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UN Special Rapporteur “Deplores” Persecution of BBC Persian staff and Their Families

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Professor Javaid Rehman, has presented his first report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In his address, Professor Rehman raised with concern the ongoing persecution and harassment of BBC News Persian staff and their families by Iran.

Speaking in the Human Rights Council, Professor Rehman said he “deplores” the harassment of BBC Persian staff. His remarks raised concern about the ongoing, collective criminal investigation of BBC Persian staff and the asset-freeze which affects them and their families in Iran. He reiterated the seriousness of the persecution, which was also raised by his predecessor Asma Jahangir, including arbitrary detention and interrogation of family members in Iran. Professor Rehman also raised concern about the attacks on BBC Persian journalists in Iranian state media, in particular with fake and defamatory news being published to undermine their reputations.

The BBC made its unprecedented urgent appeal to the UN in late 2017. It is the first time in BBC history that the BBC has engaged with the UN over the protection of its journalists. Both the UN Special Rapporteur and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres raised concern about the persecution of BBC Persian in their reports to the 40th session of the Human Rights Council.

Read more: Doughty Street Chambers, https://is.gd/gGSUTL


EDM 2179: BBC Parental Leave Policy

That this House warmly congratulates the BBC on its recent announcement that parents who work at the organisation are to receive additional maternity or paternity pay should their baby be born prematurely; recognises that this new policy will mean that for any baby born before 37 weeks, full pay will be extended by the number of days the baby is born before the due date for mothers and by up to two weeks' full pay for partners; commends the good intentions of this change in policy, which provides reassurance that full support will be given throughout the period between the baby's premature arrival and the original due date, and protects the full length of the parent's maternity or paternity leave; and encourages other employers to follow the example of the BBC in providing additional support to their valued members of staff who are dealing with the difficulties of a premature birth.

House of Commons, Tabled 13 March 2019
https://is.gd/BD2XLlO



Equality Commission to Investigate BBC over Pay Discrimination

The BBC is to be formally investigated by the equality watchdog over claims men were consistently paid more than women for doing the same job. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said after spending a year reviewing the corporation's pay policies it concluded there was reason to suspect "some women at the organisation have not received equal pay for equal work".

Concerns about wage disparity at the BBC made headlines in 2017 when it was forced to publish the salaries of stars earning more than £150,000 a year, showing for the first time how many famous men were paid substantially more than their female equivalents. The resulting scandal prompted several high-profile employees such as Jeremy Vine and John Humphrys to take substantial pay cuts, with some choosing to leave the corporation altogether.

However, many BBC staff privately claim gender pay inequality remains a significant problem at lower wage bands, where the vast majority of staff who work behind the scenes earn substantially lower salaries that are never made public. At this level, a small difference in salary substantially affect quality of life.

Read more: Jim Waterson , Guardian, https://is.gd/HuAUaV


Ageing Britons More Likely to be Impoverished and Unwell

Millions more people can expect to live their last years in poverty and hardship, with increasing health challenges, a damning independent report has said.

An increasing number of people reaching old age is putting pressure on health services, the Centre for Ageing Better, who ran the report, said.

But Dr Anna Dixon from the Centre was keen to assert “our current rates of chronic illness, mental health conditions, disability and frailty could be greatly reduced if we tackled the structural, economic and social drivers of poor health earlier”.

The figure for the 65-and-overs in the UK is expected to almost double in the next two decades, growing by 40%, while households with members aged 85-and-over is the fastest growing statistic.

The report points out a wealth disparity with ageing, that the poorest in society are three times as likely to retire early due to health complications and the poorest men in society are three times as likely to develop chronic heart disease than the wealthiest.

Additionally, the poorest women are also three times as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than the wealthiest women.

Read more: Human Rights Info, https://is.gd/HBmnVZ


New Legal Measures to Protect Workers From Misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements

  • New proposals include legislating that workplace confidentiality agreements cannot be used to prevent people reporting harassment or discrimination to police
  • Measures also include extending the law to ensure the worker agreeing to confidentiality agreements receives independent legal advice on the limitations
  • The plans are part of the government’s ambition to create a fairer workplace as part of the modern Industrial Strategy


The rules around non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and confidentiality clauses are set to be tightened under new legal proposals announced by Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst today (Monday 4 March 2019). This includes enshrining in law for the first-time that individuals cannot be prevented from reporting crimes, harassment or discrimination to the police.

