New police guidelines covering their dealings with the media do not go far enough to support journalists reporting on matters in the public interest, according to the NUJ.
Although a proposed requirement for police officers to record communications with journalists was dropped the NUJ argues that “the guidelines do not go far enough to improve relations of trust and openness between the police and the press”.
The guidelines state that police will not release the names of suspects to to journalists on arrest – only once they have been charged.
But the NUJ said that its members have raised concerns about this.
A local newspaper crime reporter quoted, but not named, by the union said: “In today’s world of social media, where the general public can name an arrested person to thousands of people on Twitter/Facebook, it remains particularly important that the press remains a trusted source of accurate information and the police help us to do so through a trusting relationship.”
NUJ members say that it is important for the media to have the correct information that is often withheld by the police.
NUJ acting general secretary Séamus Dooley said: “The public needs to have confidence in its police. The media plays a vital role as a watchdog and in holding the police to account so the public can have this confidence. This is only possible when there is an open and collaborative relationship between the police and the media. Journalists should have the right to challenge the police, the behaviour of police and how they conduct their operations.
“On the whole, the press acts responsibly. Recently, newspapers and broadcasters agreed to withhold the names of suspects in terrorist incidents at the request of the police.
“The College of Policing guidelines are disappointing in that they are more about restricting information than improving transparency. However, there have been a number of significant changes, for example removing the rule that virtually every inquiry from the press had to be made through the press office and we welcome that.
“The NUJ will continue to work with the police to improve relations and accurate reporting”.
Press Gazette recently covered highlights of the updated police guidance on working with the media.