On Friday 21st June it was reported in the Guardian newspaper that Boris Johnson MP, who is standing to be leader of the Conservative Party and therefore Prime Minister, had had an altercation with his partner. The Guardian reported that loud screams and shouts had been heard from the home they were living in, and a woman (Mr Johnson’s partner, it is presumed) was shouting “Get off me”.
A number of prominent individuals who are critical of independent press regulation have come forward to criticise the Guardian’s reporting as an invasion of Mr Johnson’s privacy, while simultaneously publishing extremely invasive stories about the neighbours who reported what they believed to be domestic violence.
Hacked Off welcome the belated acknowledgement of Trevor Kavanagh, Matt Hancock, Brendan O’Neill (all who have criticised the coverage) and other opponents of independent regulation that newspaper publishers should have respect for people’s private lives. Even the Spectator have published a blog which suggests they too have become latter-day converts to the principle of journalistic accountability and ethics.
It is a shame t took a senior politician claiming his privacy was invaded for these characters to speak up, after seeing years of ordinary people’s privacy being disregarded and violated by national newspapers.
Hacked Off support journalism which is in the public interest, and have a record of fighting for legal reforms to ensure journalists who are acting in the public interest are protected – often without support from the largest newspaper publishers.
Hacked Off are not a regulator and we would not engage in a question of whether the Guardian’s reporting would be in breach of any code. It should be up to an independent regulator to consider whether reporting on this story was in the public interest. The Guardian should join or establish such a regulator.
It is certainly our view that any allegation of domestic violence against a serving politician, if that is what the story was to amount to, has the potential to be fully protected by the public interest.