Magnum Photos to launch external investigation, publish code of conduct amid sexual harassment plaints

Magnum Photos' reckoning began in August, with a journalist posting allegations of sexual misconduct against member David Alan Harvey on Twitter.

FP Staff January 06, 2021 11:23:35 IST
Magnum Photos to launch external investigation, publish code of conduct amid sexual harassment plaints

In December 2020, 11 women had stepped forward to describe instances of sexual harassment, allegedly perpetrated by David Alan Harvey, one of Magnum Photos' most prominent photojournalists, to Columbia Journalism Review. The international photographic cooperative, which has since come under fire for neglecting complaints reportedly dating back to 2009, published a statement on 5 January 2021, announcing the initiation of a new investigation into the allegations.

The organisation revealed that the probe will be carried out independently by Susie Al-Qassab, a partner at UK law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA). With the promise of dealing with all accounts sensitively and confidentially, Magnum stated that the process will reach out to all those who have spoken against Harvey publicly. It also encouraged others, who may have a complaint against Harvey, or any another Magnum photographer or team member, to step forward and establish contact with HJA.

Apart from handling the investigation, HJA has also been asked to review how complaints have been tackled in the past, and make recommendations based on how Magnum's current procedures fare. Additionally, in order to make the process more transparent, Magnum said it will be publishing its code of conduct in the coming weeks. "We understand now that not making this available last year contributed to some people’s reluctance to come forward, and we are sorry for not realising this sooner."

Magnum Photos' reckoning began in August, with a journalist posting allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey on Twitter. Three days after the post, Magnum announced Harvey's suspension, and the decision to review their archives in response to separate claims that they contained exploitative photos of minors. On 28 October, the agency announced the suspension of Harvey for a whole year over a "historic allegation" that it did not explain.

Read the full statement from Magnum Photos:

“As Magnum’s President and CEO, we care deeply about creating an organisation where everyone feels welcomed and able to succeed free from harassment and discrimination of any kind.

Today we are opening a new independent investigation into the allegations of inappropriate conduct by David Alan Harvey made recently in the Columbia Journalism Review. This will be carried out externally and independently by Susie Al-Qassab, a partner at UK law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA).

The investigation will reach out to all those we are aware of who have spoken publicly, and we encourage anyone else who has concerns to get in touch as well, whether in relation to Mr. Harvey, any other Magnum photographer, or team member. You can make contact with HJA directly on magnuminvestigation@hja.net.

We recognise that making a report takes courage and we promise that all accounts will be dealt with sensitively and confidentially. The investigation offers a safe space that is independent from Magnum and no information will be passed to us without the consent of the person who reports it. Out of consideration for those involved, we would like to progress quickly, and so respectfully ask those who wish to come forward to consider doing so by the end of the month.

To be clear, complaints can still be brought forward to Magnum after this, or at any time, through our other reporting channels: to confidential@magnumphotos.com which is received directly by the two of us, or alternatively to the independent whistleblowing service, Safecall, on freephone numbers: 1 866 901 3295 (US), 00 800 72332255 (France), 0800 915 1571 (UK).

We are fully committed to the full, fair and impartial investigation of all reports that come to us, and this includes addressing ways we can improve as an organisation as well. With that in mind, we have also asked HJA to review how complaints have been handled in the past, consider our current approach and procedures, and make specific recommendations about improvements Magnum can make that will strengthen our commitment to safeguarding and inclusion. We commit now to publishing these findings and acting on any recommendations in that regard.

As we strive to improve, we realise that being more transparent about our processes is a key part of building confidence in Magnum. We will therefore be publishing Magnum’s code of conduct in the coming weeks. We understand now that not making this available last year contributed to some people’s reluctance to come forward, and we are sorry for not realising this sooner.

We also have plans to publish a new child safeguarding policy this year alongside a statement that sets out Magnum’s values in a new ethical code. Whilst our photographers practice independently and their work is diverse, there are standards and values to which we collectively aspire and that we would like to publicly commit to.

Finally, we take this opportunity to share some general information about how Magnum works, including the names of the current Magnum board members, which can be found in the Magnum Explained section of the website, here.

This has been a difficult and upsetting time for women in the photography industry, and for all those involved in Magnum. We are fully committed to supporting a full and independent investigation, and to seeing through whatever changes are needed to create a new welcoming and inclusive culture for all those who work for and with Magnum.”

– Olivia Arthur (President, Magnum Photos), Caitlin Hughes (CEO, Magnum Photos)

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