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Editors demand ‘urgent’ action as BBC scraps Sir Cliff ruling challenge

Cliff RichardThe Society of Editors has called for “urgent” parliamentary action on the “potential threat to press freedom” following the BBC’s decision not to challenge the Sir Cliff Richard privacy case verdict.

The BBC announced today it would not be appealing the High Court decision by Mr Justice Mann, who found the corporation had breached Sir Cliff’s privacy rights when it reported he was under investigation for an alleged historical child sex abuse claim.

The singer, pictured, was never arrested or charged with any offence and the court ruled it was unlawful to have even named him as a suspect.

But the SoE now says MPs must now “urgently consider” the effect the ruling could have on journalists’ ability to reporter people under investigation.

SoE executive director Ian Murray said: “It is unfortunate but, in many ways, understandable that the BBC has decided it will not pursue an appeal in this case, but it is important, if not vital, that the central issue of what is at risk here for the liberties and freedoms in this country is not lost in this decision.

“The decision that it is unlawful for the media – as well as the public of course – to identify someone under investigation by the police is a major change to not only press freedom to report what those in authority are doing, but also to the public’s right to know and open justice here in the UK.

“These are serious issues and should not be decided by the verdict in one celebrity court case, no matter how high profile. Parliament should now urgently consider whether such a step towards individual privacy against the protection of society’s overall liberties is acceptable.

“At risk is whether the balance between such issues which underpin individual rights and freedom of expression in our liberal democracy has now been altered to the detriment of us all.”

Ian added: “The Society recognises that the sympathies of the public may well be strongly with Sir Cliff on this issue and in this particular case, but there are bigger issues at stake that, if unchallenged, will affect the liberties of all citizens.”

The News Media Association has also given its reaction.

In a statement, the NMA said: “This case has raised wide issues around the reporting of the criminal justice process which local and national news media do on behalf of the public.

“Given the broader consequences for press freedom, we are surprised that the BBC has decided not to appeal this decision. The NMA will now seek urgent meetings with the government with the aim of ensuring that freedom of speech is not curtailed as a result of this judgment.

“Public confidence in the criminal justice system is underpinned by transparency at every stage of the process and anything which damages or limits this openness must be resisted.”


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  • August 15, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    The BBC should do the right thing after wronging a British TREASURE like Cliff Richard.

    I suggest a BBC-live broadcast pop music concert in tribute to Sir Cliff Richard, for all his years of service to music and to the people of Britain.

    We love Cliff, we have loved him some of us for all of our lives and we the BBC viewers and licence fee-payers, as a people, as a nation, as our respective home nations need to show our love now.

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  • August 15, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    The Government should take action as a result of this Judgment. They should change the law immediately and grant anonymity to people who have been accused until of unless they are charged with an offence unless there is a genuine public interest, and someone having a high profile name is not legitimate public interest. The BBC deliberately reported Sir Cliff Richard’s name when they knew the police were not going to. They did it before any arrest or charge and even before Sir Cliff was questioned and they filmed through his windows using a helicopter. Now the BBC and the wider media must pay the price for their disgusting behaviour in this and many other cases. The law MUST be changed now.

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  • August 16, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    The BBC has let the side down massively by not challenging this ludicrous judgement, which amounts to a ban on the reporting of major police operations that occur in full view of thousands of members of the public.

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  • August 17, 2018 at 11:33 am

    With you Teejay, even as a hack.
    The only reason journos are upset about this is because it might deny them a story. The “public interest” stuff is just bogus. It is certainly of no public “benefit” for them to know the name of someone who is merely being investigated for something. It does not stop major incidents including raids being reported. It might stop people who are innocent until proven guilty being named (and shamed!) when they have not even been charged, an outrageous breach of human rights in my view. Journos should really try harder to see life from the other side of the fence sometimes. Still no-one at the Beeb seems to have paid for their folly.

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  • August 22, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Paperboy calls it folly, I call it a scoop.
    And Peter Dow, take the starstruck blinkers off.
    Not all of us love wealthy tax exiles too mean to pay their dues.

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  • August 22, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    “It is certainly of no public benefit for them to know the name of someone who is merely being investigated for something. It does not stop major incidents including raids being reported.”

    Yes, it categorically does. Because in order to report the raid, you have to say where the raid is. And the moment you say where the raid is, people on social media start going, ‘Oh, I used to live in that block – that’s Cliff Richard’s flat’, or, ‘My friend lives there – that’s Cliff Richard’s flat’, or ‘Oh, I used to live up the road about 10 years ago, we used to see Cliff Richard going in and out of that block’.

    The moment you identify the location, you’ve identified the target. That – somebody being able to put your story together with information published elsewhere and deduce the identity of the target – is called a jigsaw identification, and would amount to a legal breach.

    So by banning the identification of the target, this judge has censored any and all reporting on the raid. Meaning, as I said earlier, that it amounts to a media blackout on the reporting of major police operations carried out in full view of members of the public.

    It is a ludicrous, frightening and indefensible ruling.

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