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Report Recommends Rebuilding Broken Relationship Between Police and Media

A report published by three media groups has accused the police of creating an ‘information vacuum’ that has allowed social media speculation to flourish.

The deteriorating relationship between the police and the press has led to unchecked speculation, according to the report by the Society of Editors (SoE), the Crime Reporters’ Association (CRA), and the Media Lawyers Association (MLA).

A joint report released on Friday highlights the decrease in background briefings by the police, allowing social media commentators to fill the information void.

The report offers 26 recommendations to address the situation.

In a previous incident, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood criticized Dorset Police for a lack of clarity, leading to wild speculation on social media after two children’s deaths at a Bournemouth beach.

Another case involved a fractured relationship between Lancashire Police and the media during the investigation into Nicola Bulley’s disappearance in January 2023.

Ms. Bulley’s family described some media coverage as “shameful,” while Detective Superintendent Rebecca Smith criticized TikTok influencers for spreading distracting false information.

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The Chair of the CRA, Rebecca Camber, author of the report, emphasized the need to rebuild the broken relationship between the press and the police.

She highlighted the importance of transparency and communication to restore trust and confidence between the media, police, and the public.

A woman holds up a placard during a search for Nicola Bulley, who went missing in Lancashire, England, on Jan. 27, 2023. (PA)
A woman holds up a placard during a search for Nicola Bulley, who went missing in Lancashire, England, on Jan. 27, 2023. (PA)

The report detailed three prominent incidents where speculation replaced solid information from the police:

  • The killings of two university students and a caretaker in Nottingham wrongly linked on social media to bomb rumors.
  • During the attack on the Palace of Westminster in 2017, reporters were directed to Twitter for updates by the Metropolitan Police.
  • A panic ensued on social media during an Oxford Circus evacuation due to car noises, mistaken for an explosion.

The report emphasized the need to rebuild trust between the media, police, and the public by improving communication and transparency.

It called for police to hold press briefings on major incidents and provide email updates rather than relying on social media for information dissemination.

Next week, the National Police Chiefs’ Council plans to discuss ways to strengthen the police’s relationship with the press.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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