CIJ Response to Police and Official Secrets Act

    17 September 2011

    The Metropolitan Police announcement on 16 September that they are intending to use the Official Secrets Act against The Guardian is an extraordinary attack on fundamental press freedom.

    Attempts to compel The Guardian to disclose sources in the phone hacking scandal would place at risk many essential guarantees given to whistleblowers, informants and sources that they will be protected from precisely these attempts to silence them. Disclosures are the lifeblood of public interest and watchdog reporting.

    Corruption, deaths in police custody, failures in their duty of care, incompetence, hostility to transparency, and axiomatic failures in accountability explain the police application to use the Official Secrets Act.

    The resignations of two Metropolitan Police Commissioners and a recent Assistant Police Commissioner, following the lies and cover-ups of killings, widespread secret surveillance, and other alarming abuses of power have caught the public attention.

    It is not surprising that with their direct behind the scenes involvement in the phone hacking scandal and in their close relationship with the Murdoch media empire, the police would seek to stifle more investigation. There has rarely been an uglier example of oppressive arrogance by those in power.

    A successful attack by forces with a long history of contempt for investigative and critical reporting, would profoundly damage public trust in an independent media. The Centre for Investigative Journalism joins with many journalists and organisations concerned with censorship, unaccountable power, and a free press, in support for The Guardian, and in condemning the latest abuse of power by the police.

    Gavin MacFadyen, CIJ Director