Secret police guidance has been discovered urging officers to treat journalists akin to criminals and ‘extremist groups’.
The alarming advice has been condemned by newspaper groups who fear it will undermine police-press relations and hinder the public’s right to know about crimes and how they are investigated.
Only last week, Merseyside Police held vital briefings with the media to galvanise the quest to find the killer of nine-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel.
Yet advice to police forces, not previously revealed, instructs them to regard professional journalists as a potential ‘corrupting’ influence.
The College of Policing, the umbrella group providing guidance for the forces of England and Wales, advises that officers must declare whether they have friendships or associations with people such as criminals.
While this advice is public, it has emerged that a secret annex listing the types of associations that must be declared includes journalists.
Earlier this year, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary recommended police officers disclose associations with ‘journalists and extremist groups’.
After complaints about lumping these two together as if they were equal, the inspectorate apologised and agreed to change the wording.