ALISON CLEMENTS AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 2918

Council Meeting: JULY 2020

Verdict: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Privacy
Unfair Coverage

Overview

On June 7 2020 Stuff published an article Ex-Russion spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia start over in NZ after poisonings – report.The article goes on to report that the UK newspaper The Sunday Times was reporting that a senior UK government source had said the Skripals had been given new identities and support to start a new life. The article reprised the Skripal poisoning incident and reported comment from neighbours who advised the Skripals had been living under their own names in the UK.

Ms Clements complained the Stuff article was incredibly irresponsible. It put the Skripals’ lives at risk and also those of their New Zealand neighbours. The media needed to be reminded of their privacy and social responsibilities and obligations.

In response Stuff noted that the story had been broken by the Times of London and had been widely circulated. Given that level of circulation, Stuff printing the story had no impact on the risk profile either for the Skripal family or for New Zealand.

The Skripals arrival in New Zealand, if it took place (there are reports that this story could be a plant, diverting attention, and that in fact the Skripals could be somewhere else entirely) is a matter of legitimate and high public interest. So it comes down to a balancing between the right to privacy and the public interest.

The Skripals have a right to privacy, but it is not absolute.The Media Council Principle notes the right to privacy should not interfere with publication of significant matters of public record or public interest. We see this as such a case.

In relation to their safety it would seem that their lives could be at risk anywhere in the world and local republication of a widely reported story does not materially alter that situation.

Finding: Insufficient Grounds to Proceed