Sun journalists show sudden interest in human rights
As Met looks into claims that public officials were on £10k a year for tip-offs, journalists seek redress
POLICE investigating illegal payments by Sun journalists to police officers and other public officials are looking into claims that some people received as much as £10,000 a year from the tabloid for story tip-offs, effectively putting them on retainers.
News International journalists had given the impression that the raids and arrests at the weekend were about trivial issues such as a £50 bill for a pizza for two police officers, says the Independent. But sources close to the Met’s Operation Elveden said: "This is not about expenses, this is an investigation into serious suspected criminality over a sustained period. It involves regular cash payments totalling tens of thousands of pounds a year for several years to public officials, some of whom were effectively on retainers to provide information."
The Guardian suggests that if this is the case, then Rupert Murdoch – expected in London today or tomorrow – is unlikely to take the Sun journalists’ side against the internal Management and Standards Committee (MSC) set up by News Corp to help the police investigate phone hacking and illegal payment claims at News International titles. The MSC has been criticised by journalists for being too eager to help the police – including handing over details of the journalists’ confidential sources.
As a result, some senior journalists at the Sun have approached the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) with the view to hiring the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, to “question the legality of the MSC” in the words of the Guardian.
Robertson used a column in the Sun's sister paper The Times on Wednesday to say members of the the MSC should "be required to learn by heart" a passage from the European Court of Human Rights' 2002 ruling in the case of Goodwin v UK, which states: "Protection of journalistic sources is one of the basic conditions for press freedom... without such protection, sources may be deterred from assisting the press in informing the public on matters of public interest.
"As a result the vital public watchdog role of the press may be undermined and the ability of the press to provide accurate and reliable information may be adversely affected."
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, confirming the approach from the Sun journalists, told the Guardian: “It is not an exaggeration to say that if journalists are not allowed to offer protection to their sources – often brave people who are raising their heads above the parapet to disclose information – then the free press in the UK is dead.”
The Independent raises the irony of Sun journalists seeking redress under European human rights law. Fergus Shanahan, one of the journalists arrested, is one of many on the Sun to have ridiculed the Human Rights Act, urging in 2008 that it should be “torn up”. Among other headlines unearthed by the Indie’s researchers are: “The Sun says no to soft justice” and “Court of Human Frights”.