· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01328-14 Mouelhi v The Sun
Summary of complaint
1. Mesbeh Mouelhi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in article headlined “Tunisian toyboy left me broke…so I got another”, published on 31 July 2014.
2. The article told the story of the complainant’s partner’s former husband, to whom she said she had given her life savings before deciding to seek a divorce. She had been in a relationship with the complainant at the time of publication, and the article noted that both men were young and Tunisian.
3. The complainant said that the newspaper had published photographs of him without his consent, and he had not given permission for his personal details to be published. He said that this breached Clause 3. He also said that the article had prompted people to criticise him, but did not explain further why this constituted a breach of Clause 12.
4. The newspaper said that the complainant’s partner had signed a contract with the news agency which had sold the story to the newspaper, and had been paid for the pictures she had provided. It said that it believed that the complainant’s partner had a right to tell her story, and that it appeared that she had been happy with the article, after publication. It said that the story had previously appeared in a magazine, and so was in the public domain.
5. With regard to Clause 12, it said that nothing in the article was discriminatory, critical, or pejorative of the complainant; it noted that the complainant, like the woman’s previous husband, was Tunisian. The article had been positive about the complainant, and had noted that he had paid for the woman’s divorce.
6. Nonetheless, it offered to remove the article from the newspaper’s website, as a gesture of goodwill.
Relevant Code Provisions
7. Clause 3 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including pictures.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Findings of the Committee
8. The article under complaint was the story of the complainant’s partner’s relationships. She was entitled to tell her story, in accordance with her right to freedom of expression. While the Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concern about the inclusion of details which he considered to be personal, in light of the nature of the information and the fact that it had been provided to the newspaper by his partner, the Committee concluded that the publication of this information did not raise a breach of Clause 3.
9. The complainant’s partner had also provided the photograph of the complainant to the newspaper, and she had been remunerated for its use; it had not been obtained in a way which intruded into his privacy. Further, it did not reveal any information about him which would be considered private under the terms of Clause 3. There was no breach of Clause 3.
10. While it was regrettable that the complainant had received criticism following publication of the article, this would not in itself engage the terms of Clause 12.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 07/10/2014
Date decision issued: 20/02/2015Back to ruling listing