The Sun instructs journalists to name sources who are ‘public officials’ in expenses claims

By Mark Watts and Frederika Whitehead | 14 November 2013

Exaro today publishes two internal e-mails sent to Sun staff that have sparked fury over the protection of confidential sources.

Steve Kennedy, the tabloid’s news editor, sent an e-mail last week to all Sun reporters to tell them that they must identify any source who is a “public official” in their claims for lunch or other entertainment expenses.

Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism at City university, who is setting up a new organisation for whistleblowers, The Accountability Project, described it as “completely unacceptable” and a “strike-worthy issue” for Sun journalists.

“You should indicate whether the person paid was a government-related individual or not” – Richard Barun, deputy managing editor, The Sun, writing in an internal e-mail

“It is traditional that, in major stories, the reporter may tell the editor verbally who that source might be under conditions of strict confidentiality. But certainly not on expense forms. I mean, give me a break. In my view, that is a travesty, and would compromise any decent source almost immediately.”

“You are dismissing one of the most important assurances that we can give our sources, which is their protection and that is a strike-worthy issue.”

He warned whistleblowers against contacting The Sun “until assurances are made that this order is rescinded.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said: “Protecting your sources is about as fundamental a journalistic tenet as there is, a responsibility that – until the wheels started to come off the News Corp bus – any journalist could rightly expect to be a shared principle between employee and employer.”

Kennedy’s communication was clarifying a detailed e-mail from the title’s deputy managing editor, Richard Barun, to all staff.

Barun says in his e-mail that the changes to the expenses policy follows recommendations of a “global compliance review” carried out by News Corporation, the parent company. A subsidiary News UK, formerly News International, publishes The Sun, as well as The Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times.

The changes to the expenses policy “will no doubt create some challenges,” writes Barun. He explains that reporters, when claiming expenses for entertainment, must declare whether the contact is a “government or non-government individual”.

He sets out a wide range of examples of people who count as “government related”. The contact must also be identified with the expenses claim, he says.

Barun also tells staff that any cash payments for information must ultimately be approved by News UK’s general counsel, Paul Chinnery, or its chief compliance officer, Imogen Haddon.

He writes: “You should indicate whether the person paid was a government-related individual or not… including detail as to their exact role/department if they are government-related.”

He says that fixers abroad who are paid in cash must be identified “whether the individual paid is government-related or not, including detail as to their exact role/department if they are government-related.”

“Facilitation payments”, such as paying a border official to speed through passport control, are illegal under the Bribery Act and in breach of News UK’s anti-bribery policy, he says.

Such payments can only be made “if you genuinely believe that your health, safety, security or liberty are at risk,” or with the prior approval of News Corporation’s general counsel and News UK’s general counsel or chief compliance officer.

“To be expressly clear on this, you cannot pay a facilitation payment in any circumstance other than as set out above, eg to get into a country more quickly, easily or even if it’s ‘the local ways of doing things.’”

He adds: “If you believe that naming a particular contact or fixer in an expense claim… would breach confidentiality or put an individual at risk, please ensure that you speak to the managing editor’s office  to explain the circumstances in full *PRIOR* to entertaining etc.”

The managing editor’s office will give permission to keep the names of contacts confidential if staff “can provide appropriate justification.”

Exaro today publishes the Kennedy and Barun e-mails in full, exactly as written. They can be downloaded by clicking on the link below.

Source documents and file downloads are no longer available.

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