Last Friday, the Scotland Yard assistant commissioner, Neil Basu demanded if anyone would have governmental documents of leaks, quoting “owners, editor-in-chief or editor of medias”, to not publish and give them to the authorities.
He warned the “media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s government”. This declaration from Neil Basu comes up after a publication concerning the comments from the British ambassador not much laudatory about President Trump. Kim Darrosh resigned on Wednesday after these leaks of dispatches in which he described Donald Trump’s White House as inept and dysfunctional.
An enquiry from Whitehall did not permit to identify the source. Scotland Yard has announced on Friday that it had started a criminal investigation, suggesting that the Official Secrets Act had been breached.
A stance from politicians and media sphere
The Neil Basu’s declaration was interpreted like an attempt to curtail the power of the UK media. This warning took place during the Downstreet campaign. The front-runner to succeed Theresa May, Boris Johnson, came to media's defence. An ex-journalist himself, Mr. Johnson declared that these persecutions would amount to an “infringement of press freedom” and have a “chilling effect” on public debate. His statement was supported by other politicians. Ian Murray, the executive director of The Society of Editors has said: “Frankly it is the kind of approach we would expect from totalitarian regimes where the media are expected to be little more than a tame arm of the government. This is not nor should not be the case here in the UK.”
Twenty-four hours after the polemic, Scotland Yard made a statement to correct its allegation. Neil Basu rectified that the security forces did not want to stop the press from publishing stories.