24th July, 2002
The Chartered Institute of Journalists voices ‘grave concern’
As the anniversary of the tragic events in New York approaches, the Chartered Institute of Journalists is calling on the government to demand of the various organisations concerned that more rigorous accreditation procedures be adopted when processing applications for press cards to avoid the possibility of them falling into the wrong hands.
In addition, the Institute would like to see those companies who profit from compiling databases of so-called ‘journalists’ impose stricter qualifications for inclusion in their lists. At present many require no verification of employment or outlets and are willing to add applicant’s names to their registers in return for no more than a signed direct debit.
The Institute admits that such databases do not in themselves provide proof of formal accreditation but it is concerned that they do provide a readily accessible stepping-stone to full accreditation, with no questions asked. In many cases, the mere fact of being so registered could result in the receipt of press-calls and perhaps admit to sensitive locations people who pose a threat to National Security.
” We live in troubled times,” says Christopher Underwood, General Secretary of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, ” And it is a matter to us of grave concern that anyone with less-than-honest intent may easily gain recognition as a journalist and obtain all the privileges of press-card holders, including access to locations and events denied the general public. The value to a terrorist of being able to reconnoitre target buildings or achieve close proximity to senior government staff and even Cabinet ministers, should not be underestimated.”
The Chartered Institute of Journalists was established in 1884. Since that time it has been responsible for accrediting many thousands of qualified journalists but has experienced in recent years a growing number of applications from people who can prove neither formal training nor provide evidence of material having been published in recognised outlets.
As the oldest professional body of its kind anywhere in the world, and uniquely the holder of a Royal Charter, the Institute believes it has both the authority and experience to recommend urgent action from all responsible organisations and to insist the government take heed of its warning.