The questioning of Guardian reporter Amelia Hill by police investigating leaks in the Met’s phone-hacking inquiry has been condemned by the National Union of Journalists.
News that the special investigations correspondent was questioned under caution comes almost three weeks after a 51-year-old Scotland Yard detective was arrested for allegedly leaking information to the newspaper.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said it was ‘outrageous that an allegation of off-the-record briefings is being treated as a criminal matter,’adding that a ‘vital journalistic principle’was at stake.
‘There is a clear distinction between legitimate off-the-record interviews and the illegitimate payment of bribes,’she said. ‘In this case the allegation is simply that a Scotland Yard detective is an off-the-record source.
‘There is no suggestion of bribery or corruption and there is no suggestion that anything said by the source threatened national security, jeopardised the course of the hacking inquiry, or invaded anybody’s privacy.
‘No employer likes an employee to talk to the press without permission. In this case the police appear to be using the criminal law at their disposal rather than simply resorting to internal disciplinary proceedings.
‘Using criminal law as a weapon to silence people in the workplace is highly inappropriate.”
Stanistreet argued that journalism was dependent on off-the-record sources – and that any threat to protecting them was a ‘direct threat to a citizen’s right to know and absolutely not in the public interest”.
She said: ‘We don’t want to live in a society in which the only information from the police is the official line authorised by the commissioner or an official press release.”