Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Mail in Leveson anonymity challenge

Lord Justice Leveson is chairing an inquiry into media ethics following the News of the World phone hacking scandal

The publisher of two of the UK's most popular newspapers has asked senior judges to consider whether an inquiry into press standards should hear evidence anonymously.

Associated Newspapers, publisher of the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, said it feared that its reputation could be tarred by evidence given anonymously to the Leveson Inquiry, sitting in London.

Lawyers representing Associated Newspapers challenged a ruling on the admissibility of anonymous evidence by inquiry chairman Lord Justice Leveson, at a High Court hearing in London before Lord Justice Toulson, Mr Justice Sweeney and Mrs Justice Sharp.

In a ruling on November 9, Lord Justice Leveson said he would be "prepared to receive anonymous evidence".

He said the inquiry had been approached by a number of individuals, "all of whom describe themselves as journalists working for a newspaper or newspapers", who had asked to provide evidence anonymously and not to be identified to the newspaper or newspapers for which they work or had worked.

Lord Justice Leveson said the journalists "fear for their employment" if what they said could be attributed to them.

"The inquiry has been approached by a number of individuals, all of whom describe themselves as journalists working for a newspaper or newspapers either on a casual or full-time basis and who wish to provide evidence to the inquiry on the subject of the culture, practices and ethics of the press," he said.

"Each has asked to provide this evidence anonymously and with such other protection that the newspaper or newspapers for which they work or have worked cannot identify them. It is clear that the picture which they wish to paint is not entirely consistent with the picture that editors and proprietors have painted of their papers and they fear for their employment if what they say can be attributed to them."

He added: "Although I would encourage all those who can contribute to this inquiry to do so on an open basis, I understand the concerns expressed by journalists who fear for their continued employment if they do not follow the line being taken by their employers.

"In the circumstances, given the broad remit of this part of the inquiry into culture, practices and ethics at a general, rather than a specific, level, I will be prepared to receive anonymous evidence."

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