Who needs the Stasi when you have the Fake Sheik?

In Peter Jukes’s book, Beyond Contempt, he explains that during the Milly Dowler investigation, NOTW reporters made enquiries on behalf of the police. On the surface, the police and press can work in the public interest. The police need to publicize their efforts. In return, the press can get an exclusive and show the public that the police are protecting the public. In the Milly Dowler case, the press sponsored a reward for information to help the police. However, there is a danger when the press become an extension of the police in an investigation. Is this in the public interest? There is a difference between publicizing the investigation to help the police and taking an active role in interviewing witnesses.

Who holds the police and press to account when they work together?

When the press claim to help the police with their inquiries, it can endanger the public interest. When someone talks to the press, does that mean that it goes to the police? Who needs the Stasi when the press can be used as police informants? Leaving that lurid idea aside, the press can influence a police investigation. They can withhold information or publicizes it in such a way to undermine the investigation.[1] The press can embellish details to serve their purposes.[2]

The appearance of a relationship can be used as a shield to deter accountability

When the roles are blurred, the relationship can become corrupt. Even the appearance of the blurred relationship can have an effect. We can see this in the case of the Fake Sheik. He collected evidence about his targets and provided it to the police. The reporter had stories and exclusives and the police had convictions.[3] If the reporter acts to provide evidence to the police, they are in a position to punish and coerce targets. Even the appearance of that relationship can influence sources and deter those who might complain. The Jimmy Savile case shows how such a relationship with the police, or the appearance of a relationship with the police, can be used as a shield.[4]

An award ceremony sponsored by the press, what can go wrong?

We saw the same technique on a larger scale when The Sun sponsored the bravery award ceremony for the police.[5] The events used to provide an opportunity to meet and network with the police. It also gave the appearance that the Sun, like Jimmy Savile in his meetings with the West Yorkshire Police, was on good relations with the police.

The Fake Sheik case raises the question: if the press and the police are working together who is left to hold them to account?

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/media/2012/feb/29/met-review-daniel-morgan-murder

[2] https://www.bellingcat.com/news/2014/11/08/did-mazher-mahmood-mislead-leveson-about-the-dark-arts-of-his-past/

[3] http://www.blogs.findlaw.co.uk/solicitor/2014/10/review-investigation-to-look-into-cases-involving-evidence-from-fake-sheikh-after-tulisas-conviction.html

[4] See my post on the way Jimmy Savile used the appearance of his relationship with the West Yorkshire Police. http://lawrenceserewicz.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/the-temptation-of-celebrity-power-the-police-and-jimmy-savile/

[5] http://www.polfed.org/newsroom/394.aspx Interestingly, the police no longer have public sponsors for the event and it is held at Downing Street and sponsored by the Police Mutual. I have not been able to track down any publicity about the change and why the event is no longer sponsored by the Sun.

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About lawrence serewicz

An American living and working in the UK trying to understand the American idea and explain it to others. The views in this blog are my own for better or worse.
This entry was posted in accountability, bias, ethics, journalism, police, public interest and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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