In an absurd meta-twist in the ongoing News Corp. scandal, the Metropolitan police are attempting to use something called the Open Secrets Act to force reporters from the Guardian into giving up their sources in the phone-hacking revelations they’ve covered so masterfully. The paper’s reporting on their rival newspapers, specifically Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World tabloid, has sparked a large-scale investigation by law enforcement and government agencies, but also put Scotland Yard in a negative light for not having investigated the illegal reporting tactics properly in the years since it first bubbled up. Now, in what can’t help but look like retaliation, Scotland Yard wants to know where exactly the Guardian is getting their info. “It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against the Guardian,” said Labour minister Tom Watson, who has worked to expose the News Corp. wrongdoing. “It was the Guardian who first exposed this scandal.”
Police say their investigations, especially in reference to the hacked phone of kidnapping victim Milly Dowler, may be undercut by leaks to reporters Amelia Hill and Nick Davies. The Guardian reports:
Police now intend to go before a judge at the Old Bailey in London on 23 September, in an attempt to force the handover of documents relating to the source of information for a number of articles, including the article published by Hill and Davies on 4 July disclosing “the interception of the telephone of Milly Dowler.”
Documents written by both reporters about the Milly Dowler story are covered by the terms of the production order police are now demanding.
Those arrested so far in the case are reportedly claiming that media attention will prevent them from having a fair trial. But police going after journalists seems a questionable course, and one unlikely to get approval from a judge. According to the National Union of Journalists’ general secretary, who cited a 2007 case in which the court protected sources, “This is a very serious threat to journalists and the NUJ will fight off this vicious attempt to use the Official Secrets Act … Journalists have investigated the hacking story and told the truth to the public. They should be congratulated rather than being hounded and criminalized by the state.”
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger echoed that sentiment unequivocally: “We shall resist this extraordinary demand to the utmost.”