Journalists Under Fire
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is concerned about police questioning journalists about their sources, as it could have a chilling effect on journalism. Other press members have also reported similar incidents in recent months.
Freelance journalist Paul Smith in Falkirk had police officers visit his home, asking him to reveal his sources. Smith was shocked and refused to disclose the information, stating that journalists should not be pressured in this manner. He also criticized the police for not addressing their concerns earlier.
According to Smith, the police were specifically interested in the in-depth information he had obtained for several stories published in the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Daily Record. They questioned him about his contacts within Police Scotland and other emergency services. Smith believes that the police's approach was an attempt to intimidate him into revealing his sources.
In response, a Police Scotland spokesperson explained that the enquiries were initiated after receiving information alleging unauthorized disclosure of information by an officer. However, the investigation did not find any evidence of criminality or misconduct.
The NUJ's Scottish office has been contacted by other journalists who have faced similar questioning by the police regarding their sources. The NUJ plans to address these concerns by writing to Police Scotland's chief constable, Jo Farrell.
MSP Michelle Thomson supports journalist Paul Smith in protecting his sources, emphasizing the importance of a free press for democracy. Smith contacted Angela Constance, the Scottish justice and home affairs secretary, who also stressed the significance of an independent press in a democratic society.
Paul Smith inquired about his phone records and investigation status with Police Scotland. Initially, he received an email stating no comment, but later an officer confirmed no examination of his phone records and no ongoing investigation. However, the outcome of any investigation was not disclosed to Smith.
Smith expressed his hope that Scotland's new chief constable would make efforts to mend the strained relationship between the police and journalists. He described the current relationship as sour and stressed the need for improvement.