England's Riots and the media's role

Yesterday, Parliament was recalled for a statement on the riots and a debate on the disturbances. MPs were rightly recalled for the first time in many years after the disgraceful scenes first, in Tottenham which spread to other parts of London and then across many towns and cities in England. A number of MPs returned from their holidays, including Heidi Alexander, who was on her honeymoon! I was fortunate that I was not away, and I had been on hand in Manchester to see the shocking scenes on Tuesday evening. I was involved in the cleanup of the City Centre the following morning where residents and politicians joined traders and business owners in helping getting the city back on its feet. There were reports of between 300 and a thousand people helping out that morning and it just shows how proud we are of our great city.
At a meeting with the police and Police Authority in the afternoon I asked the Chief Constable if the press had contacted the police and offered to provide footage, including unseen images to assist the police in bringing criminals to justice. I was shocked to hear that they had not. During the Prime Minister’s statement the following morning I asked the PM whether he would encourage media organisations to immediately hand over unseen footage that would assist the police in bringing criminals to justice. David Cameron said he would and I subsequently wrote to media organisations to ask them to co-operate and had other any footage that would help the police. It was therefore very disappointing that the BBC, ITN and SKY News have all refused my request, insisting that a Court order will be needed before they release any footage. So far only the Manchester Evening News has reacted positively – they are happy to release the footage and will not oppose a section 9 PACE production order that the police will now serve on them.
I’m shocked by the response from most of the media. In the Murdock owned Sun newspaper yesterday their headline on page 9 was “Shop Another Moron”, encouraging anyone who recognises anyone from the CCTV coverage to ring Crimestoppers. In their Editorial on Page 8 they say “Let the cops do their job” and complain that the police are being hampered by human rights legislation. So why is the Murdoch owned Sky News stating that they will only cooperate if forced to by the Courts? How can they tell people that they should be “shopping another moron”, when they are not prepared to help the police by providing potentially vital evidence without being forced to by the Courts? It’s time for them to practise what they preach – get that footage sent to the police so they can do their job and bring the criminals to justice.

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