Journalists should not be allowed to give evidence anonymously to Lord Leveson, the publisher of the Daily Mail is arguing.
Jonathan Caplan QC, the counsel for Associated Newspapers at the Leveson judicial inquiry into media practice and ethics, yesterday expressed his "profound concern" that some journalists wanting to give testimony anonymously may be motivated by dissatisfaction with their employers.
His concerns are thought to centre on aggrieved journalists who have fallen out of favour with their employers, using the inquiry to get even; or attacks on rival publications that are commercially motivated.
Although Lord Leveson and the inquiry's counsel, Robert Jay QC, have been working on a draft protocol for how anonymous evidence might be heard – the argument in favour is that journalists could speak freely without fear of retribution from their employer – Mr Caplan said that if anyone had important evidence, it should be given as openly as possible so it could "be tested against the substantial body of evidence that the inquiry is receiving".
Associated is understood not to be alone in having concerns about anonymous evidence. But Mr Caplan's challenge to Lord Leveson on the issue is the first public dissent.
Mr Caplan added that his client had nothing to hide and welcomed complete transparency.
The hearing was told that Associated journalists had not indulged in phone hacking but had used the services of Steve Whittamore, the private investigator who was at the heart of an investigation by the Government's privacy watchdog into illegal newsgathering. But Mr Caplan said there was no evidence that Associated titles had asked Mr Whittamore to do anything illegal.
The Daily Mail has been named as the largest single user of Mr Whittamore.