Decision of the Complaints Committee 18930-17 Dixon v The Daily Telegraph
1. Eloise Dixon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “British mother shot by bandits after driving into Brazilian slum”, published on 8 August 2017, and an article headlined “British tourist ‘afraid’ to talk to police in Rio”, published on 9 August 2017.
2. The first article reported that the complainant had been shot by “armed bandits” while on holiday with her family in Brazil. It said that, according to police, the family had been looking for somewhere to buy water, had misunderstood locals who had given them directions, and had entered a “notorious slum”. The police said that two armed men had approached them and ordered them to leave; the family had not understood, and the men had then opened fire. It was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant and her husband.
3. The first article was published in a similar form online, under the headline “British woman shot as gang opens fire on family after straying into favela near Rio de Janeiro”.
4. The second article said that the complainant, who was recovering in hospital in Rio de Janeiro, was too scared to talk to the police, according to local media. It repeated the information given in the first article, gave the ages of the complainant’s three children and said that they had escaped injury. The print article included a photograph of the complainant.
5. The second article was also published online, under the headline “British tourist shot in favela in Rio ‘too scared’ to speak to police”. In addition to the image of the complainant, the online version included a photograph of the complainant with her husband and one of their young children; the child’s face was un-pixilated.
6. The complainant said that the newspaper’s coverage had intruded into her private life and that of her child, and its account of the incident was inaccurate.
7. The complainant was particularly concerned that the newspaper had published a photograph of her child, taken several years ago, without her face blurred and without consent. She said that her child had been disturbed by the publication of the photograph, which she considered to be private, and by the fact that friends at school had sent her messages about what had happened to her because of the coverage. In addition, the complainant said that the newspaper had taken photographs from her social media account and had published them without consent.
8. The complainant also said that the articles had included inaccuracies. The newspaper had inaccurately reported that her family had entered the favela because they had misunderstood directions given to them while looking for water. In fact, the hire car’s sat nav had misdirected them. The articles had also wrongly reported that they had misunderstood orders given to them by the armed men: the men had not spoken to them at all.
9. The newspaper said that it sympathised with the complainant for what must have been a terrifying ordeal, but it did not accept that it had breached the Code.
10. The newspaper noted that the photograph showing the complainant’s child had been taken ten years ago, and the article had not named her. It considered that the child would not now be easily recognisable from the image, if at all; it had not focused on the child; and it was not private as it was posted on the complainant’s public Facebook page.
11. The newspaper said that there was also a public interest in publishing the photograph. It was important to bring to public attention the dangers posed by unwary tourism in Brazil. In this case, children’s lives had been put at risk by the family’s straying into the favela; the image helped to bring home to readers the gravity of the situation, and reminded them that very young children had been involved. In light of the complaint, the newspaper nevertheless removed the image from the article.
12. With regard to the complainant’s concern that images had been taken from her social media account, the newspaper said that the account was open; the images were available to anyone to view and were not private.
13. The newspaper did not consider that the complainant had identified any significant inaccuracies in the articles. It said that the articles had been based on information, reported locally, which had been issued by the local police chief in Brazil, and later by the medical director at the hospital. It had no reporters on the ground in Brazil. It said that it had been entitled to rely on the police and hospital press statements.
14. Nevertheless, the newspaper amended the online articles to take account of the complainant’s concerns. It also offered to publish the following clarification on page two of the newspaper:
Contrary to what we reported in an 8 Aug article ("British mother shot by bandits after driving into Brazilian slum"), the Dixon family had not stopped to ask for directions or look for water when they were attacked, but had in fact been misled by their satnav. We would also like to point out that the gunmen did not speak to Mrs Dixon or her family.
It also offered to add the following footnote to the online articles:
CORRECTION: Contrary to what this article originally reported, the Dixon family had not stopped to ask for directions or look for water when they were attacked, but had in fact been misled by their satnav. We would also like to point out that the gunmen did not speak to Mrs Dixon or her family. We are happy to make this clear, and we have amended the article.
15. As a way to resolve the matter, the newspaper offered to remove the online articles, to write a private letter of apology and to make a charitable donation.
16. The complainant did not accept the newspaper’s offer as a resolution. She said it was irrelevant that the image of her child had been taken several years ago; the newspaper had given no consideration to her children when it chose to publish the image; it could have been a photograph of one of her other children.
Relevant Code provisions
17. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
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.
Clause 6 (Children)
i) All pupils should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) They must not be approached or photographed at school without permission of the school authorities.
iii) Children under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
iv) Children under 16 must not be paid for material involving their welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.
