Friday, 26 November 2010

Why police keep media in the dark

ANYONE who wonders why newspaper sales are declining and why the public believe crime rates have risen, when they demonstrably have gone down, should have a look at a tremendous story on Hold the Front Page.
Here is the relevant link: http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/foi/101123incidents.shtml
First credit where it is due to the Yorkshire Evening Post who used Freedom of Information legislation to find that police had responded to more than 2,000 incidents over the weekend of England’s departure from the football World Cup Finals, yet gave out just three statements to the media.
The story quoted the police as saying it was not their job to provide a news release service and they evaluated every incident before deciding whether to give it publicity.
The comments below the story are even more interesting, lifting the lid on years of frustration and anger from the media about how police attitudes have changed over the years.
Icons of the regional press, like former Editor Barrie Williams, joins the debate pointing out that in a democratic society police do indeed have a duty to inform the public through the media what they are asked to get involved in.
He is largely supported on a media-targeted web-site, but there are contributions from those who say it is the fault of the Media that they have come to rely on press offices and have run their own staff down so far that they couldn’t find their stories by more traditional direct means.
They are all right, of course.
For twenty years or more there has been a campaign among human rights lawyers and data protection zealots to stop the police and other authorities from giving to the media personal details of accident and crime victims and everyone else involved in public incidents. Largely the police have caved in to this pressure.
All they needed to do was say that releasing details helped them solve crimes and helped them winkle out information crucial to the background of accidents. These considerations should over-ride all bogus claims of privacy.
Instead careerist officers preferred to play the anti-media card and join in the pursuit of the individual’s rights. Never mind the rights or benefits of the community.
One day society will learn that the latter are more important than the former. Until then the media have no chance of being told what the authorities decide in their wisdom to keep to themselves.

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