alleges the Guardian’s Amelia Hill “could have incited police working on the then Operation Weeting hacking inquiry into leaking information, both about Milly Dowler and about the identity of[Andy] Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and other arrested newspaper executives.”
StinkyJournalism wrote earlier this month when the Guardian revealed that Hill had been questioned over “alleged leaks” to the Guardian about phone hacking arrests.
Leigh stated that the Guardian’s never paid police for information.
Reuters reported the police stated:
“Operation Weeting (the phone-hacking inquiry) is one of the MPS’s most high profile and sensitive investigations so of course we should take concerns of leaks seriously to ensure that public interest is protected by ensuring there is no further potential compromise,”
The BBC noted the police also stated
“We pay tribute to the Guardian’s unwavering determination to expose the hacking scandal and their challenge around the initial police response. We also recognise the important public interest of whistle blowing and investigative reporting, however neither is apparent in this case.”
Hat Tip: Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson