Chris Mullin with Julian Assange still in Belmarsh prison for dishing the dirt on US war crimes and Craig Murray now free again after his recent four month spell in Saughton prison after conviction on trumped-up charges relating to the Alex Salmond case, it’s looking increasingly like the only real home of honest journalism these days is behind bars.
And now it’s the turn of the septuagenarian journalist and one time MP Chris Mullin, whose only ‘crime’ is his obstinate refusal to divulge his sources, every honest journalist’s credo.
The same West Midlands police (WMP) force that bungled the hunt for those responsible for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, employing ‘coercive’ methods to extract false confessions from six innocent Irish lads who just found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time (and with the wrong accents), is now baying for the blood of the journalist who dared to expose their incompetence.
The Birmingham Six were wrongly convicted of the bombing (which took place during the war against the British occupation of the north of Ireland, aka ‘the Troubles’) and spent the next 16 years of their lives in jail. Without enjoying any of the advantages afforded to the police for the investigation of crimes, Mullin pursued his own long struggle to unearth the truth. His efforts finally bore fruit and in 1991 the appeal court ruled that the Birmingham Six’s convictions were unsafe, and finally freed them.
But rather than learning from Mullin’s example and having a crack at some investigating of their own (that is after all on their job spec, no?), it seems that the West Midlands police have been nursing a grievance against Mullin for shining a light on their corruption, prejudice and incompetence. And now, with the climate for honest journalism getting steadily colder, they are out for his blood.
Mullin had succeeded in identifying four people involved in the bombing, of whom only one is still alive. He kept notes of his conversation with him, and some time ago let the WMP see those notes, minus the man’s name and any other identifying details.
But now the WMP are demanding that Mullin hand over the unedited version of his notes, breaking the bond of confidentiality. They got a knock-back last year when the Crown Prosecution Service refused their bid to prosecute Mullin under the Terrorism Act.
But the WMP haven’t given up their vendetta, and now they have applied to Judge Mark Lucroft for consideration at the Old Bailey. According to the NUJ: “there is every chance that he will rule in his favour. In that eventuality, the possibility increases dramatically that one of Britain’s most significant investigative journalists will go to prison.”
Chris Mullin is clear just where he stands: “Journalists do not disclose their sources. I interviewed many of those who were active in the IRA’s West Midlands campaign. To gain their cooperation I gave repeated assurances, not only to the guilty, but to innocent intermediaries, that I would not disclose their identities.
“I cannot go back on that now, just because it would be convenient. My purpose at the time was to help free the six innocent men who had been convicted of the bombing. I was never under the illusion that I could bring the perpetrators to justice.”