5) In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.
Findings of the Committee
18. The articles clearly reported on a subject which involved the welfare of the complainant’s children: they had been involved in a shooting while on holiday with their family, and they had witnessed their mother being shot and seriously injured. One of the articles included an un-pixilated image of one of the children, which showed her full face. The Committee noted that the newspaper had been unaware that the image of the child had been taken 10 years ago when it chose to publish it, and its position, upon realising this fact, that the child would not now be recognisable from the image due to the passage of time. However, the fact it had transpired that it was an old photograph did not justify the newspaper’s decision to publish it in this context, as the complainant’s child was still under 16 at the time of publication.
19. Publishing the unedited image of the child in the context of this story, without the consent of a parent or a similarly responsible adult, represented a breach of Clause 6. There was no specific public interest in publishing this image, particularly as an exceptional public interest justification was required in the case of a child. The complaint under Clause 6 was upheld.
20. The Committee then considered the complaint in relation to the other published information about the child. While it understood that the complainant’s child had been upset by the coverage, the fact that the complainant had three children who were also involved in the incident was relevant information about the incident. The articles had given their ages, but they had not named them. The fact that their friends were informed of what had happened did not represent an intrusion into their time at school in breach of Clause 6.
21. The newspaper had illustrated its coverage with images taken from the complainant’s social media account, which were publicly available. The images had shown the complainant’s face; she was not shown engaging in a private activity; and their publication had not disclosed private information about her. There was no breach of Clause 2.
22. It was not in dispute that the newspaper had based its coverage on information issued by the police in Brazil and by the hospital where the complainant was being treated, which had been reported locally. The newspaper was entitled to rely on the accuracy of this information, which had come from well-placed sources. Furthermore, both articles made clear that the information regarding the circumstances of the shooting had come from the police and the hospital; they had not given the misleading impression that the newspaper had obtained a first-hand account from the complainant. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the articles in breach of Clause 1(i).
23. Following publication, the newspaper had accepted that the information issued by the police and the hospital had been inaccurate, and that the family had not misunderstood directions given to them or the orders of the gunmen to leave the favela. The distinction was significant, as these claims could suggest that the shooting could have been avoided had the family followed instructions. As such, a correction was required in order to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii).
24. The newspaper had amended the online articles and it had offered to publish a correction on page two and as an online footnote, which made clear that the family had entered the favela because of the satnav and stated that the gunmen had not spoken to the complainant or her family. The Committee considered that this wording made the correct position clear and met the requirement of Clause 1 (ii).
25. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial action required
26. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 6 (Children) of the Code, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.
27. In circumstances where the newspaper had breached Clause 6, the appropriate remedy was the publication of an adjudication.
28. As the breach of the Code had appeared online, the Committee decided that the adjudication should be published on the newspaper’s website.
29. The headline to the adjudication should make clear that IPSO has upheld the complaint, give the title of the newspaper and refer to the complaint’s subject matter. The headline must be agreed with IPSO in advance. A link to the full adjudication (including the headline) should appear in the top 50% of stories on the publication’s website for 24 hours; it should then be archived in the usual way.
30. The terms of the adjudication for publication are as follows:
Eloise Dixon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Telegraph breached Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “British tourist shot in favela in Rio ‘too scared’ to speak to police”, published on 9 August 2017.
The complainant said that the newspaper had published a photograph of her child without her face blurred and without consent, in breach of Clause 6. She said that her child had been disturbed by the publication of the photograph, which she considered to be private.
The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. The photograph had been taken ten years ago, so it did not consider that the child, who was not named in the article, would be easily recognisable from the image. It also noted that the image was publicly available on the complainant’s public Facebook page. The newspaper said that in any case, there was also a public interest in publishing the photograph as it helped to bring home to readers the gravity of the situation in which children had been involved.
The article clearly reported on a subject which involved the child’s welfare: she had been involved in a shooting and had witnessed her mother being shot and seriously injured. The un-pixilated photograph of the child showed her full face. The image of the child had been taken 10 years ago; however, this did not justify the newspaper’s decision to publish it un-pixilated in the context of this article as the child was still under 16 at the time of publication.
Publishing the unedited image in the context of this story, without the consent of a parent or a similarly responsible adult, represented a breach of Clause 6. There was no specific public interest in publishing this image, particularly as an exceptional public interest justification was required in the case of a child. The complaint under Clause 6 was upheld.
31. The Committee had also found that a correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1(ii). The newspaper should now publish the wording in print and online, as offered.
Date complaint received: 09/10/2017
Date complaint concluded: 29/03/2018
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