It was on 24 July 2010 whilst I was in Regent’s Park (Central London), that I was made aware by email and telephone that The Sun was going to run a negative story about me the following working day(s).
I established that my employer, had leaked my private data to the newspaper.
This was because I had challenged discrimination in the workplace, even though The Sun was not my workplace or employer. It did not know the full facts of my experiences or circumstances, but chose to discredit me anyway through negative and detrimental reporting.
I was told that Anthony France the Crime Reporter with The Sun unlawfully possessed my private data. I was/am neither a celebrity or politician (who also have a right to privacy), and was not in the public limelight in any way, shape or form. I had no blog, I did no writing and so forth. These activities came as a result of my experiences of racism and homophobia.
Challenging discrimination in the workplace… was my only crime.
When The Sun obtained the information about my complaints of racism and homophobia at work, they weren’t even in the public domain – they were private at the time, only known by a handful of people. It hadn’t been decided at this point by the courts, how my employment case would go ahead or indeed if it would at all.
Knowing that Anthony France and his Editor Dominic Mohan were going to run a negative story about me because I challenged the things I saw and heard in the workplace, was devastating to say the least. It has had a profound effect on me.
This wasn’t because of the lies The Sun would print about me (I expected nothing less being Liverpudlian, Gay & Black), but because it was NOT for The Sun to reveal publicly my mental health status, sexuality and sensitive job to its readers. That ‘was’ my right.
I challenged The Sun by contacting the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) among others including libel lawyers, to try to stop the story from being published about me – but, even this proved pointless. Despite me providing Dominic Mohan with a statement saying that a story revealing my sexuality and mental status would cause me great upset and distress, his paper continued to prepare to print researching me further whilst holding several editorial meetings.
The Sun knew more about my case for discrimination from my employer, than I did. The irony.
My depression (severe reactive) was private, and my sexuality (although no secret to my friends and family) wasn’t something I shouted from the rooftops. I kept myself to myself. I am not the first person though, The Sun has caused great harm to.
At the same time as my ordeal with the newspaper, I read about an Asian female whom The Sun had done the same to and published about her being away from the same workplace as me with depression. How is it in the public interest to declare a person’s medical status in a national newspaper?
I was sent a letter from a member of the public I did not know who told me he was appalled about what he had learned with regards to me, The Sun and the female mentioned above. Anthony France (the journalist) wrote back to this person disagreeing with how The Sun went about things and in particular saying… “if someone is bullied, they should sue” – as in, because she hadn’t this meant she wasn’t bullied. I can’t think of anything more grotesque.
How many people have the courage and support, to challenge discrimination? Not a lot, I would have thought.
Anthony France stated to the member of public who wrote in to him that The Sun doesn’t belittle cases of racism etc, yet it did exactly that with me. Earlier this week, an employment tribunal ruled I was unlawfully discriminated against by my employer on the grounds of my race and sexuality, and that it ‘did’ leak my private data to the newspaper – where is The Sun’s support in stamping out all forms of discrimination? Nowhere.
Anthony France goes further in his communication that the female’s story who suffered depression like me was “news” because he as a ‘taxpayer’, was funding her whilst she was sat at home ill. I was sat at home ill through no fault of my own, and received no salary – it was stopped. I had to claim state benefits, and felt ashamed and humiliated because I had worked all my life.
The Sun publishes what it wants people to believe, not the truth.
In justifying the information leaked to him (like me) about this female, Anthony France goes further… “I’ll leave it to Sun readers – the best in the world – to make their own conclusions.”
I find it arrogant that The Sun will publish a person’s mental illness because she too challenged discrimination in the workplace together with other personal information, and all he can say is that he will let the public decide. By publishing such a detrimental article, The Sun had already dammed the female negatively.
I pushed and pushed with the Press Complaints Commission to bring The Sun to book, but they haven’t to date. I have just learned that the officer at the commission who was dealing with my case and whom I sent my private information to now works for a member of the Murdoch family – Rupert Murdoch owns News International, which owns The Sun. You couldn’t make it up.
