NUJ hits back at Thomas on new data jail threat

Dominic Ponsford

The National Union of Journalists has
defended the right of journalists to use “all reasonable means” to find
the truth in response to a call from Information Commissioner Richard
Thomas to jail those who trade in personal information.

Thomas today called on Parliament to impose stiffer penalties to deter people from buying
secret data such as ex-directory telephone numbers and criminal record
information. He said those breaking the law should face up to two years
in jail.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We never condone
obtaining information by criminal means or by impersonation except
where there is an overwhelming public interest.

“However, it must be understood that there are times when a journalist
must use exceptional means to investigate exceptionally important
matters where all other methods have been exhausted, and he or she
should not be punished for this if the public interest is clearly being
served.

“All
of our members agree to abide by our Code of Conduct when they join the
union and they know that we will not condone any action that does not
comply with it. We also have an Ethics Committee that keeps these
issues under constant review.”

The NUJ Code of Conduct states: “A journalist shall obtain
information, photographs and illustrations only by straightforward
means. The use of other means can be justified only by overriding
considerations of the public interest. The journalist is entitled to
exercise a personal conscientious objection to the use of such means.”

 

Info chief says journalists who buy secret data should be jailed


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