Senior British politicians, including the contenders to be the next Prime Minister, joined journalists on Saturday in criticising police for warning media not to publish leaked government documents, saying it was a “dangerous road to tread”.
Last week, a Sunday newspaper published leaked memos from Britain’s Washington Ambassador that provoked a serious diplomatic spat with U.S. President Donald Trump and ultimately led to the envoy announcing his resignation.
Britain’s most senior counterterrorism officer, Neil Basu, said on Friday that police would investigate who was responsible but also warned journalists and publishers they too could be in breach of the law if further documents were leaked. His comments provoked anger and criticism from journalists, editors and politicians who said it risked infringing the freedom of the press. “The state threatening media freedom is a dangerous road to tread,” Health Minister Matt Hancock tweeted.
George Osborne, editor of the London Evening Standard and a former Finance Minister, described the remarks as a “very stupid and ill-advised statement from a junior officer who doesn’t appear to understand much about press freedom”.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and his predecessor Boris Johnson, both in the race to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, said the leaker should be found but the press should not be targeted.