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Society of Editors and Daily Mail lambast the Filkin Report on police-media relations

By Hamish Mackay

January 9, 2012 | 3 min read

The Society of Editors has warned that tighter controls on how the police deal with the press could lead to officers “closing ranks” and “closing up” - preventing information from reaching the public.

Bob Satchwell, executive director of the Society of Editors, was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying there was a danger that new rules brought in by Scotland Yard would arouse public suspicion that police were covering-up stories.

Satchwell’s comments followed the announcement that the Metropolitan Police was undertaking a major review of the “cosy” relationship between police and journalists in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

The Met’s pledge came in the wake of a report from Dame Elizabeth Filkin, the former parliamentary commissioner for standards, calling for tighter controls on the release of information to stop “improper” communications between officers and journalists.

Satchwell told the Daily Mail: “The danger in what Elizabeth Filkin has said is that if the police take it the wrong way and start closing ranks and closing up.

“Already there are some police forces which do not release enough information to the public. Individual police officers who are prepared to whistle-blow should be protected.”

The new guidelines include a warning to officers of the top ten tactics supposedly employed by journalists, which include “flirting”, “late night carousing” and plying officers with alcohol to get them to ‘spill the beans’.

However, Satchwell said it was “ludicrous” to suggest that most journalists were using such ruses.

He said: “The idea that there should not be socialising of any kind is like taking us back into the dark ages. Maybe 30 years ago this idea of cops and journalists drinking together was very real, but now things have changed dramatically.”

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail has supported Satchwell, and, in a leader described the new guidelines as “chilling” and “draconian”.

The newspaper declared:”Dame Elizabeth may have intended to ensure there can be no perception that the police have ceased to be impartial or trustworthy.

“But, in reality, she risks creating a ‘closed shop’ in which police are too scared to pass on information, even where it is of huge public interest, in case they are subject to a witch-hunt by senior officers who it suits to conceal inconvenient truths and restrict all communication to official channels.”

The Daily Mail gave columnist Richard Littlejohn a whole page to criticize the Filkin Report in an article which was largely an attack on the author.

Littlejohn declared: “Patronising doesn’t begin to cover it. Her report is an insult to the intelligence of every serving officer at Scotland Yard.

“It reads like a Victorian chaperone warning a virgin debutante about the bestial intentions of moustache-twirling serial seducers."

And Littlejohn concluded: “What else should we expect from a self-righteous Grande Quangocrat, a former lecturer and community worker, who has never had a job in the real world and only mixes with other people like herself.”


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