Info chief: Local paper right to protect email leak source

A weekly newspaper acted correctly when it refused to hand over a leaked council e-mail because of the danger that disclosing it might reveal its source, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has decided.

Cullompton Town Council and former councillor Ashley Wilce asked the Mid Devon Gazette series for a copy of the leaked e-mail on which it based its story that the authority had been holding finance committee meetings in secret, contrary to the rules.

But the newspaper refused to disclose the information, saying it obliged to protect its source.

Wilce then complained to the ICO that the newspaper's refusal was a breach of the Data Protection Act.

The paper said section 32 of the Act exempted it from any obligation to disclose information held for the purposes of journalism, literature or art.

The newspaper reported on Tuesday that ICO case officer Tim Mulvenna had written to it to say that its investigation had been closed.

"In this case we have decided that it is likely that the Mid Devon Gazette has complied with the requirements of the Act," it reported the letter as saying.

"It does appear that you have applied section 32 correctly and therefore complied with your obligations."

It reported editor Patrick Phelvin as saying: "It is important that journalists are able to protect sources who wish to remain anonymous and I am delighted that we are able to continue to do so following the ICO's decision."

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