Five senior Sun journalists were detained over the weekend in relation to alleged corrupt payments to police as part of Operation Elveden – the inquiry examining allegations of bribery.

As dawn broke on Saturday morning, teams of police officers carried out synchronised raids on addresses in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and London.

Detectives detained Geoff Webster, The Sun’s deputy editor; John Kay, its long-serving and award winning chief reporter; NickParker, the highly regarded Chief Foreign Correspondent; John Edwards, the picture editor and John Sturgis, the deputy news editor.

According to one source,  as many as 20 police officers turned up at the homes of the reporters and conducted detailed searches of their houses including going through their children’s bedrooms.

Notebooks, phones and computers were impounded as the reporters were taken in for questioning at police stations around the capital.

Writing in The Sun today, Kavanagh said the journalists had been “needlessly dragged from their beds in dawn raids” and humiliated while their homes were ransacked by officers.

He said police had treated them “like members of an organised crime gang” and “threats to national security” simply for doing their jobs, uncovering stories in the public interest.

“Their alleged crimes? To act as journalists have acted on all newspapers through the ages, unearthing stories that shape our lives, often obstructed by those who prefer to operate behind closed doors,” he said.

Kavanagh also added: “Is it any surprise that Britain has dropped nine places to 28th, behind ex-Soviet bloc states Poland, Estonia and Slovakia, in the international Freedom of Speech league table?” he said.

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