The Society of Editors (SoE) has welcomed guidelines issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) on officers working with journalists during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Society’s executive director Ian Murray said the guidelines were essential if journalists were to be able to continue to report on all aspects of life in the communities they serve and not just Covid-19 issues.
The guidelines have been circulated to police forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The document states that as key workers journalists serve the ‘public interest in keeping the population informed.’ They add that responsible journalism promotes good community relations which is essential in this current climate.
The guidelines say that all journalists should carry a UK Press Card or an official record of employment and should comply with Public Health guidelines on social distancing.
The advice to officers follows a reported incident where a press agency journalist was told by Sussex police that visiting a murder crime scene was not considered essential travel.
The SoE’s Ian Murray said: “While covering the latest developments on the Coronavirus itself and its effect on communities is top priority at the moment, it is important that the public are kept abreast of what is also taking place in their communities.
“The situation is far from normal, but with so many people self-isolating every effort needs to be made to maintain the links that bring communities together. Reporting on that news is vital if communities are to maintain a sense of cohesion as we all face these times together.”
A spokesman for Sussex Police since told the local paper The Argus: “We recognise that journalists are key workers providing an important and valuable service in communicating news about COVID-19.”
The NPCC guidance can be downloaded here.