UKGB? Why were UK police asking newsagents for names of customers who bought satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the wake of Paris massacre?

Charlie-Hebdo-Protest-AP-640x479An officer from Wiltshire Police visited a local shop and post office in Wiltshire, and requested the personal details of subscribers to the Charlie Hebdo magazine. It came following the MUSLIM terrorist attack on the magazine’s offices on January 7th, in which 12 members of staff were gunned down by brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi.

Independent  A police force was forced to apologize today after one of its officers told a newsagent to hand over the names of four people in the name of community cohesion, after they bought a commemorative edition of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

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Wiltshire police confirmed that it had deleted the names of the buyers from its system, which were collected after officers toured shops warning newsagents to be vigilant during an “assessment of community tensions” in the sleepy market town following the attacks in the French capital in January.

2583AF1C00000578-2946136-image-m-42_1423499610838One of the customers, a 77-year-old retired ward sister, described the officer as a “jobsworth” and said that she found the whole situation so unlikely that she thought it was a hoax. “At the time I was a bit miffed,” Anne Keat (photo left) told The Independent. “I thought that’s a bit rich, two days after I got my copy, haven’t they got better things to do? “They always talk about the pressure on the resources they have got to put into these things. No wonder they’re short of cash.” Mrs Keat, a self-confessed news junkie, ordered the magazine from a local newsagent in Corsham, Wiltshire, a week after the 7 January attacks in Paris. Two days after she bought her magazine, she learned that an officer had been back to ask for the names of the buyers.

The names and addresses of the buyers were added to an intelligence note and fed into a police crime and intelligence system, police confirmed. The force deleted the note after details of the visit came to light in a letter that Mrs Keat wrote to The Guardian and warned of the potential ramifications after seeing an advert for Je Suis Charlie badges.

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She said that she was never contacted by police, and was not aware of the identities of the other three buyers of the magazine. The newsagent and post office where she bought the magazine, Hawthorn Stores, declined to comment.

Emma Carr, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “The Charlie Hebdo attack brought millions of people worldwide together to condemn those who seek to silence free speech through threats of intimidation and violence. “We therefore have to hope that this is the result of an overzealous police officer, rather than a campaign of intimidation by Wiltshire Police.”

Lined up to buy Charlie Hebdo in London
Lined up to buy Charlie Hebdo in London

Police said that policing teams had visited businesses, and particularly newsagents distributing the Charlie Hebdo magazine, to consider if they were vulnerable as part of a wider assessment of community tensions after the Paris attacks. There was no specific threat nationally and nothing to suggest newsagents would be vulnerable, the force said in a statement.

“Wiltshire Police would like to apologise to the members of public who may be affected by this. Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of,” it said. ‘I am satisfied that there was no intention on the part of the force to seek to inhibit the circulation of Charlie Hebdo.’ (HAH!)

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