Several British police forces have questioned newsagents in an attempt to monitor sales of a special edition of Charlie Hebdo magazine following the Paris attacks, the Guardian has learned.
Officers in Wiltshire, Wales and Cheshire have approached retailers of the magazine, it has emerged, as concerns grew about why police were attempting to trace UK-based readers of the French satirical magazine.
Wiltshire police apologised on Monday after admitting that one of its officers had asked a newsagent to hand over the names of readers who bought a special “survivors’ issue” of the magazine published after its top staff were massacred in Paris last month.
UK police force apologises for taking details of Charlie Hebdo readers
The case in Corsham, Wiltshire, was thought to be an isolated incident but it has since emerged that Cheshire constabulary and Dyfed-Powys police have also approached newsagents over the sale of Charlie Hebdo.
In at least two cases – in Wiltshire and in Presteigne, Wales – officers have requested that newsagents hand over the names of customers who bought the magazine.
“This is so ridiculous as to be almost laughable. And it would be funny if it didn’t reflect a more general worrying increase in abuse of police powers in invading privacy and stifling free speech in Britain,” said Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive of free expression campaign group Index on Censorship.