The ICO exists to empower you through information.

We submitted this code of practice to the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology on 6 July 2023.

For the code to come into force, it needs to complete the statutory process set out in section 125 of the DPA 2018 and be laid before parliament by the Secretary of State.

Please check our website for updates about the code’s status. In the meantime, the code will help you to understand what data protection law says and how to comply if you use personal information for journalism.

PDF version of this code

PDF version of the code reference notes

With so much more information at our fingertips, rapid changes to technology, and concern about access to accurate information, trusted journalism has never been more important.

A free media is at the heart of any healthy democracy – keeping us informed, encouraging debate and opinion, and entertaining us. It is a crucial part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information. 

A free media is also often called the public’s watchdog because of its role in uncovering wrongdoing and holding the powerful to account.

In 2011-2012, the Leveson Inquiry examined the media’s own power, finding that there was a culture of unethical practices in parts of the press. This followed evidence of unlawful information gathering by some media organisations.

The crucial public interest role served by the media and its power is the reason journalism is covered by data protection law. The law includes important provisions that enable journalism, whilst also protecting people by ensuring that personal information is used lawfully. 

As required by Parliament, I have produced this code to help the media apply data protection law in a journalism context. It builds upon guidance for the media we published in 2014 following a recommendation from the Leveson Inquiry.

Constructive feedback from a wide range of stakeholders, including industry representatives, media organisations, civil society, lawyers and academics has shaped the code from the beginning and at each stage of the consultation process.

I am grateful to everyone who helped develop this code and complete what is rightly a challenging task. I understand that there will always be strongly held views and convictions whenever fundamental rights are concerned.

I believe this is a clear and practical code, which strikes the right balance between supporting journalists’ work and protecting people’s personal information.

By continuing to work with industry and others, the code will make an important contribution, complement existing industry codes and help build public trust in journalism. Ultimately, that will support the vital public interest journalism serves. 

John Edwards
UK Information Commissioner