Alex Salmond contacts editors to aid Neil Lennon explosive device media black out
Following the agreement by Scotland’s media to invoke a voluntary news black out on the story that Celtic manager Neil Lennon and two other public figures were sent nail bombs, it transpires that Scotland's First Minister contacted editors to ask them to hold or extend the embargo.
Yesterday it was revealed that Scotland’s media chose not to report on the explosive devices being sent to Lennon, as well as prominent fans, QC Paul McBride and Labour MSP Trish Godman, when reports of the bombs first emerged over the weekend.
This was partly because Strathclyde Police communications director Rob Shorthouse had contacted editors at some of Scotland’s most prominent newspapers and media outlets to ask them to hold off on reporting the story to avoid hampering the investigation. This was agreed to and at a meeting being held at Strathclyde Police headquarters on Monday 19 April those present agreed to hold off until Wednesday 20 April.
It is now understood that on the same day First Minister Alex Salmond also contacted editors to thank them for agreeing to the embargo and ask them to either hold firm or extend it.
A further conference call was then held by the editors at midday on Tuesday 20 April, where it was decided that it was in the public interest to warn Celtic fans of the potential risk they faced It was also agreed that no prosecution was imminent and that the embargo was likely to fall. The story was subsequently reported that evening, quickly developing into an international story the next day.
As to the First Minister’s involvement, a spokesperson for the Government, commented: “As an indication of the seriousness with which we view these matters, the Cabinet sub-committee met last Saturday to ensure that the police investigation had every possible support to come to a successful conclusion. The news media were subsequently contacted and asked not to report the incidents at that point to avoid prejudicing the police investigation.”
Said one commentator close to the talks, "It is very unusual for the First Minister to get involved at this level, especially so because he was requesting the media not to cover an issue. His intervention, even in light of the seriousness of this matter raised a a few eyebrows."
Yesterday, Shorthouse discussed the situation surrounding the voluntary media embargo and thanked those involved for their co-operation, describing the situation as ‘unique’ and added that he appreciated that it was a difficult story for the media to sit on.