Police lift ITN ban from Yeates murder investigation

Avon and Somerset Police has lifted the ban preventing ITN reporters from attending its press conferences but warned that it would continue to ban journalists who “endanger the integrity” of the Joanna Yeates murder investigation.

The force was accused of censorship after an ITN crew was banned from a press conference yesterday morning to discuss developments in the investigation.

The ban came as the force complained to broadcasting watchdog Ofcom about a report broadcast on ITV’s News at Ten – which is produced by ITN – the previous night which criticised the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the force said last night: “The media are a crucial partner in helping us to catch those responsible for killing Jo.

“We value their contribution in reaching out to our communities, informing the public and appealing for witnesses and information.

“The media have generally reported in a balanced and measured way but when they cross the line and endanger the integrity of a live murder investigation we must act.

‘Our primary aim will always be to secure justice for Joanna.

“We respect and expect critical reporting but naive, unbalanced and irresponsible reporting does not help.

“The withdrawal of the invitation to ITN to attend the press conference was made because of the manner and the inaccuracies of their 10 o’clock news report yesterday evening [Tuesday].

‘But this has now been counterbalanced by a much more accurate and measured piece of journalism at lunchtime [Wednesday].

“As a result we have decided that ITN are welcome to attend future press conferences but we will not hesitate to adopt similar tactics again if we feel any media organisation hampers our investigation.”

A spokesman for Ofcom confirmed a complaint had been received.

An ITV News spokesman last night said the decision to bar them from the press conference had been hugely disappointing.

He added: “This decision will result in millions of viewers not being able to see new evidence or hear the latest police calls for witnesses.

‘Our coverage has helped maintain awareness of this case, and we strongly disagree with Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s attempt to censor what information we can broadcast.

“Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s decision to ban ITV News follows reports on last night’s ITV News at Ten which raised apparent inconsistencies of the police’s handling of some elements of the case.

‘The force was contacted numerous times ahead of broadcast but Avon and Somerset Constabulary did not use this opportunity to register any issues or raise a complaint with ITN.”

The body of Yeates, 25, from Bristol, was found on Christmas morning by a couple walking their dogs around three miles from her flat. She had been strangled.

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