Grâce à la liberté dans les communications, des groupes d’hommes de même nature pourront se réunir et fonder des communautés. Les nations seront dépassées.
Friedrich Nietzsche (Fragments posthumes XIII-883)

14 - MAI 07/09 - Lettre Rowley aux médias


Lettre du commissaire adjoint Mark Rowley aux rédactions
re Op Grange, the Madeleine McCann investigation.
07.05.2014
 


As you are aware this case has for some time been moving towards increased action in Portugal on the basis of MPS 'International letters of request'. Whilst the process is more bureaucratic and slower than we would wish, you will recall at recent briefings that DAC Martin Hewitt has said that we were increasingly optimistic of that activity starting soon.

I am writing because I now believe that activity will occur in forthcoming weeks. You will understand that our requests for action in Portugal lead to investigative steps taking place under Portuguese law. In this context I have been discussing with my opposite number in the Policia Judiciara the high levels of interest that the action (especially when some of it will take place in public) will generate in the British media. I have discussed with him that it is our usual and preferred practice in this case to brief the media on an ongoing basis on such cases as that usually ensures that the activity of reporters and the coverage assists rather than damages the investigation.

These briefings, as you would appreciate, do not give complete detail on what the activity is, (as this could compromise what we are trying to achieve), but do provide context and as much information as possible whilst still protecting the investigation.

The advice I am receiving from Portugal is that their approach is very different and they do not brief the media on current investigations. He has been clear with me that if we provide any briefings or information on the work they are undertaking on our behalf, or if reporters cause any disruption to their work in Portugal, activity will cease until that problem dissipates.

It is important you understand this and appreciate the position in which I find myself. We will not be able to provide any information concerning the activity because ultimately it could mean the work stops. We respect the Portuguese position as we would expect them to respect our position if we were carrying out work on their behalf in the UK.

The most important task for me is to build momentum and protect our investigation given the many lines of enquiry that we see are necessary in order that we can do everything possible to solve the case. I ask that you support me and my team in those efforts. This includes respecting the requests of the Portuguese authorities during the work they will be carrying out on our behalf.

As well as being aware of the dangers of disrupting the work of the Portuguese, I would also ask you to think carefully about the information you decide to put into the public domain. Although we will continue not to comment on specific information, I would ask you to think twice about what impact that information or speculation might have on the investigation if it is published or broadcast.

We do not want to undermine our prospects of providing Mr and Mrs McCann with answers in this tragic case.

Collectively we all need to think carefully about our actions in this case.

Yours sincerely
Mark Rowley


Media Interference (FB)
07.05.2014

We are dismayed with the way the media has behaved over the last couple of days in relation to our daughter's case. There is an on-going, already challenging, police investigation taking place and media interference in this way not only makes the work of the police more difficult, it can potentially damage and destroy the investigation altogether – and hence the chances of us finding Madeleine and discovering what has happened to her. As Madeleine's parents, this just compounds our distress. We urge the media to let the police get on with their work and please show some respect and consideration to Madeleine and all our family.

Thank you.
Gerry and Kate



Madeleine McCann: is it time for the press regulator to step in? 
09.05.2014 - Roy Greenslade


Is the Press Complaints Commission going to find itself dealing with one last controversial complaint or will it become the first headache for the new Independent Press Standards Organisation?

I refer to the concerns aired about current media coverage of the renewed search for Madeleine McCann by both her parents and the police.



Madeleine's parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, have issued a statement, which is posted on Facebook, registering their disquiet at "interference" by journalists in the new investigation into their daughter's disappearance. It states:
We are dismayed with the way the media has behaved over the last couple of days in relation to our daughter's case.There is an on-going, already challenging, police investigation taking place and media interference in this way not only makes the work of the police more difficult, it can potentially damage and destroy the investigation altogether – and hence the chances of us finding Madeleine and discovering what has happened to her.
 As Madeleine's parents, this just compounds our distress. We urge the media to let the police get on with their work and please show some respect and consideration to Madeleine and all our family."This came the day after the Metropolitan police assistant commissioner, Mark Rowley, sent a letter to editors appealing for restraint because of the potential for the Portuguese to halt the investigation.

