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Union echoes industry calls for more police openness with journalists

The National Union of Journalists has echoed calls from press industry leaders for more police openness following the release of new media guidance for forces.

HTFP reported last month on concerns raised by the News Media Association over what it calls the “deterioration” in relations between journalists and police officers, after the College of Policing unveiled its latest press relations guidance.

The NMA highlighted certain sections of the guidelines, which continue to state that the police will not name those arrested “save in exceptional circumstances”, and that identities of people dealt with by way of cautions, speeding fines or other fixed penalties should not be released or confirmed.

A section from a previous edition of the guidance, issued in 2010, on establishing consent to the release of information on victims and witnesses had also been “jettisoned”.

police tape

Offering the NUJ’s response, the union’s acting general secretary Seamus Dooley said: “The public needs to have confidence in its police. The media plays a vital role as a watchdog and in holding the police to account so the public can have this confidence.

“This is only possible when there is an open and collaborative relationship between the police and the media. Journalists should have the right to challenge the police, the behaviour of police and how they conduct their operations.

“On the whole, the press acts responsibly. Recently, newspapers and broadcasters agreed to withhold the names of suspects in terrorist incidents at the request of the police.

“The College of Policing guidelines are disappointing in that they are more about restricting information than improving transparency. However, there have been a number of significant changes, for example removing the rule that virtually every inquiry from the press had to be made through the press office and we welcome that.”