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Why The Press Waited To Release The Names Of The London Attackers

“I would like to assure them and the public that this is directly assisting the progression of the investigation," authorities said.

Authorities in London praised the media for its “continued restraint” surrounding coverage of Saturday’s terror attack ― a sharp contrast from two weeks ago, when press coverage of a bombing in Manchester threatened to strain diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and the United States.

“We would like to thank the media for their continued support, restraint and understanding in not speculating as to who the suspects are in this fast moving investigation,” Mark Rowley, the assistant commissioner for London’s Metropolitan Police, said in a statement. “I would like to assure them and the public that this is directly assisting the progression of the investigation and confirm we will release the identities of the three men directly responsible for the attacks yesterday ... as soon as operationally possible.”

At the time of that statement, at least one major British media outlet had hinted that it knew the identity of one of the suspects, but had refrained from publishing the unconfirmed reports. The BBC noted in its coverage of the attack that it had interviewed neighbors of one of the attackers, but the publication had not released details as of Monday morning.

Media outlets only published the names of two men shot dead by police after Metropolitan Police released that information on Monday. A press release noted a formal identification has yet to take place, but detectives believe they now know the attackers’ identities. No information was given on the third suspect.

Saturday’s incident was the third major terrorist attack in as many months in the U.K. Seven people were killed, and dozens more injured, after a van mowed down pedestrians along the iconic London Bridge. Three attackers then left the vehicle and stabbed people in a popular market. Police killed all three suspects on the scene.

A woman attaches a sign near London Bridge.
A woman attaches a sign near London Bridge.

The slow release of information by the press has differed greatly from the coverage of a bombing at Manchester Arena that killed 22 people outside an Ariana Grande concert on May 22. 

The New York Times published pictures of bomb parts found at the scene. British authorities blamed the U.S. for the leaks, which were roundly criticized in the U.K. and called a breach of trust. Prime Minister Theresa May reached out directly to the U.S. president and said at the time that she would “make clear to President [Donald] Trump that intelligence that is shared between our law enforcement agencies must remain secure.”

The Times did not reveal the source of its information or photos.

Trump also condemned the leaks, and linked them to other sensitive information that has found its way out of the White House since he took office.

“The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling,” Trump said. “These leaks have been going on for a long time, and my administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security.”

Following the most recent attack, May declared “enough is enough” and said she would propose a new counterterrorism plan to crack down on extremism.

“When it comes to taking on extremism and terrorism, things need to change,” she said in a televised speech. “While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is ― to be frank ― far too much tolerance of extremism in our country.”

This article was updated after authorities said they had identified two of the attackers.

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