Complaint upheld against Halifax Courier for breach of confidentiality

A woman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the  conduct of a reporter from the Halifax Courier breached Clause 14 (Confidential  sources) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 12:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th January 2021, 3:25 pm
The Halifax Courier

In March 2020, the complainant contacted the newspaper to voice concerns about working conditions at her store at which she worked. She alleged that her employer had placed profit above the protection of staff. The complainant stressed she needed to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job. In May, she was dismissed by her employer, partly for making comments “to the media”. She accused the newspaper of revealing her identity to her employer.

The publication accepted that it had contacted the complainant’s employer and passed over the complainant’s concerns to them in a since-deleted email. However, it said that it had kept her anonymous.

IPSO found that the complainant was a confidential source of information. The key question was whether the newspaper failed to protect the confidential source by revealing her identity to her employer.

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The complainant’s employer had presented her with part of an email from a media organisation at her suspension hearing, which requested the employer’s comments and mentioned the complainant by name. This email contained the same concerns the complainant had raised, and the same language she had used, in her original

email to the publication.

The publication was also unable to demonstrate that the email it sent had sufficiently protected the complainant’s confidentiality; instead, the email had been deleted, despite the newspaper’s policy which required its retention for two years

For these reasons, IPSO had concluded that the newspaper had been unable to establish that it had protected the complainant as a confidential source and there was a breach of Clause 14.

IPSO also took the opportunity to express its serious concern over the breach of Clause 14 in this instance. It represented a breach of a moral obligation and had had serious consequences for the complainant.

Date complaint received: 7/5/2020

Date decision issued: 2/12/2020