By Jon Slattery
The Government’s information watchdog has rejected a complaint by a council chief that a newspaper breached the Data Protection Act by publishing pictures of three officials she had axed.
Gwen Andrews, managing director of Havant Council, complained to information commissioner Richard Thomas after The News, Portsmouth, ran pictures of the three sacked council officers.
Andrews claimed the newspaper had breached the privacy of the officials and wrote to the commissioner. She suggested The News had breached the Data Protection Act by using without the of.cers’ permission images provided by the council.
But Andrews has been told that no action is to be taken. A spokeswoman for the commissioner told Press Gazette: “We cannot comment on individual cases. However, generally the use of images that are already in the public domain and are reused would usually be regulated by copyright legislation.”
Praising the ruling, Mike Gilson, editor of The News, said: “There is an increasing tendency among public and private institutions to use all means to keep information out of the public domain.
“Names and faces are part of the public debate; they engage readers, viewers and listeners in the issues. Any attempt to remove them for spurious reasons lessens our democracy.”
The News said in a leader: “If the likes of Gwen Andrews had their way, newspapers like ours would be restricted to reporting that something happened to someone somewhere, and the what, who, where and why would be left to readers’ imagination.
“We certainly do not underestimate the pain of people who lose their jobs – whether they are high-pro.le public servants or factory workers, for example. But our job is to humanise a story, to make it real.”
In a cheeky riposte, The News published a “cut out and keep” picture of council chief Andrews for its readers.