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February 16, 2004

Sources and protection

So Lord Saville has decided not to prosecute Jon Snow and Lena Ferguson for refusing to disclose the identities of those who spoke to them about the Bloody Sunday incident.

I should think not. Protection of sources has been a fundamental of journalism since cover-ups began. It was 1990 when journalist Bill Goodwin of The Engineer published a piece about software house Tetra and the courts, having established that someone stole the information in order to get it to him, decided he had to hand his source over. He didn't do so because he was protected by Section 10 of the Contempt of Court Act, which enshrines the right to protect your sources unless there's some danger of injustice or crime (which is a pretty loose criterion).

Goodwin had to go to Europe in order to have the ruling overturned and I really, really thought we'd moved on since then. But it transpires that the Snow and Ferguson decision didn't go without saying as it ought, the judge felt he had some leeway in the matter and under British law he did. The Europeans are better than we are at this. Lord Saville has respected the job being done and his decision is to be applauded; I wonder, though, what's in danger of being covered up under the auspices of less enlightened legal bods.

Posted by clappertong at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2004

Yet More Hutton

It just won't go away, will it? Today's Radio Times has John Humphrys of the Today programme laying into Alastair Campbell (click here for a piece about it in The Guardian) for triumphalism after the Hutton Report. Campbell is typically graceless when asked to comment. On the face of it you might argue Humphrys has Campbell down to a tee - the bully, the nasty man who's caused resignations at the BBC. Even so, I wonder whether there isn't some justification for Campbell's attitude in recent times? Yes he's appeared boorish, yes you can argue 'triumphalist', but then I've never been accused of artificially and deliberately engineering a war. How do I know what's the appropriate way to react? 'Still livid' sounds reasonable enough. And more - it's the media that got a savaging from Hutton and the media that's reporting all the reactions afterwards. How different would Campbell have looked if the Guardian had simply said 'Campbell declined to quote' rather than 'Mr Campbell declined to respond to Humphrys' attack. "Why should I bother? Why should I care about what John Humphrys says?" ' There's a lot still to come out about journalists and Hutton, of that I'm sure - but the continued demonising of one particular individual has long ceased to be useful.
Posted by clappertong at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)