Read more: https://is.gd/9VYv73


EDM 2125: Long-Term Social Care Settlement

That this House recognises the state of the social care sector and the unsustainable levels of unmet care need; notes the NHS calling for social care reform through the Health for Care campaign; and calls on the Government to deliver a sustainable, new and fair system and funding formula for social care which would deliver a long-term plan and funding settlement for social care, expanding coverage and meeting the following core principles: care offered based on need not ability to pay, integrated care, personalised care, prevention before cure, ensuring equality and fairness, delivering parity of esteem with the NHS, seamless care within a diverse sector; strong and supported workforce, citizen access to advice and guidance and a consideration of wider care needs.

Tabled 28 February 2019 by Norman Lamb, House of Commons, https://is.gd/48kNlx

Put Your MP to Work – Ask Them to Sign EDM 2125

To find your MP go here: https://www.writetothem.com/


BECTU calls for Action on Plight of Freelancers Owed Thousands

A team involved in the visual effects on Oscar-winning Queen movie Bohemian Rhapsody have yet to be paid, according to media and entertainment union Bectu.

The union says it is handling cases worth £53,000 relating to the bankruptcy of Halo VFX, a London-based company that contributed to the film’s visual effects.

BECTU says the plight of the out-of-pocket workers highlights the need for a new industry code of practice to protect freelance workers when businesses go into administration.

BECTU’s assistant national secretary, Paul Evans, said: “I’ve never had a situation where individual Bectu members have been hit this badly. We can’t just shrug and move on.

“It’s not acceptable for VFX artists who have contributed to the success of multimillion-pound features to be the ones to carry risk and go unpaid for their hard work and talent.”

More generally, many risks, he said, were shouldered by freelance VFX workers, who were forced to accept long periods of unpaid overtime and antisocial hours, which eroded creativity and productivity. “It’s an industry that drives talented people out. The gender ratio is particularly male-heavy. Women often can’t stay in an industry that expects almost unlimited unpaid overtime as short notice.”

Read more: Catherine Shoard, Guardian,  https://is.gd/t3z1ih


Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults: Care Homes Parliamentary Debate

 The UK has a world-class national health service, full of the most fantastic doctors, nurses and support staff. It is a testament to our fantastic NHS that, for decades, we have generally seen life expectancy increase across the country. With increasing life expectancy, however, we have seen a growth in degenerative diseases such as dementia. For families living with a relative with dementia, it is an incredibly difficult experience to see a parent, for instance, lose the ability to talk and forget the essence of who they are. You never forget the first time that they look straight through you, having no idea who you are. I am sure that the Minister will extend her sympathies to the families across the country who live with those circumstances day in, day out.

Many families are increasingly reliant on extra care facilities and nursing homes to manage the healthcare needs of their elderly and vulnerable relatives. They will therefore experience the heart-wrenching feeling of visiting dozens of care facilities and wondering if their loved one will be happy and safe there—will the care be good enough? Sadly, my family and I have found out what happens when the answers to these questions is no. While the majority of those working in the care sector are wonderful and deserve medals for the incredible service they provide, there are, as in any industry, those who are not, and who, sadly, prey on the vulnerable.

I am going to now share something that is not at all easy to talk about. Minister, there are some phone calls you never wish to receive, and I can say that one of them is the hushed phone call from a carer who knows your family, who tells you that as a matter of urgency you need to come to the care facility and check on your loved one because they have been hurt. Nothing prepares you for arriving to find your loved one with black eyes, bruises, cuts and blood on their face. And I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that nothing prepares you for discovering that these injuries in fact happened three days previously and nobody called you, no one alerted you, nobody called an ambulance despite the fact that somebody had a head injury, was on blood thinners and is elderly, and with not a single person—not one—having any answers as to how this may have happened or any proof at all as to how this occurred.