Rowley explained that the British police were operating under Portuguese law and his opposite number in Portugal, in the policia judiciaria, did not intend – as had been the Met's practice – to brief the media on the search.
He said that the Portuguese police chief had been clear "that if we provide any briefings or information on the work they are undertaking on our behalf, or if reporters cause any disruption to their work in Portugal, activity will cease".

It would mean that Scotland Yard detectives would be unable to excavate sites around the resort of Praia da Luz where the then three-year-old Madeleine went missing on 3 May 2007.
But where exactly should the press draw the line? What happens if reporters discover facts without having had police briefings? Is it wrong for British papers to reproduce every story appearing in the Portuguese press? Where does factual reporting stop and intrusion into grief begin?

With the questions in mind, let's look at how have the press has reacted to the call for restraint. 
The Daily Mirror has been in the forefront, running a "world exclusive" splash on Monday, "Maddie cops to start digging up resort". The story appeared to be well sourced.
On Wednesday, the Mirror splashed on an "exclusive new lead" headlined "Maddie cops to dig yards from apartment". A similar story was the splash in the Daily Star, "Maddie: police dig up 3 sites" and in the Daily Express, "Police dig in new hunt for Maddy."

If factually accurate, as appears to be the case, the problem for the Met with these stories was that it was bound to raise suspicions by the Portuguese police about off-the-record briefings (even if that was not the case).
The Sun also ran a page lead that morning, "Kate had dream of where to dig", in which Mrs McCann was alleged to have told a family liaison officer about her dream of where officers should look.

By Wednesday evening, Sky News was reporting that "disagreements over leaks to the media may delay British police in their efforts to scour areas they will be given access to."
Its crime correspondent, Martin Brunt, reported from Praia da Luz, on "what appears to be a developing row between the British authorities and the Portuguese authorities about essentially Scotland Yard giving out information to journalists about what is going to happen.
"The Portuguese are making it very clear that they were not happy with journalists being briefed."

Brunt also spoke about another "blow for Scotland Yard" because - according to a report in a local Portuguese newspaper, the News Journal - the authorities had rejected a Scotland Yard plea to search the homes of three men accused of burglaries at the Praia da Luz complex at the time Madeleine vanished.
The Daily Mail also referred to "ongoing tensions between British and Portuguese authorities" It quoted Met commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe as saying: "There are always going to be complications when you have got one police force in one country working with the police force of another. We have both got to be sensitive to these things."

British newspaper editors cannot be other than aware of the sensitivity surrounding the Madeleine McCann story. Her parents spoke movingly at the Leveson inquiry of their unfortunate treatment by certain papers some seven years ago.
They remain acutely concerned about intrusions into their privacy despite acknowledging the need for continuing publicity about the case.

They and their friends, along with a local man wrongly identified as a suspect, were paid large sums in libel damages for inaccurate, defamatory reports in the aftermath of Madeleine's disappearance.
Although it is obvious that editors would not wish to repeat the sins of the past, they are fascinated by the story and remain wedded, as always, to the kind of scoop journalism that can lead them to overstep the mark.

I can accept that it is difficult to suppress information - and, of course, to accept the diktats of the Portuguese authority - but editors will surely wish to avoid scuppering the police operation.
One aspect of the reporting, however, does require more attention. The Mirror's article on Wednesday quoted "a source close to the McCanns" as saying: "This is an emotional time for them."

And the inside story, drawing again on the unnamed source, referred to the couple as "tormented parents" facing "their worst nightmare". Some people may not be regard it as intrusive. But it is surely bordering on poor taste to attribute feelings to this couple in such circumstances.
Will the current regulator, the PCC, step in before this gets out of hand again? Or will it leave it to the incoming Ipso?