Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Case Study 8: Paul McCartney v Hello!

  • Sir Paul McCartney is photographed with his son and his daughter walking in Paris, seated by the Seine and eating lunch outside a café
  • One photograph shows the family inside Notre Dame cathedral and the magazine describes how they lit a candle for Sir Paul's recently deceased wife, Linda, and took some time to meditate in peace
  • Sir Paul says he was unaware that he and his family had been stalked by photographers but believes that they took "highly intrusive photographs of us in our most private moments at this very difficult time in our lives"
  • The editor of the magazine says the photos were obtained from news agencies and were not taken secretly
  • She concedes that the photograph of the family in the cathedral should not have appeared and writes directly to the celebrity to apologise for any distress caused
Should a well-known celebrity like this, photographed in a place open to the public, expect privacy in these cirumstances?

Case Study 7: A Police Officer v The Sunday Telegraph

  • Journalists arrive at the home of a woman police officer who has repsonsibility for investigating racially motivated crimes
  • They pretend they are writing a book about military history and want to speak to her husband
  • In fact, they are seeking to explose the fact that the policewoman's susband hs a large collection of Nazi memorabilia, including a mannequin dressed in SS uniform
  • To the journalists this seems to sit uneasily with the policewoman's job
  • Neither the officer nor her husband are there when the journalists call, but her mother-in-law opens the door
  • The female reporter says she wishes to use the toilet and is directed upstairs by the mother-in-law while the male journalist enters the house and takes photographs which later appear in the artile, which the police officer says intrude into her privacy
  • The policeofficer also complains about the journalists' misrepresentation
  • The newspaper admits that it used subterfuge in researching the story, arguing that their action were in public interest as the complainant was a police officer with responsibility for investigating racially motivated crimes
  • It also argues that the information could not have been obtained in any other way since the police officer's husband, the owner of the memorabilia and member of the BNP, had said he would never speak to the press again after previously being "caught out"
Have the journalists invaded the privacy of this woman and her family and, if so, was it justified?
The Cpde has rules on using subterfuge and misrepresentation. Did the journalists behave improperly in this respect or was the newspaper right in arguing they were acting in the public interest?

Case Study 6: A Woman v Eastbourne Gazette

  • A reporter from a local newspaper approached close family members of a man who has suffered a motorcycle accident that left him in a coma
  • During the man's first visit home after regaining consciousness a journalist approaches the house wishing to speak to the family with view to a story
  • He is told by the family that they will call him at a more appropriate time if they decide to speak about the accident
  • The journalist leaves an answerphone message later in the week and telephones again asking for permission to visit the man
  • Permission is firmly denied but that day the journalist enters the hospital without identifying himself and questions the man despite the fact that his injuries are such that he "barely knows his own name"
Is the journalist just doing his job in persuing an interview even in the hospital, or is he unduly harassing the man in breach of Clause 4 (Harassment) and behaving irresponsibly in breach of Clause 8 (Hospitals)?

Case Study 5: A Woman v The Sun

  • Several newspapers publish photographs of a woman jumping to her death from a London hotel
  • The tragedy occured in view of onlookers and a passing photographer
  • One newspaper publishes the photographs before the woman's identity had been made known
  • One picture shows her standing on a ledge outside a window and one shows her during the fall
  • Other newspapers publish similar images the following day after the woman has been identified
  • A friend of the woman complains that the publication of the images was unnecessary and it was merely a matter of luck that she had been informed of her friends death before she saw the coverage
  • She considers the images to be horrifying and distressing and the publication disgusting and voyeuristic
  • The newspapers express their condolences to the family and friends of the dead woman, and express their regret for the distress that has been caused
  • However, they argue that the decision to publish the photographs was considered carefully and is justified
  • The event took place in public view and was witnessed by a crowd, the coverage was brief and factual and neither made light of the circumstances of the death or dwelt salaciously on unpleasant details
Would the terms of Clause 5 on intrusion into grief and shock apply in this instance?

Case Study 4: A Woman v The Independent

  • An actress complains through her agent that a piece in a celebrity gossip column has intruded into her privacy
  • The article reports that she has withdrawn from a theatre role because she has fallen pregnant
  • It also says that she pulled out from a previous role because of a pregnancy and suggests that her "efforts to start a family are getting in the way of her career"
  • The actress says the article intrudes into her privacy by announcing her pregnancy before she has even told her family, at that point the only people she has informed are her partner, her agent and the producer of the show
  • A press release explaining her withdrawal referred only to an "unforseen circumstance"
  • She subsequently suffers a miscarriage
  • Initially the newspaper responds by saying that, while it regrets the distress the actress has suffered, its columnist had no reason to believe that the pregnancy was not public information
  • It offers to consider a letter for publication in response to the article and says the item has been removed from its website
  • When the PCC investigates, the newspaper apologises privately for revealing the pregnancy and also offers to publish an apology
Is this offer by the newspaper sufficient redress?

Case Study 3: A Man v The Sunday Times

  • The parent of a 14 year old boy, who attends a London school where a student has been fatally stabbed, says that his son was approached by a journalist who offered him £1000 for a picture of the suspect to be taken from the school database
  • The parent claims that the journalist spoke at length with his son and continued to converse with him via telephone and text
  • The father has also said that his son had to leave the school, having been seen talking to the press by the suspects friends
  • The newspaper denies that the reporter offered the boy money or asked him to enter the school to obtain a photograph
  • However, they do accept that the reporter spoke to the boy and accompanied him to an internet café to see if a photograph could be downloaded
  • No photograph was taken and none of his comments to the reporter were published
Does this mean there is no complaint to answer?
Has the code been breached?

Case Study 2: A Man v Zoo Magazine

  • A father objects to a photograph of him and his 10 year old daughter, taken at a Premiership football ground following his teams defeat there in an FA Cup match
  • The pair were pictured in the crowd making offensive hand gestures which were described in the piece as "terrace bigotry"
  • The man says his daughter has been ridiculed by the magazine and her face should have been pixelated as in other publications
  • The magazine in which the photograph appeared says that on this occassion it was not necessary to obscure the childs face to protect her privacy
  • They argue that the man and his daughter were in a public place and the subject matter of the photograph does not effect the childs welfare, but that she and the complainant made offensive gestures to the public and their behaviour is open to censure
Should the magazine have obscured the child's features?
Did the father's behaviour suggest that he did not want to draw the attention of the press to his child?