Information Commissioner's Office
Blog: Commissioner responds to misdirected criticism of journalism code
A blog by John Edwards, Information Commissioner
As a society we understand that a free press is an essential function of our democracy. The media hold people to account, bring issues to the forefront of national discussion and create social change.
But we understand too that there must be checks and balances. Journalists are not above the law, and where that looks to have happened, for instance when newspapers involve themselves in phone hacking or paying public officials for stories, then society responds to ensure a sensible balance is found.
Data protection is part of that balance. The law supports journalists to be able to inform the public and hold the powerful to account, including a clear exemption in certain circumstances from many requirements of the law. But it also gives broader protections to people’s privacy. As we saw at the Leveson Inquiry, there are occasions when journalists’ desire for stories overstep the mark.
It was as a result of the Leveson Inquiry and public concern about journalists acting beyond the law that Parliament made a decision to expressly include journalists and the press as subject to data protection law, and tasked the ICO with creating a Journalism Code of Practice to assist the media in understanding and meeting their statutory obligations. This Code – still being developed with input from media - will give clear and practical guidance about how to comply with data protection law while still enabling journalists to do their important and valued job.
The letter sent to government by three national newspaper editors last week suggested that this code will in some way ‘shackle’ the media. That is far from the case. Our codes do not create new law, but simply explain what is required under the existing law – indeed, similar codes already exist around protecting children’s data online or sharing data. There is nothing in our code that constitutes a limit on the freedom of the press.
It is misdirected and disingenuous to criticise a draft code that is still under review, as part of our detailed and thorough consultation process. We have been speaking with journalists and those in the media throughout, to understand how data is used, and how the law might apply to them. The latest draft of the code reflects a great deal of what we’ve heard from the media across our consultation.
We will, of course, continue to work with the media to ensure we produce a clear and practical code. Where the media would like to be exempted from the law entirely, they must take their case to the government. But until that point, it will remain that a free press is an essential function of our democracy, but so is the ability for a regulator to carry out the will of Parliament.
Original article link: https://ico.org.uk/about-the-ico/media-centre/news-and-blogs/2022/12/blog-commissioner-responds-to-misdirected-criticism-of-journalism-code/
Latest News from
Information Commissioner's Office
“A crucial learning experience.” - ICO calls for highest standards in HIV services after NHS Highland reprimand31/03/2023 10:15:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued a reprimand to NHS Highland for a “serious breach of trust” after a data breach involving those likely to be accessing HIV services.
ICO statement on the High Court ruling about the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 201830/03/2023 12:20:00
The High Court has ruled that the immigration exemption in the Data Protection Act 2018, as currently drafted, is still unlawful and must be made clearer.
Blog: Director’s Update – celebrating success and challenging ourselves for the future29/03/2023 14:10:00
Blog posted by: Warren Seddon, 28 March 2023.
ICO to prioritise Freedom of Information complaints with significant public interest29/03/2023 09:10:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has announced a new approach to prioritise complaints made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) where there is significant public interest.
ICO takes action against Lewisham Council for failing to respond to hundreds of Freedom of Information requests22/03/2023 15:05:00
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued an enforcement notice to the London Borough of Lewisham Council for failing to respond to hundreds of overdue requests made under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) 2000.
ICO reaches agreement with Easylife Ltd17/03/2023 10:25:00
Update: This press release has been updated to reflect the fact that Easylife Ltd were fined for breaching the GDPR, as opposed to the Data Protection Act 2018
ICO issues reprimand to the Metropolitan Police Service for inadequate handling of files related to organised crime groups16/03/2023 16:10:00
ICO statement on Government response to Sir Patrick Vallance’s Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review16/03/2023 11:05:00
Yesterday, Wednesday 15 March, the Government has published its response to Sir Patrick Vallance’s Pro-Innovation Regulation of Technologies Review.