Guardian journalists adopt privacy principles drawn up by former spy chief

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The Guardian has adopted a new set of principles for journalists to follow when deciding whether or not to breach someone’s privacy in an updated editorial code.
It has adopted the Omand principles, drawn up by former director of the Government’s electronic spying and listening centre GCHQ Sir David Omand.
They suggest that journalists should consider five factors when deciding whether or not to breach someone’s privacy:

1. There must be sufficient cause – the intrusion needs to be justified by the scale of potential harm which might result from it.
2. There must be integrity of motive – the intrusion must be justified in terms of the public good which would follow from publication.
3. The methods used must be in proportion to the seriousness of story and its public interest, using the minimum possible intrusion.
4. There must be proper authority – any intrusion must be authorised at a sufficiently senior level and with appropriate oversight.
5. There must be a reasonable prospect of success: fishing expeditions are not justified.

This clearly goes a lot further than the PCC Editors’ Code which states simply that “editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent”.

Privacy is likely to form a big part of the Leveson Inquiry into press standards which gets under way next month.

Guardian readers’ editor Chris Elliott notes that The Guardian’s updated editorial code also tightens up GNM’s policy on interviews which only appear on condition of a particular product being plugged.

Journalists should not agree to promote through copy, photographs or footnotes the financial interests of prospective interviewees or contributors, or their sponsors, as a means of securing access to them. Promotional information about a subject or author provided in footnotes should be included only where, in the editor’s judgment, it is of genuine interest or assistance to the reader.

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