Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01888-20 Saled v birminghammail.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Abu Saled complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that birminghammail.co.uk breached Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Shoppers queue round the block at Asda Small Heath.”, published on 20 March 2020.
2. The article reported on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic at supermarkets and contained multiple photographs of people queuing to get into a supermarket,
3. The complainant, who was one of the people photographed, said that he had been queuing to get into the supermarket when he saw the photographer taking photos. He said that he, and a few other people in the queue had asked him to stop taking photos, and that the complainant had asked him where he was from, to which the photographer said he was “from space” and was in a public place and could take photos. The complainant said that he had hid his face from the camera. The complainant said that this behaviour amounted to harassment in breach of Clause 3, and that the publication of the photos, without his consent, constituted a breach of Clause 2.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that no one had asked the photographer to stop taking photographs, although the photographer had heard someone shouting, but could not tell who it was or what they were saying. It said that this could not amount to a request to desist from taking photographs, and there was therefore no breach of Clause 3. The publication also provided all of the photos that had been taken that day, which it said showed that there was a clear distance between the complainant and the photographer. The images also showed that the complainant had been facing away from the photographer. Prior to IPSO’s involvement the publication deleted the photos that the complainant had identified as a gesture of goodwill. Prior to the start of IPSO’s investigation, the complainant identified a further photograph, which the publication also deleted. At the end of IPSO’s investigation, the complainant identified another two photographs, which showed him from behind. The publication said that the complainant was not identifiable in the last set of images, and therefore did not delete them.
5. The publication said that the images did not breach Clause 2 as they had been taken in a public place, where the complainant had no reasonable expectation of privacy and they did not disclose any personal information about the complainant.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.
iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
7. 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.
Findings of the Committee
8. Newspapers regularly take and publish photographs of people in order to illustrate their stories, and doing so in and of itself does not constitute a breach of Clause 3. The Committee noted that there was a dispute between the complainant and the publication regarding the behaviour of the photographer who had taken images of the complainant outside a supermarket. The complainant had said that he had spoken to the photographer directly and asked him to stop taking photos, and that the photographer had failed to identify himself and who he represented when asked. The publication had said that the photographer had stayed at a distance from the complainant at all times, and had only heard a shouting which could not be attributed to a specific person. Based on the photographs which had been provided by the publication (which the publication said evidenced the full extent of the interaction with the complainant), where the complainant appeared to be at a distance from the photographer which supported the publication’s position that he had been too far away for the photographer to be aware he was being particularly addressed or was being specifically asked to desist. Therefore, the Committee could not find that there had been any failure to respect a request to desist or that the photographer had failed to identify himself in breach of Clause 3(ii).
9. The photographs supplied by the publication appeared to support the publication’s assertion that the photographer had kept his distance from the complainant, that there had been no interaction between the complainant and the photographer, and that there was no grounds to find that the photographer had engaged in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit. On this basis there was no breach of Clause 3(i).
10. The photographs in the article were taken in a public place, and simply showed the complainant’s likeness. There was no information in the images in respect of which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. As such, there was no breach of Clause 2.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 20/03/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/08/2020Back to ruling listing