Deputy Labour leader had alleged ‘harassment’ and breach of privacy
Independent press regulator IMPRESS, the UK’s only Leveson-compliant regulator, has dismissed Labour deputy leader Tom Watson’s complaint against the SKWAWKBOX entirely.
Watson had complained about an article showing a form Watson circulated to attendees of his ‘Future Britain’ group meeting, which showed his ‘office mobile’ number.
The complaint cited sections five and seven of the IMPRESS code, alleging that the article constituted harassment – because Watson received a number of calls and messages from angry Labour members – and breach of privacy because of the number.
The SKWAWKBOX argued that Watson – as an elected MP and deputy leader of the Labour Party – should expect to be accountable to members but routinely blocks Twitter users who disagree with him and that the publication of a number described as an ‘office mobile’, could not be construed as a breach of privacy.
IMPRESS’ adjudication, published this morning, dismissed the complaint in all respects:
The conclusion of the report states:
The Harassment clause of the Code is intended to cover a pattern of behaviour involving intimidating, threatening or abusive journalistic and newsgathering activity. The Committee did not consider that the Publisher’s conduct nor the article as published went so far as to engage the Harassment Clause. Rather, as part of ordinary political discourse, it was legitimate for someone to contact a senior public figure and member of parliament to put forward their views. Furthermore, the sign-up form itself was an invitation for views and support of a political position. By merely encouraging readers to contact the Complainant, the Committee did not consider the Publisher went so far as to encourage readers to abuse, threaten or intimidate the Complainant. As a result, the Committee considered that in these circumstances the Publisher did not breach Code
…The Committee noted that the Complainant felt that the contact information provided on the form was private information, as he believed the information had not been widely circulated prior to the publication of the article. Furthermore, the Committee noted that the article referred to the form as being ‘leaked’, implying that the information had not previously been in the public domain. However, the sign-up form did not refer to the information on it as private or confidential. Instead, the contact number was referred to as an “office mobile”, which the Committee considered would be regarded as a public facing contact point by the ordinary reasonable person. Furthermore, the Committee understood that the sign-up form was circulated to other MPs by the Complainant in his capacity as a politician. The information was therefore not exchanged by the Complainant in a private capacity but rather in his capacity as a public figure. Therefore, the Committee did not consider, in this instance, that the Complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the published information and therefore there could be no breach of Clause
The SKWAWKBOX welcomes the IMPRESS decision. The full adjudication can be read here.
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