Resolution Statement Complaint 20931-17 Dixon v Sun.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Eloise Dixon complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Sun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock), Clause 6 (Children), and Clause 8 (Hospitals) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Wrong turn: First picture of mum shot by armed robbers in Rio favela ‘after taking wrong turn looking for water’, published on 7 August 2017; in an article headlined “Bandits shot dead: Cops raid Brazil slum where Brit mum was shot killing two gangsters and arresting suspect in bloody shootout with drug lords”, published on 13 August 2017; and in a video headlined “Bullets removed: British woman Eloise Dixon shot in slum in Rio, Brazil, has emergency surgery”, published on 8 August 2017.
2. The articles reported that the complainant had been shot while on holiday with her family in Brazil. One of the items was a video which showed the complainant lying on a hospital bed, accompanied by her husband and children. As the bed was wheeled out of the hospital by staff, a journalist could be heard asking the complainant’s husband how she was; he did not respond.
3. The complainant said that she and her family had been harassed by reporters in Brazil. Their conduct and the newspaper’s coverage had intruded into her private life and that of her husband and children at a time of trauma and shock.
4. The complainant said that a reporter had waited outside the hospital where she was being treated and had videoed her and her family while she lay injured on a hospital bed, and a reporter had shouted questions at her husband.
5. The complainant said that the newspaper had further intruded into her private life by publishing photographs taken from her social media account without consent. She was also concerned about the publication of her passport photograph, and questioned how the newspaper had obtained it.
6. The complainant said that the articles had included a number inaccuracies. Most significantly, one had inaccurately stated that she had been killed in the shooting, which had caused distress to her family and friends. The newspaper had also inaccurately reported the circumstances of the shooting: her family had not entered the favela because they had misunderstood directions given to them while looking for water, and they had not misunderstood orders given to them by the armed men.
7. The newspaper said that it was very sorry for any distress that it had caused the complainant and her family.
8. The newspaper said that the video of the complainant had been published on its website due to a production error, and it removed it as soon as it became aware of the complainant’s concerns.
9. The newspaper said that a freelance reporter, who was working for the newspaper as well as agency, and a photographer had been present at the hospital, and they had filmed the complainant and her family from a respectful distance with the permission of the hospital’s management. The reporter had asked one question of the complainant’s husband. He had not answered or made a request to desist; no further questions were asked. Two other approaches to the family had been made via third parties, and no requests to desist were made at any time.
10. The newspaper said the remaining photographs were publicly available on social media. The image of the complainant’s passport photograph had been taken from a video published online by a Brazilian broadcaster. It had cropped it so that it only showed the complainant’s face and no additional details.
11. In response to the complainant’s concern about the accuracy of the coverage, the newspaper said that it had relied on the information issued by the police, and it had been accurately attributed to the police in the coverage. The report that the complainant had been killed was a case of human error for which it apologised. This inaccuracy had been immediately amended when the newspaper was alerted was to it.
Relevant Code provisions
12. 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 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.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock)
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. These provisions should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
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.
Clause 8 (*Hospitals)
i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
13. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
14. During IPSO’s investigation, the matter was settled between the parties. The grounds for resolution included the publication of the following footnotes:
Eloise Dixon has asked us to make clear that in fact the family took a wrong turn due to their sat nav giving inaccurate directions, and that they were not ordered to leave the area before being shot at. We are happy to do so.
A previous version of this article erroneously stated that Eloise Dixon had been killed. As the rest of the article made clear, Ms Dixon was in fact in a stable condition. We are happy to make clear that Ms Dixon was not killed in the incident, and apologise to Ms Dixon and her family for any distress caused. Ms Dixon has also asked us to make clear that in fact they took a wrong turn due to their sat nav giving inaccurate directions, and that they were not ordered to leave the area before being shot at. We are happy to do so.
15. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 09/10/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 01/05/2018Back to ruling listing