The National Union of Journalists has written to BBC director-general Mark Thompson, calling on him to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ material, amid claims that police are on a “fishing trip” for footage.
The union says a number of BBC journalists have been asked by the Metropolitan Police to hand over raw, un-broadcast footage of last month’s anti-cuts demonstrations in London to help their investigation into violence that erupted.
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In a letter to Thompson, NUJ general secretary wrote: “I am writing to seek your assurance that the BBC will ask that the police follow proper procedures and seek to secure a court order if they wish to obtain any journalistic material in the possession of the BBC or its employees.
“In the event that the police do so I am seeking confirmation that the BBC would ask to be put on notice so you are able to make appropriate representations.
“I seek further confirmation that in that event the BBC will make strong representations to the court to protect the confidentiality of Journalistic Material and Special Procedure Material under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and under the European Convention on Human Rights and various cases of which you will be aware.”
Dear added in a statement tonight: “At this stage it appears to be a police ‘fishing trip’ seeking all material.
“Whilst the material remains the property of the BBC, there are special protections for journalistic material which it is important the BBC demand the police follow and seek to defend the confidentiality of that material and its sources.
“For members who are or were in possession of such material it is possible that the BBC could seek to take disciplinary action against any member who does not hand over material when instructed by the employer on the grounds of refusing a reasonable instruction. In the event of that happening the BBC unions would act immediately in your defence.
“The NUJ has a long and proud record in fighting to protect journalists faced with actions over sources or journalistic material. It is important we do not allow the police to use journalists as information gatherers for their purposes. Such a move places all journalists at greater risk when covering public order issues and stops sources coming forward. The NUJ stance has been confirmed in various cases before the UK and European courts.”