'Police-media relations reach new low'

Hyde: wants Blunkett to intervene

A news agency boss has warned Home Secretary David Blunkett that relations between the media and police are at breaking point.

Neil Hyde, editor of the Reading-based INS agency, has called on Blunkett to intervene and give an assurance that it is not a deliberate part of the Government’s agenda to restrict the flow of information from the police to the media.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, Hyde says: "It is with deep concern that I and fellow editors have watched relations between the media and the police deteriorate to such a level that co-operation between the two is on the brink of disappearing."

He claims relations have worsened since the introduction of the Data Protection Act, with some chief constables and their officers apparently using it to "shut down" information.

Hyde adds: "There is also grave concern about the increasingly unhelpful and obstructive role being played by press officers and media managers within the police service."

In the 20 years he has run INS, Hyde says "there has never been a lower point in the police-media relationship and the flow of information about police-attended incidents".

Hyde refers in his letter to the debate in Press Gazette between editors in Kent and their criticism of how the the county’s police force handles the media. "Does the Government recommend its police forces to have a fully open and frank relationship with the media – or does it encourage the view that if crime is not publicised, the public will not know about it and therefore cannot be in fear of it? "I am not a great believer in conspiracy theories but I regret to say there does appear to be a concerted campaign to prevent the free flow of information to the media, driven either by Whitehall, the Association of Chief Police Officers or individual police forces. I would appreciate your assurance that this is not another example of ‘control freakery’ and is therefore, not part of the Government’s agenda."

Letters, page 14

 

Hyde told Press Gazette: "I have spoken to a number of editors and reporters on local, regional and national papers and all agree that police-press relations are at their lowest level for many, many years. A mutual distrust has been allowed to develop and I believe it is having a profound effect on the accurate reporting of crime and incident levels."

By Jon Slattery

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