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MPs support Steve Panter

Journalists are being urged to lobby their MPs to bring an end to uncertainty for Manchester Evening News reporter Steve Panter.

He faces prison for refusing to reveal his sources when called as a witness to a crown court case.

The National Union of Journalists has issued a suggested letter to send to MPs, 23 of whom have already signed an Early Day Motion: That this House commends the actions of those journalists who refuse to disclose sources of information; regrets that they may face contempt of court proceedings for defending their professional code of conduct; and calls on the Government to seek urgent clarification of the implications of Section 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights in respect of the protection of journalists’ sources of information.

The motion was tabled by MP David Chaytor, from Steve’s Bury constituency.

A decision on the possible prosecution rests with the Attorney General’s office.

But the NUJ believes that because the jury at Manchester Crown Court believed Steve’s testimony it would not be in the public interest pursue this matter further.

And because of his work as a reporter he could be put in danger if he received a custodial sentence.

The letter tells MPs: “Steve is facing prosecution for contempt of court over a story he wrote which named the main suspect in the Manchester bombing and reported that the police and Crown Prosecution Service had decided to take no action.

“Steve is refusing to name the source of his story – in line with the National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct.

“A police officer who was accused of being the mole was acquitted by a jury last month, after Steve told Manchester Crown Court the man was not his source. Steve refused to name his contact and faces contempt charges. He could be jailed.

“The NUJ believes that the conduct of the investigation into the Manchester bombing is a legitimate matter for public debate. The union further believes that the attempt to prosecute Steve Panter is designed to scare other journalists who may want to investigate public bodies.

“Steve is in particular danger if he is jailed. As the Evening News’s crime reporter for many years he reported on the activities of many people who are now prison inmates.”

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