I’m not saying this is wrong, but causes me unease considering all I disclosed with the PCC.
The Executive Editor of The Sun wrote to the PCC about me (The Sun obtaining my private information) and stated, because it didn’t ‘actually’ publish there was no privacy breach. What about The Sun refusing to tell me that it wouldn’t publish a story, which then forced my hand to publicly ‘out’ myself in a magazine (Outnorthwest) of The Lesbian & Gay Foundation declaring I was ‘suffering’ with depression and that I was gay? The same result occurred.
I should NEVER have been ‘Forced Out’ as I was, having to make public my sexuality and mental illness as I did whilst considering the value of my life and not forgetting I was ‘unwell’. It is a disgrace to say otherwise.
I don’t like bullies, or being blackmailed.
Fergus Shanahan (the Executive Editor) in his letter sent to the PCC about me said… my private data was gathered by ‘usual journalistic methods’. I have struggled to understand what legal methods were used when it obtained my medical, personal and sensitive information? Mr Shanahan goes further, in that the file on me is a ‘LARGE ONE’. What possibly does it contain?
Does it contain that I gave 13-years dedication and voluntary service to St John Ambulance, the national first-aid organisation? Does it contain that I have been invited to Buckingham Palace 3-times for my community achievements, meeting Her Majesty The Queen on the third occasion as a National Young Achiever or my time in the Air Training Corps? Does it contain that I support many charities like HIV, mental health, homelessness, cancer, racism and homophobia? Does it contain that I have served my country as a loyal and dedicated Public Servant for 10-years with an exemplary record?
I doubt it.
It likely has information that a Black Gay guy from Liverpool who suffers with depression because of racism and homophobia in the workplace, decided to stand-up for himself and went against the grain in doing this. The Sun putting the boot in, for good measure.
Where is the morality here?
I don’t profess to be perfect, and have my own faults like every other person but as Bob Marley said… “Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect, & I don’t live to be, but before you start pointing fingers… make sure your hands are clean!”
Does Anthony France, Dominic Mohan and Fergus Shanahan and others at The Sun live such decent and moral lives, which are something for everybody else in Britain to aspire to?
Mr Shanahan in his letter to the PCC says that with regards to my privacy, I have now made public my sexuality and mental health i.e. that’s the end of it. Yes, because his newspaper forced me out. If it wasn’t for The Sun, why would I want to tell the world I was gay and had depression?
He finishes in writing to the PCC that he hopes his reasoning about why they were going to publish about me… lays this matter to rest. Well it doesn’t. It doesn’t just end like that.
I may be one small person whom The Sun can write about negatively because I’m black, gay and so on, and clearly cannot compete with the tabloid. But, that does not scare me. I’m tired of not standing-up for myself. Nothing will change if we sit back and don’t challenge injustices. The Sun especially going to 7-days a week has to understand the harmful effect its tactics has on people.
I am sending a copy of this post to Anthony France, Dominic Mohan, Fergus Shanahan and Mr Murdoch himself. Not that they will respond. However, I am not one for shying away from things. I still do not understand why their continued pursuit of the story about me went on and on and caused me real upset, and why they to this day haven’t said that they would not publish a negative and untrue story and/or justification for the hurt caused – in forcing me out. I wouldn’t expect an apology, in a million years.
No one is above the law, despite what they may think.
I hope to share my experiences of The Sun with the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, to make things better for all. I don’t seek “15 minutes” of fame for my experiences, but putting my head in a bucket and hoping things change is not good enough. I’ve had that life lesson, and it has come at a personal cost to me and my relationship with others.
This has been a… open blog, ‘View from the Bottom’.
Take care, Max x.
Live Healthy, Laugh Often & Love Yourself!
Published by My Mum. Copyright © Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2012.