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IPSO: Telegraph and Sunday Mirror okay to report Tory MP treated housekeeper like ‘slave’

Rebecca Silk and husband Jonathan Djanogly MP claimed the coverage had been inaccurate and intrusive.

By Bron Maher

IPSO has thrown out complaints by Conservative MP Jonathan Djanogly and his wife Rebecca Silk over reports they treated one of their former housekeepers “worse than a slave”.

The reports, published in February in the Sunday Mirror and The Daily Telegraph, also covered allegations made by other housekeepers previously employed by the couple.

Djanogly and Silk had alleged the newspapers breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice with the stories, which were headlined “Tory MP’s housekeeper was treated ‘worse than slave’” (The Telegraph), “My Hell as Tory MP’s Slave” and “Four more come forward over Tory MP and wife” (both Sunday Mirror).

Silk, the stories reported, had been taken to employment tribunals by two former housekeepers and been required to pay them sums of £886 and £3,148 for unauthorised wage deductions, overtime and annual leave.

But the couple complained to IPSO that the papers reported the tribunal findings inaccurately because those proceedings “did not find the two claimants to be mistreated, let alone be slaves”.

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Regarding the Sunday Mirror stories specifically, the pair said the reports had been inaccurate because they did not reveal the names of some of the housekeepers quoted or that they had been employed seven to ten years earlier, and that the housekeeper who had been named “had gone by a different name while she was employed in the household”.

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They added that the Telegraph story breached Clause 1 (accuracy) because the story appeared to have been based on the Mirror’s reporting, “without speaking to anyone involved nor providing evidence for the claims”. The Telegraph had approached Djanogly for comment before publication but did not receive a response (although the MP for Huntingdon had furnished other outlets with comment, which The Telegraph did not use).

All three stories, Djanogly and Silk said, breached their privacy because they covered their home life, which they regarded as private, and because Silk, not Djanogly, had been the respondent in the employment tribunals.

IPSO dismissed all these complaints, however, saying the “slave” allegations had been “clearly distinguished” as subjective claims rather than statements of fact. In so far as the employment tribunal results were on the public record, the regulator added that the complainants “had no reasonable expectation of privacy over this information” and the stories “did not reveal any personal or intimate details about the couple’s home life”, instead focusing on their behaviour “in a professional rather than personal context”.

IPSO said that the Telegraph was fine to re-report the Sunday Mirror’s findings “in circumstances where the Committee had not found that the article was inaccurate”, and that the Mirror had not breached the code by failing to name, or using a different name, for the former housekeepers with whom it spoke.

Djanogly and Silk had also complained the stories were unbalanced, in part because they did not include testimony, provided by the couple, from other housekeepers who had more positive experiences working for them.

But the regulator said: “The Editors’ Code of Practice does not address issues of bias, nor omission. It makes clear the press has the right to report one side of events, as long as it takes care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, and to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact.”

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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