Sun calls for public hearing of Investigatory Powers Tribunal to probe police grab of phone records

The Sun has called for a public hearing to be held in the wake of police using the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to secretly obtain law-abiding journalists' phone records.

The newspaper's editorial today condemns the use of RIPA to out journalists' sources, after it emerged that The Mail on Sunday has also been targeted.

And the paper reports that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, has "said he will push for a key protection for journalists to be enshrined in law” after Press Gazette's Save Our Sources campaign was brought to the attention of the party's conference by former MP and Hacked Off representative, Evan Harris.

The Mail on Sunday yesterday disclosed further details of how Kent Police obtained the records of news editor David Dillon and freelance source Andrew Alderson.

And The Sun – whose newsdesk and political editor, Tom Newton Dunn, were spied on by the Metropolitan Police – today revealed it “will push for an Investigative Powers Tribunal hearing to be held in public”.

Such hearings are normally held in secret.

A spokesperson said: “Powers under RIPA are there to prevent terrorism, not snoop on newspapers’ contacts.

“We believe our right to protect our sources was breached — as was the right of our sources to anonymity.

“This was an unlawful interference with a key aspect of press freedom, which cannot go unchallenged.”

The paper’s editorial today said:

Journalism wouldn’t exist without sources – people who tell us the stories you need to know about.

“A free press is fundamental to all of our other freedoms. And to have a free Press, reporters need to be able to protect the identity of their sources.

“When the police took the phone records of our man, Tom Newton Dunn, that was an assault on a free Press — and so on your freedom, too.

“Even the Lib Dems agree that the police should be banned from abusing anti-terror to spy on journalists.

“Freedom is under assault. Good on the Lib Dems for standing up for it.”

Yesterday, Harris told the Liberal Democrat conference to back Press Gazette’s Save Our Sources campaign.

Harris said that to enhance press freedom RIPA needs to change.

"The report of Operation Alice into the Plebgate affair revealed, as it had to do because it had to be published, that the police had got the phone records, both the mobile phone and the desk phone, from Tom Newton Dunn, the political editor at The Sun.  

"Now it’s unlikely they’d have found many friendly calls to and from Liberal Democrats. But that’s not the point.

"There is no judicial oversight or indeed any oversight for the police for that decision.  The police authorised themselves to do that, something they cannot do under PACE and should not be allowed to do under RIPA.  There must be greater safeguards.  

"And the Press Gazette, the trade journal, has run a superb campaign called Save Our Sources that I want the Liberal Democrats to sign up to, that calls for there to be safeguards to protect journalistic sources."

 

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