Category Archives: Ethics

Nuzzling MP wins IPSO ruling over pics in Sun

A former MP complained of breach of privacy after The Sun published photographs of him allegedly “nuzzling” his face in a friend’s breasts. The Independent Press Standards Organisation found in favour of the MP on privacy grounds, saying there was no public interest justification. A further complaint on grounds of accuracy was not upheld. Press Gazette’s account of the saga shows the reasoning behind the ruling. Read it here.

Melania writer sues over paper’s ‘libelous’ apology

An American journalist issued the Daily Telegraph with a writ for libel after it published a lengthy apology for “errors” in her article about Melania Trump. Nina Burleigh’s writ accused the Telegraph Media Group of “capitulating abjectly” to a legal threat from a lawyer known as a “slayer”, and had wrongly turned her into “a poster girl for fake news”.

The writ detailed how the paper apologised – without consulting her – for statements the article did not contain, and for fact-checked and well-sourced material. It gave a detailed breakdown showing how the apology allegedly misquoted the original article.

Read the writ here.

Who regulates online video? And social media?

As of the middle of 2018, there was no regulator for social media in the UK, noted the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) in its blog on 13 July 2018. A tricky topic: is it really feasible to regulate the content of individual users? Can platforms realistically keep on top of all the content?

Across the European Union, TV and on-demand video is regulated under the Audio Visual Media Services Directive (known as the AVMS Directive). In Britain the actual work of regulating broadcast and on-demand is carried out by Ofcom.

At the start of 2019, video on newspaper and magazine websites was not regulated by Ofcom: it fell under the ambit of the print and online regulators – IPSO for most publishers. The same was true for online-only publications signed up to IPSO.

The EU could change that.

Proliferation of multi-media content meant “newspaper websites could, in theory, start to resemble video-sharing platforms,” said the IPSO blog.

But this website notes that the ethical codes for newspaper sites are nowhere near as demanding as for broadcast media.

Read the full IPSO blog post here.

Grabbing Facebook pics falls foul of IPSO

Scraping pictures and other information from Facebook and other social media could be unethical, the former editor Chris Frost argues in a book chapter (2018). He cites a publisher saying one woman’s picture was “publicly accessible”, but the account privacy was set to “family and friends”. Another picture of a possible Manchester bombing victim was taken from a hoax account. Both resulted in IPSO rulings. Read the full chapter here.

Drone arrest couple ‘may have strong privacy case’

The 24-hour shutdown of Gatwick Airport, caused by a drone, became a media law story when a man and woman were wrongly arrested for causing the havoc – and their names were widely published. The Mail on Sunday splash headline read: “Are these the morons who ruined Christmas?”

One commentator quoted by Press Gazette said their case had echoes of the coverage of the arrest of Sir Cliff Richard, for which he was awarded £210,000 damages against the BBC. He was never charged. The case reshaped the landscape regarding privacy and media freedom.

In a Guardian blog, Professor Roy Greenslade said the affair was reminiscent of the case of Christopher Jefferies, the innocent man who suffered character assassination in the media after being briefly detained in connection with a Bristol murder. But he also noted the public interest in disclosure.

The same Press Gazette report quoted Gill Phillips, the Guardian’s director of editorial legal services, warning that privacy claims were now taking the place of defamation cases – with smaller but still punitive costs involved. Privacy cases offered no defence of truth, and ambiguity over the potential defence of public interest.

Read more:

Couple wrongly arrested over Gatwick drone chaos could have ‘strong’ privacy claim against newspapers in wake of Sir Cliff ruling

Couple in drone incident hit out at media coverage of arrest but press point to police farce

MPs repeat call for ‘Cliff’s Law’ to stop suspects being named before charge after Gatwick drone front pages

The press ruins Christmas for former drone suspects – Roy Greenslade

Outrage as gag order blocks #MeToo story

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An injunction to stop the Daily Telegraph exposing alleged sexual and racial abuse by a businessman was “a devastating blow” to press freedom, the paper said in six pages of coverage.

The Court of Appeal granted an injunction to stop the paper naming the “leading businessman”, because the story probably arose from a breach of non-disclosure agreements – in which employees are paid money to stay silent.

The Telegraph said the ruling was “contrary to the age-old principle against prior restraint of the press”, which traditionally said the media should not be prevented from publishing stories that people wished to suppress – on the basis that they could be sued if the story was unjustified.

The editor said he was confident the junction would be overturned.

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Prime Minister Theresa May said in the Commons that NDAs were being used unethically. Labour MP Jess Phillips said: “It seems that our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they can pay to keep it quiet.”

Telegraph stories: 
The British #MeToo scandal which cannot be revealed
Opinion: The public have a right to know when the powerful seek to gag the vulnerable

Press Gazette:
Telegraph gagged by injunction

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