The boss of the Society of Editors has refuted suggestions by a police chief that the organisation endorsed a controversial indemnity form which critics say was designed to gag journalists.
As reported on HTFP earlier this month, the Epping Forest Guardian was refused entry to the photocall at a newly-discovered cannabis farm after refusing to give guarantees on how the material would be used.
Yesterday, Essex chief constable Jim Barker-McCardle reiterated his force’s policy of requiring journalists to sign the form, and claimed that it was based on national guidelines agreed between the SoE and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).
But SoE executive director Bob Satchwell has now denied this, saying the form which the Guardian journalists were asked to sign went “way beyond” what had been discussed nationally.
The indemnity forms ask media organisations to give an undertaking that no material will be used in a way that was “detrimental” to the force.
Mr Satchwell told HTFP: “The guidelines from Acpo were just designed to indemnify the police against damage to photographers’ cameras and equipment. What they are now saying is quite outrageous and goes far beyond that.”
“There is no way that any media organisation would have gone along with terms of their indemnity form,” he added.
Mr Satchwell said he would be writing to Mr Barker-McCardle to clarify the Society’s position.
Anthony Longden, managing editor of Newsquest’s North and East London division which includes the Guardian series, has accused the police of making “unreasonable” demands on journalists and said he has had a long-standing policy of refusing to sign the forms.
Asked whether he supported Mr Longden’s stance, Mr Satchwell replied: “Absolutely.”
Chris Youett (26/11/2009 10:54:44)
Bob is right to feel the collar of ACPO on this one. The coppers should remember that they need us far more than we need them. The conduct of ACPO only goes to shew that the chief constables’ “union” urgently needs legal regulation on the same basis as the Law Society and the medical profession.
Charlie Harris FCIJ (26/11/2009 17:34:12)
Chris Y is dead right on this. Acpo acts, and is (shamefully) often reported by journalists, as if it were an official body, not a private self-interest organisation. What the Essex Constabulary is doing goes way beyond the traditional “bloodsheets” hacks have long been asked to sign when given special facilities to cover dangerous police operations. This is censorship, pure and simple. The Governmment must legislate to ban police bullies abusing their privileges in this way. In the menatime, papers should refuse to cover any story where such demands are made. As Chris said, the cops need us far more than we need them.