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Gilson hits out at police ‘information shutdown’

A senior regional editor has spoken up in support of close links between local journalists and police officers as he hit out at the ‘information shutdown’ by ‘half-witted’ police forces.

Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph, wrote a first person piece in the paper in response to the recent arrests of Sun journalists by police investigating whether payments had been made to officers in return for stories.

Denouncing the arrests as a “new low of lunacy,” he also accused the Leveson Inquiry of painting a distorted picture of a nation “crawling with rapacious hacks who will stop at nothing for a scoop.”

Mike, pictured above, said the reality was in fact police forces who now reveal little about what crime is happening in their area, to the detriment of local democracy.

“Contrary to what you might have read and seen, the real story today is that information is shutting down,” he wrote.

“Far from journalists and detectives having too cosy a relationship, the truth is in the vast majority of cases there is none at all.

“For the police a half-witted theory has developed in recent decades that to allow people to know what crimes are happening in their neighbourhood is to encourage the ‘fear of crime.’

“Add on top an explosion of press officers to control the message and you have a situation that is unhealthy for local democracy.”

Mike said that the “melodramatic” arrests of Sun reporters by teams of ‘burly coppers’ had “plunged us into a new low of lunacy.”

“In a world of heinous murders, rampant knife crimes and wholesale tax avoidance by the rich and privileged have we really got our policing priorities right?

“At the Leveson Inquiry a distorted picture is being painted of a nation crawling with rapacious hacks who will stop at nothing for a scoop.

“The truth is that journalism, for a variety of reasons, is in crisis. At the time when there needs to be a public debate about what kind of open society we want and how, in the age of a free flowing torrent of unreliable digital information, journalism should contribute, we are getting Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan instead.”

Mike’s piece can be read in full here