The World Association of Newspapers and campaign groups Liberty and Hacked Off have joined the chorus of condemnation over a police harassment notice issued to Croydon Advertiser reporter Gareth Davies.
Press Gazette revealed on Wednesday that Davies had been visited by officers and threatened with arrest as a consequence of one doorstep visit and two emails sent to convicted fraudster Neelam Desai. Davies is investigating allegations she conned men out of thousands after meeting them on a marriage website.
The World Association of Newspaper told The Times that the case was "an embarrassment to the authorities and damages the international reputation of the UK”.
Press Gazette understands that lawyers for Local World-owned title have written to the borough commander seeking a withdrawal of the harassment warning. If that fails the paper may take the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The Daily Mail warned yesterday: "If police chiefs allow their officers to carry on like this, they will be endorsing a charter for criminals and dealing a death-blow to the public's right to know."
James Welch, legal director of human rights group Liberty, told The Times: “The police seem to hand out harassment notices without adequate investigation or consideration of the validity of complaints. The police should be wary of discouraging good journalistic practice with these chilling warnings.”
The Croydon reporter said he told the officers he was just doing his job, to which one replied "that's what the News of the World said".
A spokesman for the campaign group Hacked Off told The Times that there was nothing in Lord Leveson's report on the hacking scandal “that would give grounds for the police to overreact in the way that has been reported”.
Writing in The Independent Andy McSmith said: "Behind the good intentions of the Hacked Off campaign and others who want to protect the innocent from the appalling behaviour of some journalists, there was always the risk that in their zeal they would create an atmosphere in which any shyster threatened with exposure can cry that their privacy is being invaded."
So far the Met has only issued the following statement about this matter: "The harassment letter was issued by a local safer neighbourhood team in response to a number of reports from the woman, who felt she was being harassed.
"The officers did this to ensure that the reporter was fully aware that allegations of harassment were being made against him.
"The woman first contacted police on March 5 and most recently on April 1."