Decision of the Complaints Committee 03157-14 Ivleva v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Marina Ivleva complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Ukrainian internet bride in divorce fight with cash-strapped truck driver”, published online on 1 December 2014.
2. The complainant had grown up in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, had married a British man and was resident in the UK. Her husband had filed for divorce in 2013 and had been informed that she had already divorced him in Ukraine. The article was primarily a report of court proceedings, stating that the British courts had refused to recognise the Ukrainian decision, and that the complainant’s appeal of this judgment had been unsuccessful, leaving the complainant’s husband free to file for divorce in the UK. The article had also included comments made by the complainant’s husband to a journalist following the court case. He had said that she had considerable financial resources, while he was living in poverty.
3. The complainant said that she was a “programme administrator”, rather than “senior administrator” as reported. Furthermore, she did not possess assets of £300,000, as her husband had claimed in the report. She said that while she held Ukrainian, British and Russian passports, she considered herself Russian and it was inaccurate to describe her as Ukrainian. She considered the reference to her country of origin to be a pejorative and irrelevant reference to her ethnicity. She also said that the newspaper should have contacted her for comment prior to publication.
4. The complainant said that the article represented an unjustified intrusion into her private life. She said that the picture used to illustrate the story was private, and had been stolen from her computer.
5. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It defended the article as a fair and accurate report of court proceedings, provided by an agency. All information included in the story was either in the public domain or was presented as a claim by the complainant’s husband. Nonetheless, as a gesture of goodwill it offered to amend the online article to alter the complainant’s job title to “university administrator” and to remove her husband’s claims about her £300,000 fortune. As there were no significant inaccuracies, the newspaper did not accept that the terms of Clause 2 had been engaged. The photograph used in the article had been provided to the news agency by the complainant’s husband; it had evidently been taken with her consent in a public place and did not raise a breach of Clause 3 or Clause 10. However, it offered to remove it. As the article was focused on the complainant’s attempt to obtain a “secret divorce” in Ukraine, her country of origin was clearly relevant to the article.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply)
A fair opportunity to reply to published inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
Clause 3 (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 an 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 in private places without their consent.
Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)
i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.
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
7. The article was a report of proceedings which had taken place in open court, supplemented with comments made outside the court by the complainant’s husband to an agency reporter. It did not represent an unjustified intrusion into her private life. The complainant had provided no grounds for her belief that the photograph used in the story had been stolen from her computer, and the Committee was satisfied that it had been provided to the agency reporter by her husband. There was no breach of Clause 10. Furthermore, the photograph appeared to have been taken in a public place, with the complainant’s consent. It simply showed what she looked like and did not reveal any further private information about her. There was no breach of Clause 3.
8. Given that the complainant held a Ukrainian passport, it was not misleading to describe her as Ukrainian. Furthermore, the article had made clear that she held “joint Ukrainian, Russian and British nationality”. The article had not contained pejorative reference to the complainant’s ethnicity, and the terms of Clause 12 would not ordinarily prohibit a reference to an individual’s nationality. In the context of an article reporting the complainant’s attempt to divorce her husband in Ukraine without his knowledge, details of her country of origin were clearly relevant to the story.
9. The discrepancy between the complainant’s reported job title of “senior administrator” and her actual role as a “programme administrator” did not represent a significant inaccuracy meriting correction. The reference to the complainant’s assets was clearly presented as an estimate made by her husband, and the newspaper was entitled to report his comments.
10. The terms of Clause 2 do not require publications to ask the subjects of stories for comment prior to publication, but provide the opportunity to respond to published inaccuracies. In light of the trivial nature of the inaccuracy regarding the complainant’s job title, the Committee did not consider that an opportunity to reply was required in this instance.
11. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 25/12/2014
Date decision issued: 26/03/2015Back to ruling listing