JK AGAINST STUFF

Case Number: 3197

Council Meeting: FEBRUARY 2022

Decision: No Grounds to Proceed

Publication: Stuff

Ruling Categories: Behaviour of Journalists
Privacy

Overview

CASE NO: 3197

RULING BY THE NEW ZEALAND MEDIA COUNCIL ON THE COMPLAINT OF JK* AGAINST STUFF

FINDING: INSUFFICIENT GROUNDS TO PROCEED

DATE: FEBRUARY 2022

JK complained that a Stuff journalist emailed him enquiring about an email exchange that had been forwarded to her.

He said the emails were titled “in Confidence” and contained personal details, including intimate details of his person and sexual history, and were clearly intended only for the recipient who had sent it to the journalist in error.

He said he was horrified to learn the journalist had this personal information and complained that she took the liberty to contact him directly without first informing him that she had it, how she came into its possession, and whether he would permit her to ask questions about it. He described this as a disturbing violation and invasion of his privacy.

He also complained that the journalist did not try to determine what content of the email was accurate and this indicated how uncritically this information was treated by her.

He wrote to Stuff deputy editor Janine Fenwick asking for all copies of the email to be deleted and that the journalist apologise in writing for the “inappropriate, illegal and unethical access and use of my personal correspondence.” He also asked for compensation of $10,000 for the stress and damage this had caused him, (The request for compensation was excluded from the complaint brought to the Council. But for the record Council notes that it is not part of its jurisdiction or role to order the payment of compensation).

Ms Fenwick replied saying Stuff was comfortable with its legal position and would not be providing the undertakings requested.

The Media Council finds that no case has made to show how Stuff might have breached any Media Council principles. The journalist received an email from somebody and tried to check it out by contacting the author, a reasonable thing to do. Nothing was published by Stuff.

There were insufficient grounds to proceed.      

*The complainant’s name has been withheld by the Media Council on the assumption that he would not want his name publicised.

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