Calls have been made to eliminate the secret police bribery guide, which appears to treat journalists in a similar way to criminals and extremists.
The hidden section of the College of Policing (CoP) guide could risk “equating the media profession with evil and corruption” that reporters seek to uncover, two organizations have warned.
In a letter to the CoP’s chief executive, the Society of Editors and the Crime Reporters Association (CRA) said the council threatened to “damage the public’s perception of the media” and called for an “urgent review”.
Under the guidance of the Authorized Professional Practice (APP), reporters have been listed in the “Notifiable Associations” section, which means that officers should declare whether they are associated with any of them in their police force.
The list, distributed to all police forces in England and Wales, also includes criminals, extremists, political parties and activist groups.
Although parts of the guide are published online, this specific section is restricted and therefore not open to public scrutiny.
“The media play a vital role in keeping the public informed about police work and, in addition to bringing offenders to justice and helping to keep communities safe, media scrutiny promotes transparency and helps to understand how police work. police across the UK, “continues the letter.
He added that by including journalists in the guide, it gives “the wrong impression that journalists are trying to bribe or deceive” people.
It comes after the metropolitan police were criticized by the industry regulator for not requiring officers to disclose associations in line with national guidance.
“A disturbing precedent”
Earlier this year, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Police and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) apologized for equating journalists with extremist groups in the corruption findings at the Met.
His report recommended that police officers disclose associations with “journalists and extremist groups”.
Despite the apology, the recommendation remained unchanged and its implementation is believed to be under scrutiny by the force, industry leaders said, warning that if it decides to adopt the suggestion, it “would create a disturbing precedent.”
A spokesperson for HMICFRS said: “We recognize the essential role journalists play in our democracy, including accountability to the police.
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“We provide recommendations for the police, taking into account relevant authorized 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,” says the letter from the Society of Editors and the CRA.
“By continuing to force police officers and staff to list associations with journalists under the banner of anti-corruption efforts, politics simply continues to associate both with wrongdoing that everyone tries to distance themselves from.”
The guide was also criticized by the campaign group, Index, which described media freedom as “a foundation of our democracy” and warns that seeing journalists as a “threat rather than an asset” is something that is seen in the ” authoritarian regimes “.
“Driving must not prevent healthy relationships”
Steve Hartshorn, national president of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), said the body “is not aware of any forces requiring individual officers to disclose associations with journalists.”
He added that there is a “burning need for all forces to work cooperatively with journalists” to promote police work, explain police matters and ensure public trust.
The College of Policing explained that reporters have an “important role” in keeping the military accountable and supporting news reports, but police are expected to have policies in place to “protect sensitive information.”
“This includes the requirement to disclose any conflicts of interest to be open and transparent, as well as mitigate any risks that may arise,” a spokesperson said.
“The guidance provided to the police force should not hinder healthy relations between the police and the media. We are working with the National Council of Police Chiefs and others to review the guide and will listen very carefully to any issues raised.”