Read more: Hansard House of Commons, https://is.gd/aHyZ0L


‘Informing is Not a Crime’ UN Chief Calls for Better Protection of Journalists, Press Freedom

Paying tribute to reporters around the world who “put their lives on the line” to tell important stories, UN chief António Guterres lamented on Monday that freedom of the press was increasingly “shrinking” worldwide, and called on decision-makers to better protect journalists and media workers.

“We’ve come a long way towards realizing freedom of expression, and other fundamental freedoms. The right to access to information is entrenched in law in over a hundred countries,” said Secretary-General Guterres during the event, which marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Association of UN Correspondents (ACANU). “But despite these advances, in recent years, civic space has been shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate”, he explained.
In just over a decade, more than 1,000 journalists have been killed while carrying out their work. In nine out of 10 cases, no one was held accountable. Last year alone, the UN agency advocating for freedom of the press, UNESCO, reported that at least 99 journalists were killed and thousands more were attacked, harassed, detained or imprisoned on spurious charges, without due process. Women journalists are often at greater risk of being targeted, including through online threats of sexual violence.

Read more: UN chief António Guterres, https://is.gd/yaZUh7


2091: Importance of Journalism in the Public Interest (Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney)

That this House celebrates the importance of investigative journalism in the public interest; believes that a free press is critical to the health of democratic society and that freedom of expression is a fundamental human right; is concerned by the arrests of National Union of Journalists members Barry McCaffrey and Trevor Birney; commends their award-winning documentary No Stone Unturned about the Loughinisland massacre of 1994; notes that the journalists have not yet been charged with any offences; and while respecting due process asks the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Durham Constabulary to clarify the basis of their investigation into these two respected journalists and to address concerns about the way in which it has been conducted.

Tabled 19 February 2019 by Conor McGinn https://is.gd/Beaurh

Put Your MP to Work – Ask Them to Sign EDM 2091
To find your MP go here: https://www.writetothem.com/  


Ensuring the Financial Sustainability of Quality Journalism

The Council of Europe has called on its 47 member states to ensure the financial sustainability of quality journalism taking into account that it is a public good and plays an essential role for individuals to be able to form and express their opinions and make informed choices about government and society.

In a Declaration adopted 13/02/2019, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers encourages states to put in place a regulatory and policy framework that facilitates the operation of quality journalism, while not constraining media outlets’ editorial and operational independence. Recommended measures include a beneficial tax regime, financial support schemes and the possibility of media outlets to operate as not-for-profit organisations and receive donations from philanthropic programmes.

The Declaration has been adopted due to the concern that the sustainability of quality journalism is at great risk. This situation – witnessed across the continent – is largely due to the digitization of the media sector which has compromised the traditional business models based on advertising. The consequences range from reduced news coverage, job loses, and the deterioration of journalists´ working conditions, to greater concentration of media ownership.

Whilst highlighting that the digital environment provides new opportunities for free expression and diversity of opinions, the Declaration also stresses that it creates risks of manipulation, disinformation and spread of hate messages.

With regard to online platforms, the Committee of Ministers expresses concern about the lack of transparency in the way that they select and rank news and stresses the need to consider their responsibilities as main gateways for news dissemination, also by promoting credible and diverse information over disinformation and other malicious or blatantly false content.

Finally, the Declaration stresses the importance of ensuring a fair financial reward for the production of news and other media content. Where necessary, that may include redistribution of revenues from online platforms to news content providers.

Council of Europe, https://is.gd/VJ1Oto


West Midlands Pensioners Convention Protest @ Birmingham BBC Mailbox 12th February

Save the Over 75s TV Licence

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The BBC should be on the side of those protesting against the decision of the Government to hand over the responsibility for funding the concessionary TV licence for the over 75s to the BBC from 2020.

However, when 18 people attended the handing over of a 3000-strong petition to the BBC WM at the Mail Box today (12th February), that support was not much in evidence. While it could spare a security guard to come out and brusquely inform those attending to take down their banner, it could not afford to send someone out with a notepad and a camera (i.e. a journalist) to talk to those outside.

