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Significant Victory for Press Freedom

In a significant victory for press freedom, diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz has failed in a bid to force Global Witness to hand over source material gathered in a corruption investigation after the UK’s data watchdog upheld statutory protections for public-interest journalism.

12th January 2015

In a significant victory for press freedom, diamond billionaire Beny Steinmetz has failed in a bid to force Global Witness to hand over source material gathered in a corruption investigation after the UK’s data watchdog upheld statutory protections for public-interest journalism.

The Independent newspaper explained the issue well: this is an important test case which enables campaign groups to “claim the same public interest safeguards as traditional media for material they hold arising from investigations… which include the compiling of in-depth reports on allegations of bribery and corruption affecting the environment”.

You may recall that at the end of 2013, Beny Steinmetz and three executives of his companies, BSG Resources (BSGR) and Onyx Financial Advisors, filed claims for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act in the UK High Court, saying Global Witness’s reporting on a bribery scandal in West Africa infringed their privacy by misusing their personal data. The court passed the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office, which stated, on 15th December 2014, that it is “satisfied that Global Witness is only processing the personal data requested … for the purposes of journalism” and is therefore able to rely on an exemption, available for public-interest journalism, to provisions of the Data Protection Act.

With the Information Commissioner’s ruling, journalists and campaign groups can continue to expose corruption without fear of the Data Protection Act being abused to shut down investigations and endanger sources.
The story has been picked up by a variety of news sources such as the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Haaretz.

Our thanks to all of you who have supported our work and enabled us to continue our investigations. For more information see www.globalwitness.org.

With best wishes

Christine Oram
Director of Development 

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