FT suspends journalist accused of listening to rival outlets' Zoom calls

Mark Di Stefano allegedly accessed sensitive Independent and Evening Standard meetings

A Financial Times reporter has been suspended after the Independent accused him of listening in on sensitive Zoom meetings held by its senior managers telling staff about salary cuts and furloughs.

Mark Di Stefano, who joined the FT from BuzzFeed in January, has been accused of listening to the audio feed of video conference calls held by the Independent and its sister title the Evening Standard about responding to the financial impact of coronavirus.

In each case Di Stefano, a prolific tweeter with more than 100,000 followers, broke the news of the meetings on Twitter at the same time as staff were being informed.

A story on the measures being introduced by the Evening Standard, which is edited by the former chancellor George Osborne, was subsequently published by the FT. A summary of the cuts at the online-only Independent was published in the FT’s daily live blog.

The Independent claimed Zoom log files showed an account registered to Di Stefano’s FT.com email address joined the video call for Independent staff last week for 16 seconds.

The caller’s video was disabled, but some journalists apparently saw his name flash briefly on screen before he left the meeting.

Minutes later a separate account joined the call, this time unnamed, the Independent said. It claimed the caller remained in audio-only mode with a black square displayed to journalists on the video call.

The anonymous user account, which remained in the meeting until the end, was later shown to be linked to a mobile phone used by the same FT reporter.

The FT began investigating Di Stefano after the Independent contacted senior figures at the paper with its allegations.

The FT’s story about the cuts cited “people on the call” as its source.

The Independent has also alleged that the account it says is linked to Di Stefano’s mobile phone gained access to an Evening Standard video call made by Osborne announcing large-scale furloughs and salary cuts on 1 April.

The Independent editor, Christian Broughton, said: “We respect freedom of speech and understand the challenges of news gathering, but the Independent considers the presence of a third-party journalist in a staff briefing to be entirely inappropriate and an unwarranted intrusion into our employees’ privacy.

“Our spokesperson had a full statement prepared for the press. Any interested reporters only needed to call and ask.”

A spokesperson for the Evening Standard said: “For a journalist from the FT to have illegitimately accessed a private Zoom call is unacceptable. We are sure the FT will want to offer an immediate explanation and an apology.”

The FT’s code of conduct states: “The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by … intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails. Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge … can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.”

The FT declined to comment.


Mark Sweney

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
FT reporter accused of listening to Zoom calls of rival outlet resigns
Independent complained Mark Di Stefano had eavesdropped on sensitive meetings

Mark Sweney

01, May, 2020 @5:57 PM

Article image
News outlets criticised for mislabelling photos of black MPs
BBC, Evening Standard and Getty Images apologise after embarrassing mix-up

Aamna Mohdin and Jim Waterson

04, Feb, 2020 @1:23 PM

Article image
Evgeny Lebedev: Press Complaints Commission is not fit for purpose

Publisher critical of watchdog's handling of phone-hacking affair and says newspapers should work together to uphold standards

Dan Sabbagh

04, Jul, 2011 @7:15 PM

Article image
Alexander Lebedev sounding out buyers for Independent titles
Any deal would exclude London Evening Standard, while separate sale of profitable i thought to be open to discussion

Mark Sweney

16, Jan, 2014 @8:27 PM

Article image
Alexander Lebedev: 'I just want to be a journalist'
Alexander Lebedev is to appear in a Moscow court on charges of hooliganism after punching a rival on TV. Could it all end in jail for the super-rich former KGB man, who reinvented himself as a champion of the free press?, writes Aida Edemariam

Aida Edemariam

17, May, 2013 @5:34 PM

Article image
Press regulation: a deal is not dead
The two rival charters have a lot of common ground and despite the hostile relations, a compromise may be possible

Roy Greenslade

26, Apr, 2013 @6:19 PM

Article image
Court blocks inquiry into Independent and Standard's links to Saudi Arabia
Evgeny Lebedev-controlled titles successfully argue that government is too late to investigate 2018 deal

Jim Waterson Media editor

16, Aug, 2019 @2:39 PM

Article image
Rod Liddle lined up to edit Independent
Ex-Today programme understood to be favoured candidate of Alexander Lebedev – who is expected to become the paper's next owner. By Mark Sweney and Stephen Brook

Mark Sweney and Stephen Brook

08, Jan, 2010 @5:27 PM

Article image
Egyptian billionaire poised to join Lebedev in Independent deal

London Evening Standard owner understood to be talking to Samih Sawiris about takeover of Independent titles. By Luke Harding in Moscow

Luke Harding in Moscow

02, Feb, 2010 @5:18 PM

Article image
Which parties are the UK press backing in the general election?
National newspapers and magazines make their endorsements clear, with a focus on Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Ruth McKee

03, Jun, 2017 @1:36 PM