Horrocks on phone-tap row: â€"whole barrel not rotten”

Society of Editors president Paul Horrocks has said the jailing of Clive Goodman on Friday does not mean “the whole barrel is rotten”.

The Manchester Evening News editor spoke out following the jailing of the News of the World Royal editor for four months on Friday after he admitted hacking into mobile phone messages.

He said: “Editors and the whole of the media have taken this very seriously. We condemn this offence and it is not representative of the media. We do not believe that it is a widespread practice and the rules were tightened considerably in 2004 when the law and the Editors’ Code of Practice were strengthened.

“Editors do not condone law breaking and they have responsibility for upholding the Code of Practice that is clear and strict on these issues. Journalists will always try to get as close to the law as possible, but there is a line you cannot cross.

“Clive Goodman apologised in court and has paid the price. The editor of the News of the World has also apologised. He will face further questioning by the Press Complaints Commission.

“But the public should remember that one bad apple does not mean the whole barrel is rotten. This is not widespread practice, but every editor will now have to be on their guard.

“The problem with privacy issues is that politicians can easily whip up a storm among the public, but the public should be concerned about how the government is making our private information available to all its agencies, how the government is trying to water down the Freedom of Information Act and how the courts are trying to bring in draconian privacy laws by the back door.

“Everyone has a right to privacy and the media is not interested in invading the privacy of ordinary people. There are occasions, however, when the media can justify using unconventional methods and subterfuge in order to expose wrongdoing in the public interest. That is recognised by the Code of Practice and by the law.

“The problem is that cases of this kind can have a chilling effect on serious investigative journalism that makes the media reluctant to reveal wrongdoing, hypocrisy or activities that threaten public health and safety. Threats to media freedom are also threats to everyone’s freedom of expression.”

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