London police official warns journalists not to publish leaks on pain of imprisonment

July 14, 2019 in News by RBN Staff


After a leak revealed that the British Ambassador to the USA had called Trump “inept, insecure and incompetent” (leading to the ambassador’s resignation and a round of Twitter insults between Trump and senior Tory officials), London’s Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu publicly warned journalists not to publish government leaks, threatening to imprison them if they do: “The publication of leaked communications, knowing the damage they have caused or are likely to cause may also be a criminal matter. I would advise all owners, editors and publishers of social and mainstream media not to publish leaked government documents that may already be in their possession, or which may be offered to them, and to turn them over to the police or give them back to their rightful owner, Her Majesty’s Government.”

The comments drew sharp criticism from the British press. The Sunday Times political editor Tim Shipman called it a “sinister, absurd, anti-democratic statement” and tweeted, “Do you have any comprehension of a free society? This isn’t Russia.” The US managing editor of the Financial Times, Peter Spiegel, called the remarks “rather chilling from a major police force in a western democracy.”