Decision of the Complaints Committee 11214-21 Zaman v The Mail on Sunday
Summary of Complaint
1. Nazifa Zaman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Mail on Sunday breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Corbynista forced to say sorry for joining 'cops are assassins' demo”, published on 7 November 2021.
2. The article reported on the attendance of an MP “at a protest at which police were branded ‘assassins’ and activists called for ‘no cops’.” It included a photograph showing the MP at the protest; the complainant was also shown in the photograph, wearing a mask, along with several other attendees at the protest. The complainant was not identified or named within the article.
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same form, under the headline “Corbynista Labour MP Zarah Sultana is forced to apologise after joining ‘cops are assassins’ protest”.
4. The complainant said that the photograph included in the article intruded upon her privacy, in breach of Clause 2. She said that this was the case as the photograph was taken from her private Instagram account, and the publication had not asked her permission before publishing it.
5. The publication said it did not accept that the publication of the photograph represented a breach of Clause 2. It said that the image showing the complainant had been widely circulated in local political circles and had been sent to Labour party whips. It also said that it had not obtained the image directly from the complainant’s social media; rather, it had been sent to the publication by an individual who had received the image after it had been widely circulated. The publication then noted that the complainant had 715 Instagram followers, and that it was unlikely that she knew them all personally. She had, therefore, it said, disclosed the photograph to a large group of people and had no reasonable expectation of privacy over its subsequent republication.
6. The publication also said that the photograph did not reveal anything private about the complainant; it merely showed her attending a public protest. It noted that the protest took place in the centre of a city, and provided a photograph showing the protest location – which was a large open square, in close proximity to shops and restaurants.
7. The complainant said that she had no issue with people knowing of her attendance at the protest, but she reiterated that she had not given the publication permission to publish a photograph which had appeared on her private Instagram account. She then said that her social media followers were carefully vetted, and that she knew the majority of them personally to ensure that photographs posted on her private social media accounts would not be more widely circulated.
8. The complainant also said that the publication of her photograph had revealed her personal and political opinions to an audience of over 2 million people; this was private information over which she considered she had a reasonable expectation of privacy. She acknowledged that she had held public facing positions in student politics; however, she noted that she had attended the protest in a personal capacity only, rather than as a representative of any political group. She accepted that the visit of an MP to the area may be a matter of local interest, however she considered the publication of her photograph to be disproportionate to any public interest in publicising this visit.
Relevant Code Provisions
Clause 2 (Privacy)
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental 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.
Findings of the Committee
9. The Committee noted that the terms of Clause 2 make clear that, when considering an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information. The Committee considered first the extent of the complaint’s disclosure of the information; and second, the extent and nature of the nature of the information disclosed.
10. The photograph showed the complainant’s attendance at the protest, which she had indicated that she did not consider to be private, and her association with the other individuals shown in the photograph.
11. The Committee noted that protests are generally public in nature; this one had taken place in a central shopping location and placards were being held in order to draw attention to and publicise the purpose of the protest. The complainant would have been plainly visible to passing members of the public. While the complainant said that the publication of the photograph had revealed her personal and political opinions without her consent, it had not revealed any information beyond that which was visible to anyone attending or viewing the march, or wishing to take a photograph. The Committee did not consider that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to this information.
12. The Committee, therefore, concluded that: the photograph did not show the complainant in a situation over which she had a reasonable expectation of privacy and that the photograph did not contain information which amounted to an intrusion into her private life. The publication had not, therefore, been obliged to obtain consent prior to publication of the photograph. There was no breach of Clause 2.
13. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 09/11/2021
complaint concluded by IPSO: 07/04/2022
Independent Complaints Reviewer
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.Back to ruling listing