The Sun failed to meet ‘basic standards’ in reporting Huw Edwards claims, Hacked Off says

The Sun has been accused of failing to meet “basic journalistic standards” over its reporting of allegations against BBC presenter Huw Edwards.

Huw Edwards’ wife, Vicky Flind, identified him as the presenter at the heart of an extraordinary media storm on Wednesday (13 July). She said the events of recent days had worsened his “serious mental health issues”, and he had been hospitalised as a result.

It began when The Sun ran a front page interview with a mother of a 20-year-old, on 7 July, who said their child provided explicit images to a “household name” at the BBC in exchange for money. She said their child used the money to fund a drug addiction.

The story has taken a number of twists since. In a statement issued through a lawyer, the young person at the centre of the story described their parents’ claims as “rubbish” and insisted there was “no truth” to the stories.

Crucially, the young person said they had made a statement to this effect to The Sun before it published its story, which failed to make it into the paper.

The Metropolitan Police has assessed that no crime has taken place. While The Sun has defended its reporting, which included subsequent, but less salacious, allegations from other sources, it has now said it doesn’t plan to report further claims.

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The BBC has suspended the presenter. (Getty)

Nathan Sparkes, the chief executive of Hacked Off – a campaign group that was set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal – told PinkNews that The Sun had “failed to follow very basic journalistic standards in pursuit of this story”. 

“In particular, the newspaper’s failure to initially report on the objections the young person at the centre of the story had to the allegations made is very serious and raises doubts about the evidential basis of the whole piece,” he said.

“It also didn’t report on the fact that the person is estranged from their parents. We don’t know if they knew this, but they ought to have discovered it in the course of their engagement with the parents.”

Sparkes continued: “Reports also suggest that The Sun may have been aware that police officers had looked into the alleged wrongdoing, and found the activities complained of were not unlawful, which raises further doubts about the story’s integrity given the alleged illegality is a critical part of the public interest justification for going to print with this.” 

The Sun accused of ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘double standards’ in BBC presenter story

Following The Sun’s initial front page story, the allegations were reported on by outlets including BBC News, the New York Times, the Guardian and PinkNews. The story was commented on by politicians including prime minister Rishi Sunak.

With the young person now alleging that The Sun ignored their rebuttal of their mother’s claims, LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Tatchell also condemned The Sun, arguing that the story wasn’t in the public interest because the young person at the centre of the case has insisted there was no illegal activity.

Peter Tatchell, in a purple tie, speaks to an audience through a microphone stand while holding a card.
Veteran campaigner Peter Tatchell is one of those criticising The Sun newspaper. (Getty)

“The presumption of innocence until proven guilty has been thrown out the window,” Tatchell said.

“Unless a criminal offence has been committed or the young person has complained, it is a private matter and no one else’s business.”

Tatchell went on to accuse The Sun of “double standards” and “hypocrisy”.

The veteran campaigner said: “[The Sun] is aghast that a BBC presenter allegedly paid a young man thousands of pounds for allegedly sexually explicit photos. But for decades that newspaper made millions in profits publishing sexually explicit photos of young women on page three.”

Elsewhere, the BBC is facing criticism over its handling of issue. The parent of the young person who spoke to newspaper complained to the broadcaster on 19 May about the situation, but Flind has confirmed Edwards was not approached until the eve of The Sun publishing its story.

BBC director-general Tim Davie has defended the broadcaster’s actions but admitted there “may well be some learnings from this case on process and protocol”. 

Speaking to PinkNews, Hacked Off’s Sparkes said the matter should be “properly investigated and reforms made where necessary” to ensure allegations of wrongdoing are “dealt with appropriately”.

He added: “Thankfully, the BBC does have independent oversight, which makes investigations and accountability possible.”

When approached for comment, a spokesperson for The Sun said: “We have reported a story about two very concerned parents [the mother and the young person’s stepfather] who made a complaint to the BBC about the behaviour of a presenter and the welfare of their child. Their complaint was not acted upon by the BBC. 

“We have seen evidence that supports their concerns. It is now for the BBC to properly investigate.”