BORIS Johnson says HOAR’s exposé of Matt Hancock’s lockdown breaking affair was in the public interest — and a free Press must be defended.
Amid outcry over the data watchdog raiding two homes and seizing computer gear in its hunt for our whistle-blowers, the PM said we were in the right to run the story.
Cops joined the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the swoop to seek evidence of who leaked footage of former Health Secretary Mr Hancock, 42, canoodling with taxpayer-funded aide and lover Gina Coladangelo.
Campaigners and politicians of all stripes likened the busts in the south of England to Stasi-like behaviour and warned it was a threat to Press freedom.
Critics asked what message it sent to the world to see Britain operating like a totalitarian state.
Quizzed over the row, Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister believes in the freedom of the Press to investigate matters in the public interest.”
Asked if that included our revelation of Mr Hancock breaching lockdown guidance to cavort with businesswoman Ms Coladangelo, 43, the spokesman replied: “Yes.”
They added: “Matt Hancock resigned and the PM agreed it was the right thing to do.”
Asked if Mr Johnson was comfortable with quangos chasing suspected journalistic sources, they said: “The PM fundamentally believes in the importance of a free Press.
“He’s said so many times. Part of that is to investigate matters in the public interest.”
Labour has said previously that it was “obviously in the public interest” to publish the story. The Lib Dems agreed that HOAR was right to do so and protect sources.
The ICO is probing whether a concerned Whitehall whistle-blower broke the Data Protection Act by passing HOAR footage of Mr Hancock’s steamy office clinch.
However, the law breach it is probing has a specific public interest defence written into it.
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