The News Media Association has called on the Independent Police Complaints Commission to reconsider its decision not to throw out a harassment warning made against a local press journalist by police.
NMA chief executive David Newell has written to IPCC chief executive Lesley Longstone this week expressing “the deepest concern” that Police Information Notices could be used against journalists simply seeking a response to a story.
Mr Newell has called on the IPCC to reconsider the decision relating to Croydon Advertiser journalist Gareth Davies who was issued with a harassment warning in the form of a Police Information Notice in March last year after investigating allegations of fraud against a local woman.
Mr Davies’ appeal against the decision was subsequently rejected by the IPCC, prompting Gavin Barwell, MP for Croydon Central, to write to the body asking it to reconsider its decision. A petition has also been launched.
In his letter, Mr Newell also calls for the IPCC to “lend careful thought” to the need for guidance for officers on the imposition of PINs in similar circumstances.
“It is a matter of the deepest concern to us and our members that journalists complying with their ethical and legal responsibility of seeking a right of reply to, or comment on, a story they are investigating could have PINs imposed on them for doing nothing more than complying with the requirements to which they will be held by the Courts as a matter of defamation or by IPSO as a matter of accuracy,” Mr Newell said.
“We accept, plainly, that such activity must have its limits. We encourage best practice by all our members and seek no carte blanche for the profession. However, what we do believe is clear is that no journalist acting in accordance with the provisions of the Editor's Code of Practice should find him or herself on the receiving end of a document which is, whatever its nature and limits, a creature of the criminal law.”
Mr Davies' position is that his attempts to contact the subject of the story amounted to no more or less than the standard expected of journalists and publishers by the courts and as a matter of ethics, Mr Newell added.
“I therefore ask that this case be reconsidered,” he said. “In any case, this case demonstrates a clear need to consider the proper parameters by which the Police may consider imposing a PIN on a journalist, so that all parties can understand where the dividing line rests between journalistic best practice and unlawful harassment.”
For further information please contact Lisa Gordon, corporate development director at Local World, publisher of the Croydon Advertiser, at firstname.lastname@example.org.