03 Feb 2021 Lvl. 2
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Alert created on: 01 Feb 2021 n° 16/2021 United Kingdom

Journalist Nadine White Smeared by Minister for Equalities

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner Index Article 19 EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner Index Article 19 EFJ/IFJ
At the end of January 2021, Nadine White, a reporter for HuffPost UK, contacted the Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, to ask her to respond to claims that she had “refused to participate” in a cross-party video encouraging vaccine take-up across Black communities in the United Kingdom. White subsequently reiterated her request, but no reply was received. On 29 January, Badenoch posted an 8-part Twitter thread, which included screenshots of White’s e-mail enquiries to Badenoch’s office, accusing White and HuffPost UK of “looking to sow distrust by making up claims [that she] refused to take part in a video campaign”. She also accused White’s interest in why she didn’t participate in the video as being “creepy and bizarre.” She said White’s query was “[a] sad insight into how some journalists operate...”. Badenoch’s Twitter posts sparked a flood of abuse and threats against White.

On 30 January, White said she was “forced to switch [her] public profile to private in order to preserve [her] mental health”, after she had been receiving “nuisance calls” on her work phone, as well as abuse via e-mail and online. In response to Badenoch’s Twitter thread, HuffPost’s editor-in-chief, Jess Brammar, said it was “correct and standard practice for journalists to check facts and approach people in public office for comment”, and that HuffPost UK had not published the story without the response. HuffPost UK later filed a formal complaint to the Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office, Alex Chisholm, regarding Badenoch’s conduct.
Updates
New 03 Mar 2021
The Cabinet Office has dismissed a formal complaint from the Huffington Post. In a letter to the Huffington Post, Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm wrote: “I note that the tweets were not issued from a government Twitter account but instead from a personal Twitter account". "The minister is personally responsible for deciding how to act and conduct herself, and for justifying her own actions and conduct. As such, this is a matter on which the minister would be best placed to offer a response. I note in addition the Prime Minister's press secretary has already provided comments on this matter."
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