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Guardian investigative journalist questioned by police

7 September 2011

The Guardian's special investigations correspondent Amelia Hill has been questioned under caution by police investigating leaks from the Metropolitan Police phone-hacking probe Operation Weeting.

The news comes almost three weeks after a Scotland Yard detective was arrested for allegedly leaking information to the newspaper. The 51-year-old detective was arrested the day after Hill broke the news that former News of the World showbiz editor James Desborough had been arrested as part of the Operation Weeting inquiry into phone-hacking.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"There is a vital journalistic principle at stake here. It is outrageous that an allegation of off-the-record briefings is being treated as a criminal matter. There is a clear distinction between legitimate off-the-record interviews and the illegitimate payment of bribes.
"In this case the allegation is simply that a Scotland Yard detective is an off-the-record source. There is no suggestion of bribery or corruption and there is no suggestion that anything said by the source threatened national security, jeopardised the course of the hacking inquiry, or invaded anybody's privacy.
"No employer likes an employee to talk to the press without permission. In this case the police appear to be using the criminal law at their disposal rather than simply resorting to internal disciplinary proceedings. Using criminal law as a weapon to silence people in the workplace is highly inappropriate.
"Good journalism depends on off-the-record sources and as journalists our sources are sacrosanct. We don't want to live in a society in which the only information from the police is the official line authorised by the commissioner or an official press release.
"Any threat to the protection of sources is a direct threat to citizen's right to know and absolutely not in the public interest."

Tags: , guardian, newspapers, investigative journalism, protection of sources, metropolitan police, phone hacking, operation weeting, press freedom, journalists arrested