Leave tsunami death knocks to us, police tell reporters

Hampshire
Police has been accused of coming between the press and the public
after sending out a memo advising the media not to approach families of
possible victims of the tsunami in South East Asia.

The memo to
newspapers, broadcasters and news agencies said the Hants force had a
dedicated team of family liaison officers and media services officers
who had undertaken to speak to each affected family in order to obtain
a statement and photograph to release to the media.

The memo
said: “We are working to obtain these as swiftly as possible, but it is
the choice of the families as to whether they wish to make a release or
not, which we have to respect, and we ask you to respect this too.” It
added: “There have been direct approaches and excessive media interest
involving a couple of families which has caused a great deal of stress
and anxiety to relatives and, we have been advised, could hinder their
recovery.

“If the family says no, please respect that and direct further approaches through the media services offices at headquarters.”

Mark
Acheson, deputy editor of The News, Portsmouth, said: “Like all local
papers we have a relationship directly between us as a local paper and
our readers which has been built up over years and is based on trust.

“We
don’t see a need for any agency to act as an automatic middle-man in
that relationship. We have made direct approaches to all the families
caught up in this tragedy. The vast majority have wanted to talk to us.

We are tactful and compassionate and our staff abide by the PCC guidelines.

“If
the police advise us that a family does not want to speak we would
still seek to establish through our own means whether people want to
speak to us.”

One Hampshire reporter told Press Gazette : “It is a bit of control freakery.

If we hear that someone is missing, my news editor would expect me to go around and try and speak to relatives.

We cannot just take the police’s word that they don’t want to speak to us.

Our policy is to door-knock once. If they don’t want to speak to us, we don’t go back.”

A
news agency executive said: “Having family liaison and media services
officers is taking the police into a whole new area. It is as if they
are trying to do our jobs for us.”

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