Thursday, May 12, 2005

Chatroom used to expose politician

[Keyword: ]. More echo-chamber posting: here's a story I've written for Journalism.co.uk about chatrooms being used to investigate some allegations. An updated version, with quotes from an ex-UK investigative journalist, should replace it by the end of the day.

Again, in the interest of transparency, here's his thoughts in full:
"I have always been firmly against entrapment, if it involves setting someone up to commit a crime or an act of wrongdoing that they would not have otherwise committed. In my view, this is deplorable, and makes the journalist just as bad as the person they trap - if not worse.

"This should not be confused with going underground to 'catch someone in the act' . I have no problem with that at all - there are occasions when this is essential in order to get the proof you need to nail a wrong-doer. It's a valid technique for an investigative journalist. I have used it in many investigations in the past and would do the same again - although I personally would only go underground if the evidence could not be obtained in any other way, and there was a clear public interest issue involved.

"As I understand it, the Spokesman-Review used computer technology and a level of deception to catch the Mayor in the act, and I have no problem with that at all. I don't think they entrapped him. There was a genuine public interest issue - an under-18 was involved, and the Mayor appeared to be misusing his office by offering favours.

"I would have done the same in the same situation. This is a classic example of having to go underground as a last resort to obtain the evidence you need.

"I don't think it raises too many ethical issues for a journalist in this country. It's not really any different from bugging a phone - the PCC Code of Practice allows this in the public interest. And in terms of privacy, I would be surprised if anyone genuinely thought that an internet chatroom was a place where they had a reasonable expectation of privacy."

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