Decision of the Complaints Committee 03159-14 Ivleva v Metro
Summary of complaint
1. Marina Ivleva complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Metro had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 3 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Lorry driver sues internet bride after she became successful”, published in print and online on 2 December 2014.
2. The complainant had grown up in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, 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 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 it was inaccurate to describe her as Ukrainian. While she held three passports: Ukrainian, British and Russian, she considered herself to be Russian. Furthermore, she did not possess assets of £300,000, as claimed by her husband in the report.
4. The complainant considered that the article as a whole represented an intrusion into her private life, and said that the photograph used to illustrate it was private. She said that this photograph had been stolen from her PC or her loft. The complainant also said that it was discriminatory to refer to her as Ukrainian.
5. The newspaper defended its coverage as an accurate report of court proceedings. The copy had been supplied by an agency and used in good faith; it was based on two public hearings; the Court of Appeal proceedings and the judgment being appealed against. The photographs used in the article had been supplied by the agency, who had obtained them from the complainant’s husband. The complainant’s husband had been interviewed outside court, and had said that he estimated the complainant’s wealth to be around £300,000, this estimate had been reproduced. Nonetheless, the newspaper offered to remove this reference from the online article. It also offered to remove the description of the complainant as “Ukrainian” and to make clear that she held both Russian and Ukrainian nationalities.
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 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 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 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 largely based on information given in open court, which was therefore already in the public domain. The re-publication of this information, along with comment from the complainant’s husband, did not represent an intrusion into her privacy, nor did the photograph used in the article constitute an unjustified intrusion into her private life. It appeared to have been taken in a public place, with her consent. It simply showed what the complainant looked like, and did not reveal any further private information about her. The complainant had not provided grounds to support her contention that the photograph had been stolen from her computer, rather than provided to a reporter by her husband. There was no breach of Clause 3 or Clause 10.
8. The reference to the complainant’s assets of £300,000 was clearly presented as an estimate. This did not breach the terms of Clause 1. Given that the complainant held a Ukrainian passport, it was not misleading to describe her as “Ukrainian”. The terms of Clause 12 do not generally prevent the inclusion of biographical details about the subject of an article, including their nationality. Regardless, given the complainant’s attempt to divorce her husband in Ukraine, her Ukrainian background was clearly of relevance to the story.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 25/12/2014
Date decision issued: 26/03/2015Back to ruling listing