'Jihadi John' estate resident 'living in fear' after Sky News broadcast, but Ofcom clears complaint on public interest

Ofcom has rejected a complaint against Sky News after it broadcast a short interview with a woman who lived on the estate Islamic State fighter Mohammed Emwazi grew up on.

The Mediawise Trust made the complaint to the broadcast regulator on behalf of the woman, referred to as Mrs L, saying Sky News was guilty of an "unwarranted infringement of privacy".

The trust also said that she and her family had been "living in fear" since the report.

After interviewing Mrs L on her doorstep, Sky News broadcast her saying: "I was shocked when your colleague told me. I never thought that something would happen in our estate."

This 26 February broadcast was made after Mohammed Emwazi was named as the ISIS beheader known as 'Jihadi John'.

The woman was not named, but Ofcom noted that her face and voice were not obscured.

Mediawise complained that Mrs L was doorstepped and did not know she was being filmed. 

The Ofcom bulletin today noted: "It said that Mrs L felt that the broadcast of this material put her and her family in risk of retribution and that this had made her ill.

"Mediawise said that Mrs L was not experienced in dealing with the media and that she was not told how the footage of her would be used.

"It said that her request to reporters to consider her family’s safety should have alerted them to her understandable anxiety.

"Mediawise explained that the Lebanon-based Arabic TV channel, Al Mayadeen, had shown the footage and that relatives of Mrs L in Morocco had called her following the broadcast.

"Mediawise also said that Mrs L and her children had been living in fear ever since the broadcast and that she was anxious about opening her front door and of passing cars in the street."

The regulator found that the Sky News interview should not be defined as a 'doorstep' and that it was clear Mrs L was being recorded.

According to Ofcom, Sky News said "that at no time did Mrs L raise objections to the questioning or to being filmed. It said that she was friendly and accommodating and that its presumption was that she had, in effect, consented to be filmed."

The Ofcom report added: "The broadcaster said that the news report, and Mrs L's appearance in it, was warranted, even if her participation was minor.

"It said that it was sorry if Mrs L had felt concern about appearing as she did in the news report. However, given that her participation was very minor, that she willingly opened her door and spoke to the Sky News journalist (having already done so with other journalists), and that neither her name nor her address were revealed, Sky said that it strongly contended that Mrs L’s privacy was not unwarrantedly infringed.

"However, Sky said that it would be happy to undertake not to use the footage again in any future reports, now that it had been made aware of Mrs L’s concerns."

It said Mrs L did have a "legitimate expectation of privacy with regard to the obtaining and subsequent broadcast of the footage of her in the programme".

But it added: "Ofcom considered that, on balance, the broadcaster's right to freedom of expression and the public interest in the filming and broadcasting of the relevant footage outweighed Mrs L'd legitimate expectation of privacy.

"Therefore, Mrs L's privacy was not unwarrantably infringed in connection with the obtaining of the footage of her and its subsequent broadcast in the programme."

Read more on page 35 of today's Ofcom bulletin.

Picture: Reuters

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