There are rumours that Tom Watson will be on the regional news tonight to talk about the issue, but why could it not complement the story by talking to those who are directly affected and who had taken the trouble to come to town and voice their complaint?

“Loneliness among older people is now regarded as a growing problem with 1.4 million pensioners viewing the TV as their main form of companionship. Free TV access provided a crucial link to the outside world, particularly those who are chronically lonely or in poor health and housebound. With 1.9 million pensioners already in poverty and the figure rising, scrapping the TV licence will force even more pensioners into hardship.”

- From the leaflet handed out by the West Midlands Pensioners Convention, who organised today’s protest.

Email: wmpconvention@gmx.com

When you consider that the UK pension is one of the lowest in Europe already, and the recent news that some pensioners have started contacting their MP for news as all the local papers have shut down, this proposal by the government represents a nasty attack on the elderly. Now, who was it who recently that said “Austerity is over”?

The BBC can ill-afford to pay this subsidy itself, so it should welcome all those who are campaigning to preserve the current arrangement.

Artcle: Bob Whitehouse


Site Launched to Help Freelancers Claim Uncollected Pay

A website is being launched to help freelancers and other workers claim an estimated £3bn a year owed in wages and holiday allowances, in the latest example of justice moving online. The service, MyPay London, aims to help people who cannot afford to pay lawyers for advice on lodging their claims. Legal aid for employment cases was removed by the coalition government in 2013.

The initiative comes from the Legal Action Group, a charity that promotes equal access to justice and publishes legal aid handbooks. It has been supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has led the fight for improved workers’ rights in the gig economy.
The site enables claimants to calculate the sums they believe they are owed. A recent survey by researchers at Middlesex University concluded that 2 million British workers were collectively losing as much as £3bn a year in uncollected wages and holiday allowances.

Read more: Owen Bowcott, Guardian, https://is.gd/XcRZcQ


EDM 2083 - Changes to the Pension Credit System


That this House expresses concern with the Government’s plans to change the pension credit system which could lead to an increase in pensioner poverty; is dismayed that the Government has decided that pension credits will from now on, only be available to couples where both partners have reached pension age, rather than the previous system whereby only one partner had to be of retirement age in order to receive credits; recognises the issue of pensioner poverty as being important in our society and something which will become more acute if these changes to pension credits are introduced; and urges the Government to change course, so that citizens will not be as much as £7,000 worse off per annum where couples will be in receipt of £114.81 a week Universal Credit compared with £255.25 per week for a couple receiving pension credit.

Tabled 14 February 2019 by Stephen Lloyd MP
House of Commons, https://is.gd/G4JrF0

Put Your MP to Work – Ask Them to Sign EDM 2083

To find your MP go here: https://www.writetothem.com/   

Safety of Journalists' Platform Report: Media Freedom Conditions Worsen

The environment for media freedom has worsened significantly in the Council of Europe area, according to a report published today by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

The report “Democracy at Risk: threats and attacks against media freedom in Europe” assesses the situation of media freedom in Europe based on the 140 serious media freedom violations reported to the platform in 2018.

According to the report, the number of attacks on journalists has grown continuously. The number of threats reported, including death threats, doubled last year and there has been no progress in a number of long-standing cases of impunity for murder of journalists. In addition, journalists continue to be arbitrarily detained while a number of new legislative initiatives have weakened media freedom.

Read more: Council of Europe, https://is.gd/fuXYw8


BBC World Service files UN complaint against Iran over reprisals against BBC Persian staff

The BBC World Service, represented by Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC and Jennifer Robinson, have filed a complaint with the UN Secretary-General and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights against Iran. The complaint relates to reprisals against BBC Persian staff as a result of their engagement with the United Nations and its Special Mechanisms.

In late 2017 the BBC filed its first ever complaint with the UN over the protection of its journalists. The complaint related to more than a decade of persecution and harassment suffered by BBC Persian staff and their families in Iran as a result of their work as journalists with the BBC. The campaign of persecution and harassment escalated in 2017 when Iran announced a collective criminal national security investigation into 152 current and former BBC Persian staff, as well as an asset freeze on all assets in Iran.

