There have been calls to abolish the secret police’s anti-corruption manual, which seems to treat journalists the same as it treats criminals and extremists.
The two organizations warned that a hidden section of the Police College (CoP) leadership could risk “equating the media profession with the wrongdoing and corruption” that journalists seek to uncover.
In a letter to the executive director of the CoP, the Society of Editors and the Crime Reporters Association (CRA) said the council threatened to “damage the public perception of the media” and demanded “an urgent review”.
According to Authorized Professional Practice (APP) guidelines, journalists were listed under “associations to be notified”, which means officers must declare whether they are affiliated with one to their police force.
The list, which is issued to all police forces in England and Wales, also includes criminals, extremists, political parties and activist groups.
Although parts of the guide are posted online, this particular section is limited and therefore not open to public scrutiny.
“The media plays a vital role in informing the public about the work of the police, and along with holding offenders accountable and keeping the public safe, media scrutiny promotes transparency and helps to understand how police forces operate across the UK,” the letter says. .
He added that the inclusion of journalists in the manual gives the “mistaken impression that reporters seek to corrupt or deceive” people.
It comes after the Metropolitan Police were criticized by an industry watcher for not requiring officers to disclose ties in line with national guidance.
Earlier this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Police, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) issued an apology for what appeared to be equating journalists with extremist groups in findings of corruption at the Met.
His report advised police officers to disclose ties to “journalists and extremist groups.”
Despite the apology, the recommendation remained unchanged and implementation is believed to be under review by law enforcement, industry leaders said, warning that if they decide to accept the proposal, it would “set a worrying precedent.”
An HMICFRS spokeswoman said: “We recognize the important role that journalists play in our democracy, including holding police accountable.
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“We make recommendations to the police, taking into account the relevant permitted professional practice, where appropriate.”
“A successful working relationship between the police service and journalists is vital to the legitimacy of the police in the UK,” the Society of Editors and the CRA said in a letter.
“By continuing to force police officers and employees to list links to journalists under the guise of anti-corruption efforts, politics just keeps associating both with wrongdoing that everyone seeks to distance themselves from.”
The leadership was also criticized by the Index campaign group, which called media freedom “the foundation of our democracy” and warned that treating journalists as “more of a threat than an asset” is characteristic of “authoritarian regimes.” “.
“Guidance should not interfere with healthy relationships”
Steve Hartshorne, national chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said the body was “unaware of forces requiring individual officers to disclose ties to journalists”.
He added that “it is imperative that all forces work in cooperation with journalists” to promote police work, clarify policing issues and ensure public confidence.
The police college explained that journalists play an “important role” in holding the force to account and supporting news services, but police are expected to have a “protection of confidential information” policy.
“This includes the requirement to declare any potential conflicts of interest in order to be open and transparent, and to mitigate any risks that may arise,” the spokesman said.
“Instructions given to the police must not interfere with a healthy relationship between the police and the media. We are working with the National Council of Chiefs of Police and others to review the guidelines and will listen very carefully to any issues raised.”