A BAD DAY FOR THE REPUTATION OF THE PRESS

A BAD DAY FOR THE REPUTATION OF THE PRESS

TODAY has been a bad day for the Press’ reputation, says the Chartered Institute of Journalists. (CIoJ)

Three national newspapers are under a cloud following allegations of misconduct of a type which may have far-reaching consequences. The allegations tar the reputation of journalism yet there are more than 1,000 British newspapers whose dedicated journalists would never resort to such tactics. This fact should not be missed in the hurry to cast judgement on the profession as a whole.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described claims that a private detective working for the News of the World hacked into murdered teenager Milly Dowler’s mobile phone, as “quite, quite shocking. If true, this is a truly dreadful act and a truly dreadful situation,” he told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday.

Police are to meet executives from the paper to discuss allegations that Glenn Mulcaire hacked into Milly’s voicemail when she was missing in 2002. Her remains were found in remote woodland at Yateley Heath in Hampshire six months later.

The Guardian newspaper claims that Mr Mulcaire intercepted messages left by relatives for the 13-year-old, and some were allegedly deleted. Labour has demanded a full inquiry into the hacking claims.

News International boss Rebekah Brooks has promised the “strongest possible action” if the claims are proven. In a statement to staff obtained by the BBC, Mrs Brooks said the claims were “almost too horrific to believe”.

She added: “I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew – or worse – sanctioned these appalling allegations.”

Meanwhile two tabloid newspapers are set to go on trial accused of contempt of court, for their coverage of the arrest of a man in connection with the killing of landscape architect Jo Yeates.

Christopher Jefferies, from Bristol, was arrested last December and was later released without charge. Another man has admitted manslaughter and is awaiting trial accused of murder.

Miss Yeates’ landlord, Mr Jefferies, who was the subject of media scrutiny after he was arrested, is also suing six national newspapers in the civil courts.

Miss Yeates vanished after returning to her basement flat in Bristol’s Clifton area on 17 December. Her body was found on a grass verge about three miles away on Longwood Lane in Failand on Christmas Day.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve said the Sun and the Mirror published stories which went too far. He claims that if Mr Jefferies had been charged, a fair trial would have been impossible.

Commenting on the cases, Amanda Brodie, chairman of the CIoJ’s Professional Practices Board, said: “If these allegations are found to be true, this is a black day for standards in journalism.

“In this country we have always enjoyed the privileges of a free press, but with those privileges comes responsibility. If we do not self-regulate in a responsible manner, we risk having regulation imposed on us. This would be a retrograde step in the expression of democracy.

“The Chartered Institute of Journalists has a code of conduct to which it expects its members to adhere. The vast majority of media organisations subscribe to the Press Complaints Commission code of conduct, and act responsibly. But those that do step out of line risk spoiling self-regulation for the rest.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Formed in 1884, the Chartered Institute of Journalists (CIoJ) is the world’s oldest established professional body for journalists, and a representative voice of media and communications professionals throughout the UK and the Commonwealth.

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