Since then, the BBC World Service has continued to engage with UN Special Mechanisms and BBC Persian journalists have addressed the UN Human Rights Council, working together on a joint advocacy campaign with the National Union of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists and Ms Gallagher QC and Ms Robinson of Doughty Street International.

Read more:  Doughty Street Chambers, https://is.gd/kFYW85


Rise in Harassment of Journalists by Protesters Outside Parliament

The following motion was passed by London Magazine Branch unanimously and forwarded to our General Secretary and campaigns team.

Rise in harassment of journalists by protesters.

This branch is concerned about the increase in harassment of journalists by a small minority of protesters around the Westminster estate. Several journalists have been harassed. These have included Owen Jones, Faisal Islam and Kay Burley.

But there has been no public statement condemning this by the NUJ. Our union plays a leading role in protecting journalist rights both in the UK and abroad. We recommend that the NUJ and the general secretary issue a statement condemning the public harassment of journalists reporting in the current febrile atmosphere and to urge the police to safeguard the protection of news gatherers.

NUJ Facebook, https://is.gd/Tu8nel


EDM 1982: Changes to Pension Credit Eligibility

Tabled 17 January 2019

That this House is deeply concerned by the proposed changes to eligibility for pension credit; notes that from 15 May 2019 new pensioners whose partners are younger than the state retirement age of 65 will no longer be able to claim a means-tested top-up called pension credit but instead will be forced to claim the much less generous universal credit alongside their younger partners; is alarmed that this amounts to a potential loss of up to £7,320 per year; agrees with Age UK that those changes comprise a “substantial wealth cut” which could have a devastating effect on the health and well-being of some older people and increase the number of pensioners in poverty; is mindful of the fact that this change will mean yet another financial blow to women born in the 1950s who have already had their state pension age delayed with little or no notice; notes that the average age gap for mixed-age couples is 2.6 years, meaning the cash loss incurred before the younger partner becomes eligible to claim pension credit could be up to £19,000; recognises that where the age gap is greater, the potential loss will be more; and urges the Government to reconsider these changes, which will serve only to increase the number of pensioners in poverty.

https://is.gd/dvAeym


Journalists: International Protection - House of Commons Debate


Journalists play a vital role in a free society. Their role in exposing corruption, highlighting injustice and holding Governments to account helps to make a democracy function, but it does not always make them popular. Sadly, in authoritarian regimes, that often leads to imprisonment, being taken hostage, intimidation and sometimes even death.
There are varying figures for the record over the past year, but all agree that 2018 was one of the worst years on record for journalists being killed, imprisoned or held hostage. According to Reporters Sans Frontières, 80 journalists were killed in 2018 during the course of their duties; 348 are being held in prison and 60 held hostage. The countries with the worst records are perhaps predictable: in terms of deaths, they are Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Yemen and India.


There can be no doubt that media freedom is under increasing attack across the world. The figures speak for themselves: 80 journalists were killed in 2018, 348 are languishing in prison and 60 are being held hostage. It is appalling that these numbers represent a steady increase on those of previous years. Countries are increasingly using restrictive laws to stifle freedom of expression and to prevent the functioning of an independent media. The climate is worsening fast.

House of Commons: https://is.gd/4Xx48A


Social Media’s Moral Reckoning

If Facebook were a country, it would be the largest in the world, with over 2 billion users. It would also be ruled by an opaque, unaccountable, and undemocratic regime. Social media has become the modern public square, which is run by unseen corporate algorithms that can manipulate our access to information and even our mood. Social media firms police our speech and behavior based on a set of byzantine rules where companies are judge and jury. And they track our every digital move across the Web and monetize the insights they glean from our data, often in unforeseen ways.

Though the internet has in many ways been a boon to the human rights movement, we have come a long way from the heady days of “Twitter and Facebook revolution” during the 2011 Arab uprising. Trust in Silicon Valley has sunk to an all-time low as the public begins to fully grasp the power we have traded away in exchange for access to seemingly free services.

Read more: Human Rights Watch, https://is.gd/CqFvOk


UK 'Completely and Institutionally Ageist'

The UK is “completely and institutionally ageist”, according to the chief executive of Care England, the largest representative body for independent social care services in the UK.

