UK police monitored calls of Daily Mirror and Northern Echo journalists

New York, January 13, 2017–U.K. police used surveillance powers to monitor the phone calls of three journalists to try to reveal their sources in two separate stories, according to news reports.

“In order to do their jobs, journalists must be able to guarantee their sources confidentiality,” said Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator. “The U.K. authorities must not create an environment in which people are afraid to speak to the media, which will only result in an ill-informed public.”

The Daily Mirror reported that Cleveland police admitted tapping the phone of its reporter Jeremy Armstrong for nine days from February 20, 2012. In a separate incident, Armstrong reported on January 11 that police admitted to accessing four months of his mobile phone data using the Regulations of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), a move he said police later claimed was an error.

Cleveland police also accessed the phone records of Julia Breen and Graeme Hetherington of the regional newspaper The Northern Echo, the industry newspaper Press Gazette reported. The surveillance occurred in the course of investigating a former police sergeant suspected of leaking details to the Northern Echo about an internal review into institutional racism, according to Press Gazette. The former sergeant took the case last month to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which hears complaints about surveillance by public bodies.

The court’s ruling is pending although the judge has indicated that the police’s use of surveillance was unlawful, according to news reports.

On January 5, Cleveland police issued an apology to Breen and Hetherington, Press Gazette reported.