Thought crime? We could all be guilty

Journalists working in the Thames Valley Police area fondly recall the days when they could phone up police officers and get stories, put out witness appeals, report crimes.

Nowadays they say they are effectively banned from talking to officers directly and must rely on a sparsely populated website – which is open to the public anyway – for the latest information.

They say the situation has gone from being one where journalists felt they were on the same team as police to one where police see journalists as the enemy.

The treatment of Sally Murrer, the 48-year-old mother of three and part-time local paper reporter arrested in May, suggests police relations with the media may have sunk to a new low. And her treatment has the potential to sour relations not just in Milton Keynes but nationwide.

Her contention is that she that all she has done is what thousands of local paper journalists do every day – talked to police officers and written stories.

She says she has been told that for the offence she has been accused of – aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office – it is in enough for her to have merely been told sensitive information without even writing a story.

For journalists to be held accountable for what they are told – even if they do not print a word of it – would be like a creating a new "thought crime" which would be almost impossible to avoid committing.

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