There were calls to retract secret police guidelines that apparently treated journalists as criminals and extremists.
The Society of Editors and the Crime Reporters Association (CRA) warned that the undercover section of the Police College’s leadership risked “equating the media profession with the wrongdoing and corruption that journalists seek to expose.”
In a letter to Andy Marsh, the executive director of the body that sets police standards and training, the Society’s chief executive Don Alford and CRA chair Rebecca Camber said the anti-corruption manual risked “damaging the public perception of the media” and required an “urgent overhaul.”
The Guide to Official Professional Practice (APP) has been issued to all police forces in England and Wales.
Although some parts of it are published online, the section on “notifiable associations” – a list of links to people and groups with which officers must declare ties – is limited and therefore not open to public scrutiny.
The letter states: “The media play 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.
“Including journalists on the list of ‘notifiable associations’ in the anti-corruption manual creates the false impression that reporters seek to bribe or deceive, and equates the profession with the wrongdoing and dishonesty that journalists work to expose.”
This comes after the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) was criticized by the police watchdog for not requiring police officers to disclose ties to journalists, in line with national guidelines.
Earlier this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate for Police, Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) issued an apology over objections from the media after apparently 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 currently under review, industry leaders said, warning that any decision by the Met to accept it “would set a worrying precedent.”
The letter stated: “At a time when a number of our members continue to report difficulty accessing information on behalf of the public from individual forces, the implementation of the HMICFRS recommendation by the MPS would set a worrying precedent for other forces. a time when police-media relations between a number of forces remain low.
“A successful working relationship between the police service and journalists is vital to the legitimacy of the police in the UK and as new Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley prepares to take office and seeks to increase public confidence in the force, public opinion about the relationship of the police with the media is just as important as the relationship itself.
“By continuing to force police officers and employees to list links to journalists under the guise of anti-corruption efforts, politics simply continues to associate both with wrongdoing that everyone seeks to distance themselves from.
“It is in the interest of all that the police and the media work effectively for the good of society, and we believe that the exclusion of journalists from the list of associations subject to declaration by the authorized anti-corruption professional practice guide will help achieve this. “.
Ruth Smith, head of the Freedom of Speech Campaign Group Index on Censorship, said: “Index is increasingly concerned about what appears to be a growing perception within the British police that journalists are seen as unsavory or potentially unsavory individuals with whom officers can communicate.
“Freedom of the media is the foundation of our democracy, and the tendency to view reporters as a threat rather than an asset is something we are more accustomed to in our work in authoritarian regimes around the world than in developed democracies.”
Steve Hartshorne, National Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said: “The PFEW is unaware of the forces requiring individual officers to disclose ties to journalists as part of the APP leadership.
“We believe it is essential for everyone to work in partnership with journalists who are guided by the Independent Press Standards Organization’s code of conduct and guidelines, to promote the good work our members do every day, and to explain policing. issues necessary to ensure public confidence in our police officers.
“APP instructions must be carried out by forces in accordance with their mission.”
An HMICFRS spokeswoman said: “We recognize the important role that journalists play in our democracy, including holding police accountable.
“We make recommendations to the police, taking into account relevant approved professional practice where appropriate.”
A spokesman for the Police Board said: “Journalists play an important role in holding the police accountable and supporting the service with news, including calls for information.
“The public expects the police to develop a policy to protect confidential information held by the police, which may include details of members of the public and police operations.
“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 instructions given to the police must not interfere with a healthy relationship between the police and the media. We are working with the National Police Chiefs Council and other organizations to review the manual and will listen very carefully to any issues raised in the media.”