Serving professional journalism since 1912

Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Clegg has listened

At the Institute’s AGM last year, Justice Minister Simon Hughes listened to members’ concerns about police forces using the back door to gain access to journalists’ sources.  He promised that his department would do all it could to stop this from happening and to seek better protection for whistleblowers.

Now, in a recent article in the Guardian newspaper, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg seems to have come good on the promise.  He has called for protection of journalists’ sources to be written into statute as soon as possible.  Cynics among us will say this could be no more than a sop to the media ahead of the election battle.  The optimists will point to a shift in attitude from a political leader who was one of the main protagonists for politicians having a stake in press regulation.

The acid test, of course, will be whether Cameron and Miliband back Clegg’s call, to make sure journalists’ sources get the protection they need in order to ensure that whistleblowers are confident enough to come forward in the future.

In the meantime, the authorities are still posturing as the industry continues to endure the sustained attack which started with the hacking inquiry.  But other accusations of bad or illegal journalistic practice, such as the paying of tip-off fees, are slowly being thrown out by the courts as many journalists are walking free.

We all know that the hacking abuses were practised by a minority.  However, the political and celebrity elite, supported by certin elements of the journaistic profession, have used the incident to force their hands onto the tiller of regulation.  This latest change of heart by their political masters should cause, then, some consternation among the authorities who now lead the attack on the industry.  What to do?  Do they, too, suddenly recognise the value of a free press, and accept that there are some sacrifices we all make in order to enjoy to the protections that provides?  Or do they risk being left out in the cold as they pursue what increasingly looks like a vendetta, handed to them by their political bosses some years ago now.