Updated: Scots Newspapers break news blackout to report Neil Lennon parcel bomb
Newspapers across Scotland today chose to break a voluntarily agreed news blackout by reporting that Celtic manager Neil Lennon, QC Paul McBride and Labour MSP Trish Godman were sent explosive devices in the post.
Newspaper editors who had got wind of the story were contacted last week by Strathclyde Police’s media communications director Rob Shorthouse and briefed not to report the story in order to avoid publicising the bombs and handing a platform to whoever sent them.
The newspapers agreed to hold onto the story but ‘conversations’ took place between the titles yesterday, without any input from the police, and a decision was taken to break the voluntary news blackout.
A spokesperson for Strathclyde Police explained: “We didn’t want this news to break prematurely. The media who had the story were spoken to and asked to hold off and they agreed.”
“We wanted the media to exercise a bit of responsibility,” they added.
QC Paul McBride was targeted following his allegations of bias within the Scottish Football Association against Celtic FC, while politician Trish Godman was pictured wearing a Celtic shirt in Holyrood.
Rob Shorthouse explained the circumstances of the voluntary media blackout, saying that the media department within Strathclyde Police began to hear that newspapers had learned of the mail bombs on Saturday. As a result, he began to contact newspapers and broadcasters to ask that they hold off reporting the story in order to allow the investigation time to proceed with the enquiry.
On Monday an extended meeting was held between editors and broadcasts at Strathclyde Police head quarters on Pitt Street in Glasgow and an agreement was made not to report the story until Wednesday, to offer more time for the investigation to proceed.
Following this agreement, those in attendance held a conference call on Tuesday when it was decided that they were unable to hold off on the story any longer and that the agreed embargo was likely to fall.
“We greatly appreciate the co-operation of the media and understand how difficult it was for them to sit on a story of this magnitude,” added Shorthouse, who alongside his team, have been sleeping in the office over the last few days, fielding calls and handling the situation.
“We realise it was impossible for this story to remain under wraps for any great length of time,” he continued. He also explained that he did not believe that the voluntary embargo set any sort of precedent for the media in future and that the agreement was entered into under ’unique’ circumstances.