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.
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.
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.
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.
Two newspapers were found to have breached the Editors’ Code of Practice after a headline wrongly said a mayor was “forced” to resign. The story was found to be accurate, but the papers said a sub-editor failed to read it properly before writing the headline. Read more
A newspaper failed to contact a woman’s ex-partner when she claimed he had harassed her and was subject to a court order, because it was concerned for her safety. IPSO found against the paper on grounds of accuracy, but not for breach of privacy. Note that the main interest here for journalism students in England and Wales is with the Editor’s Code – Northern Ireland has its own laws. Read more
The rapid evolution of transgender issues prompted the Independent Press Standards Organisation to issue special guidance for journalists. Nearly all parts of the Editor’s Code might come into play. Journalists should ask whether the subject has made their transgender status public, and whether they have applied for formal recognition. Gender identity should only be mentioned if specifically relevant to the story, says IPSO. Read the guidance here.
Note: this story was uploaded to Media Law Matters before the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation directive, which toughens up data protection law, from May 2018.