PRESS GAZETTE COMMENT

It isn’t just the News of the World that should be fuming about the arrest of reporter David McGee. We all should.

The attempt to punish, with the pettiest of charges, the reporter responsible for exposing flaws in a prison system failing in its duty to keep Britain’s most notorious prisoners under proper scrutiny has a nasty whiff about it. And it creates a big stink for investigative journalism. If McGee ends up with a criminal record as a result of this pathetic prosecution, his undercover career is seriously compromised.

At best it looks like the CPS must be ignorant of the Home Office’s tacit acknowledgement of the NoW’s investigation – its minister made key recommendations to tighten security.

At worst… well let’s just say the authorities don’t like to be embarrassed by journalists.

McGee isn’t the first messenger to find a gun to his head. Last month it was BBC undercover man Mark Daly, slated by David Blunkett before his brilliant investigation into police racism had even been screened. In May, the Evening Standard’s Wayne Veysey underwent a court ordeal after his Heathrow investigation. The judge ruled public interest. In March, the NoW’s Rob Kellaway was arrested after smuggling replica guns on board a plane at Gatwick. The charges against him were dropped.

The same should happen to McGee’s charges.

And let’s see an end to this institutional bullying of journalists legitimately doing their jobs.

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