The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European
group, the Federation of European Journalists (EFJ) today joined the chorus of
condemnation which greeted news that the Metropolitan Police are invoking the
Official Secrets Acts 1989 to force journalists to reveal their sources.
Media reports in the United Kingdom revealed that Scotland Yard last
week sought an order under the Official Secrets Act to compel the Guardian newspaper to disclose the source
of information published by the paper on the phone hacking scandal. The news
drew widespread criticism from journalists and the political establishment with
senior politicians calling for the Attorney General, the government's most
senior law officer to block the police's attempt, reports say.
"This is an outrageous abuse of power seeking to turn journalists into unwilling
informers of the police," said Arne König, EFJ President. "It is
little wonder it has been resoundingly rejected as a measure more likely to find favour in police states' regimes and we support
efforts to defeat it."
The Guardian newspaper exposed the hacking scandal in
2008 by journalists of the News of the World, the oldest British tabloid owned
by Rupert Murdoch which closed down in July 2011 following the scandal of the
illegal telephone tapping of thousands of people, including families of victims
of crime and terrorism. The Metropolitan Police launched Operation
into illegal phone tapping after coming under pressure for their failure to investigate the Guardian's initial story about the
practice at the tabloid.
Police early this month questioned under caution Amelia
Hill, a reporter for
the Guardian, following
an article in the newspaper which revealed the arrest of former News of the
World showbiz editor, James Desborough, as part of the Operating Weeting
inquiry into illegal phone tapping.
The IFJ supports the National Union of Journalists in Great Britain and
Ireland (NUJ), an IFJ affiliate, which has accused the police of engaging in a
witch hunt against journalists, saying this latest attempt in their
investigations is a breach of journalism's basic principle.
"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 and the NUJ shall defend it," said Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ
General Secretary. "In 2007, a judge made it clear that journalists and their
sources are protected under article 10 of the Human Rights Act which applies to
leaked material. The use of the Official Secrets Act is a disgraceful attempt
to get round this existing judgement."
The Guardian reported yesterday that the Attorney General's office
had said he would rule on whether a prosecution under the Official Secrets Act was
in the public interest before a case could proceed.
information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 07
The IFJ represents more than
600.000 journalists in 131 countries