Prof Martin Green, also the chair of the International Longevity Centre, said ageism in the UK was “a national scandal” that should be challenged in the courts.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) should, he added, “hang their heads in shame” over its failure to pursue as many ageism cases through the courts as other protected characteristics, such as racism or homophobia.
The EHRC has disputed Green’s claim but its figures show that eight of the 27 cases ongoing in August 2018 involved age, two out of 21 litigation cases that concluded between April and August 2018 involved age, and nine of the 40 cases that concluded in 2017-18 involved age.

Green said: “The EHRC is ignoring the elephant in the room in such a determined way – despite me personally drawing it to their attention numerous times – that I can only assume they’re part of the problem: that they’re imbued with the same institutionalised ageism as the rest of society.

Read more: Amelia Hill, Guardian, https://is.gd/Q18TBF


Britain's Ethnic Workers Face £3.2bn 'Pay Penalty'

Britain's black and ethnic minority workers face a "pay penalty" and earn less than white colleagues in the same jobs, according to a research group. A report from the Resolution Foundation says overall the 1.6m BAME workers are paid about £3.2bn less than their white counterparts every year. It used data from a survey of 100,000 people over 10 years. The government says it is planning measures to help employers tackle ethnic disparities in the workplace.

The Resolution Foundation report calls on the government to follow its initiative requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay gaps highlighting the different treatment of male and female employees by doing the same according to ethnic background.

It noted that BAME workers have long earned less, on average, than white male workers, due in part due to differences in qualification levels and the types of jobs they do.
But the foundation said its "pay penalty" calculation took into account factors including industry sector, occupations, contract types, education level and degree attainment of individual workers.

Source: BBC News, https://is.gd/uppq2e


Black Journalists Call on Editors to Improve Diversity in Newsrooms

More than 100 black and minority ethnic journalists have written to UK editors to denounce a lack of diversity that has led to “a long litany of inadequacies in newsroom coverage of race and how stories about non-white people are covered”.

The journalists, assembled under the auspices of a new group, Black Journalists Collective UK (BJCUK), call on editors to improve diversity among their staff in order to improve their reporting of race issues and subjects.

“We need journalism that better serves all communities in the UK and therefore we need newsrooms that reflect the society they serve,” the letter says. “It is clear there is much more progress to be made, therefore the BJCUK is calling on all newsrooms to urgently show their commitment to improving their reporting of racial issues and subjects, and to increasing the diversity of their staff by signing up to the points outlined in the manifesto below.”

Read more: Damien Gayle, Guardian, https://is.gd/teXQ4f


International Campaign To Protect Journalists Worldwide

Journalism and Press Freedom: Hansard Written question

Emily Thornberry: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of calls from Reporters Without Borders for the creation of a UN Special Rapporteur with responsibility for monitoring the protection of journalists and press freedom.

Answered by: Mark Field: The UK is fully committed to the promotion of media freedom and the protection of journalists. The Foreign Secretary has announced our intention to launch in 2019 an international campaign to end the climate of impunity and mobilise a consensus behind the protection of journalists worldwide.

We are currently considering how this campaign can best add value and reinforce existing mechanisms, including those of the UN and other international organisations. We have held discussions with Reporters Without Borders and are actively reviewing their proposal for a dedicated UN position on this issue.

https://is.gd/siBXBj


Journalists’ Ability to Access Information Under FOIA With Consent of Data Subjects

In an important decision for journalists, the First-Tier Tribunal has upheld the appeal of Italian journalist, Stefania Maurizi, against a decision of the Metropolitan Police Service to refuse her request for information about WikiLeaks journalists. In finding in favour of Ms Maurizi, the Tribunal settled a general question of law of importance for all journalists: a data subject can give consent to the disclosure of personal information to another person under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA

As the Tribunal found, individuals are “free, with appropriate consent provided, to rely upon an investigative journalist to seek to obtain their personal data and not be put to the bother of having to make a subject access request.” This affirms that journalists, with consent, can obtain information from public authorities under FOIA that would otherwise be subject to the personal data exemption.

Read more: Doughty Street Chambers, https://is.gd/ly88K2