Tuesday 17 September 2019

NUJ seeks urgent meeting with INM following latest search claims

Independent House on Dublin's Talbot Street
Independent House on Dublin's Talbot Street
Conor Feehan

Conor Feehan

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) says its inquiry into data breaches at Independent News & Media (INM) is "very much an evolving picture".

In a statement issued this evening, Graham Doyle, Head of Communications with the ODPC, said a number of voluntary disclosures have been made to their office by individuals which are seen as relevant to their inquiry.

Mr Doyle would not be drawn on allegations published in today's Sunday Business Post,

"We are examining a number of voluntary disclosures we have requested and received from a number of parties relevant to our statutory inquiry," Mr Doyle said.

"It is very much an evolving picture in which we cannot comment specifically now. As matters are evolving it is also difficult to put a timeline on conclusion.

"What I can say is that we have a senior investigator who is a qualified barrister on our staff leading the investigation and a number of resources assigned to him actively progressing the inquiry."

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) are to seek an immediate meeting with Independent News & Media - publishers of Independent.ie - following reports that hard drives and emails of senior staff were searched without their permission.

The allegations - reported in the Sunday Business Post - allege the company’s former CEO Robert Pitt ordered a search of hard drives and emails of up to six editors, after a memo from his personal assistant was published in The Phoenix magazine.

Speaking to Independent.ie tonight, the NUJ’s Seamus Dooley described the reported claims as “deeply disturbing” and “raises the most serious questions for the company”.

“Editors must be able to exercise their duties without interference,” he said.

“These revelations undermine the confidence of staff and of readers. Ultimately it undermines faith in the company.

“We will be seeking an urgent meeting with management in the coming days.

“Public confidence in journalism is based on trust. If editors cannot even trust their employer to respect confidential sources of information the basis for public trust is undermined,” he said.

The newspaper claimed the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) are investigating the claims about the alleged search, which is believed to have happened in June 2015. The alleged exercise was conducted at night, with hard drives reportedly removed and data copied before the hard drives were returned. This was done without the knowledge of staff members involved.

The claims are reportedly being investigated by the ODPC, along with another major data breach which was uncovered by an investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and involves former company chairman Leslie Buckley. The ODPC said they would not give comment on specific investigations.

The ODCE’s inquiries at INM were prompted by a protected disclosure made by former chief executive Robert Pitt in November 2016.

In June, the president of the High Court approved an application by the ODCE for appointment of inspectors to the country’s largest media organisation.

A spokesperson for INM said they would not be commenting on the claims.

Former INM CEO Robert Pitt could not be contacted.

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