A Hackney-based newspaper is being threatened with legal action by the local authority over the publication of a tape said to contain evidence the council misinformed the public during May’s mayoral election.
The Hackney Citizen is appealing for financial help from its readers in order to cover the costs of the looming legal battle with Hackney Council.
The conflict arose when recordings of a telephone conversation with council employees were posted on its website, to accompany allegations that the authority had been misinforming members of the public about the list of prospective mayoral candidates in May’s election.
According to the Hackney Citizen, the council ‘[had] been telling callers that there [was] no Conservative candidate standing for mayor of Hackney.’
In a post published on 4 May, the site featured what it said was evidence of these actions – playable audio recordings of a telephone call made to the council by Conservative mayoral candidate Andrew Boff.
Describing the call, Mr Boff said, “The council call centre staff member went to talk to the election office staff to get advice and at the end confirmed that I am not standing.”
Subsequently, Hackney Council wrote to the Keith Magnum, the paper’s editor, threatening legal action if the recordings were not removed – a request with which Magnum has refused to comply.
The letter received by the Hackney Citizen reads: “It has come to the attention on [sic] the London Borough of Hackney that two audioclips of a recording of a telephone conversation between Andrew Boff and a Hackney Town Hall Call Centre agent have been posted on your website.”
“I am writing to advise you that this recording was made by Mr Boff without the knowledge or consent of the person he spoke to or of the London Borough of Hackney. In the council’s view it was unlawful for Mr Boff to disclose the recording to a third party without consent.”
“I must ask you to remove these audioclips from your website forthwith. Should you fail to do so I have instructions to seek an injunction in the civil courts compelling you to do so. Should this be necessary, the Council will seek recovery of its legal costs in full.”
The clips continue to be available on the site. In a post defending its decision not to remove them, the Hackney Citizen wrote: “We take the view that it is in the public interest to disclose the way the Council was dealing with the issue, as evidenced by the audio clips.”
Meanwhile, the paper has been calling on its supporters to send money to help cover legal costs arising from the dispute:
“We are very grateful to the dozens of people from across the country who responded to the appeal. However, we are still approximately £500 short of the amount needed to pay our legal bills, and so we’re renewing our call for donations.”
“We have incurred substantial legal costs because of the Council’s threat. If you’d like to offer financial support to our cause, we’d be very grateful.”
For more, visit the Hackney Citizen website.