The Society of Editors has urged politicians to use caution and safeguard press freedoms when investigating the leaking of information over Chinese communication giant Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G digital network.
Senior politicians and former security chiefs have called for a probe into how sensitive information from a meeting of the National Security Council was made available to the Daily Telegraph and published this week.
The Telegraph reported that the Government was to allow Huawei to become involved in the development of 5G technology in the UK despite fears being voiced over national security.
The leak has been attacked by some members of the Cabinet, including Home Secretary Savid Javid, leading politicians and former security chiefs, with calls for a probe to possibly include the checking of politicians’ phones to trace the source of the information.
However, Society of Editors Executive Director Ian Murray said any investigation needed to keep in mind that in a functioning democracy it was essential that a free press was allowed to operate without security forces seeking to discover the identity of whistle-blowers and contacts.
“It is understandable that there will be concern, even anger, in some quarters that this information has been leaked. But it is a vital news story and we need to be careful to ensure the fine line between what are considered matters of national security and the public’s right to know is not overstepped,” said Murray.
“For journalists and media organisations the ability to keep sources confidential and protect contacts and whistle-blowers is paramount.
“What can be seen by some to be unacceptable breaches of confidentiality will by others be considered as important airing of vital subjects. Regardless of how uncomfortable the subject matter may be, those in authority should resist the temptation to damage the UK’s reputation for enabling a free media to hold those in power to account.”