Resolution Statement Complaint 00918-18 Dixon v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Eloise Dixon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Brave British girl, 13, saved her dying mother’s life by ‘keeping her hand firmly on her stomach to stop blood flow’ as police rushed them to hospital after being shot at in Rio favela”, published on 11 August 2017, and an article headlined “Hero ex-para accompanies his wife to private hospital in Brazil after he saved her and their three children from an armed gang as police close in on two suspects”, published on 8 August 2017.
2. The articles reported that the complainant had been shot while on holiday with her family in Brazil.
3. The complainant said that she and her family had been harassed by reporters representing Mail Online in Brazil. Their conduct and the publication’s coverage, which had named the children and had included images of her husband looking distressed, had intruded into her private life and that of her husband and children at a time of trauma and shock. She said that, although Mail Online had not published the footage, one of the reporters who had contributed to its coverage had filmed her and her family while she was lying on a hospital bed waiting to be transferred to a second hospital.
4. The complainant said that the publication had inaccurately reported the circumstances of the shooting: her family had not entered the favela because they had misunderstood directions given to them while looking for water, and they had not misunderstood orders given to them by the armed men. In addition, the publication had inaccurately reported that her daughter had held her hands over her wound to stop the blood; this had not happened.
5. The publication offered its sincere apologies if its reporting had caused the complainant and her family any upset.
6. The publication said that it had used copy provided by an agency reporter who had been present at the first hospital, and it had one reporter present at the second hospital. It denied that either reporter had engaged in harassment or that their conduct had intruded into the privacy or grief of the complainant and her family. The agency reporter had filmed the complainant and her family from a respectful distance with the permission of the hospital’s management; this footage was not published. The agency reporter had asked one question of the complainant’s husband. He had not answered or made a request to desist; no further questions were asked. At the second hospital, the reporter had asked one question of the complainant’s husband who had not replied. Other approaches were directed to the hospital press office who never said that the family did not want to talk to the press.
7. The publication said that its reports had been based on information provided by the police, and it provided the reporter’s notes. Due to the complainant’s concerns, it made various amendments to the articles and appended the following corrective footnotes:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Eloise Dixon's daughter held pressure on her mother's wound and saved her life. We have since been made aware that this was not the case. The article also stated the family had got lost due to a language mix up when they had stopped to ask for directions and a place to buy water. We are happy to clarify that sat nav had directed the family into the favela while aiming for their scheduled stop in Angra dos Reis.
Relevant Code provisions
8. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Clause 2 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Clause 3 (Harassment)
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.
iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.
iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as
sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.
9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
10. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the parties agreed terms by which the matter could be resolved. This included the removal of the images of the complainant’s husband and children, and the removal of the children’s names.
11. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 24/01/2018
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/05/2018
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