Ruling

02168-14 Ward v Daily Mail

    • Date complaint received

      23rd February 2015

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 3 Harassment

·        Decision of the Complaints Committee 02168-14 Ward v Daily Mail

Summary of complaint 

1. Emily Ward complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mail had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Sky Sports News personnel have made a habit of sending out joke tweets that could easily be misinterpreted despite the 24/7 scrutiny of the Twittersphere — not least by their own TV station”, published on 24 November 2014. 

2. The article, a sport diary piece, reported that the complainant had found herself in “hot water” with her employer, having posted a “saucy” image on Instagram accompanied with the message “would you like some penis with your coffee”. The word “penis” had appeared in the article as “p****”. 

3. The complainant explained that the image was of the foam on top of a cup of coffee, which in her view resembled a penis. She had posted the image and caption as a joke. She was concerned that the newspaper had not reproduced the image, and that the word “penis” had not been spelled out in full. She considered that this gave the misleading impression that the image she had posted was sexual or pornographic, and that she had used offensive or obscene language. She suggested that the omission of the final four letters of the word “penis” implied that she had used the term “pussy” in the posting, or a similar word. 

4. The complainant said that the post had no connection with her profession. In any case, she did not occupy a high profile position. She had been distressed by publication, and considered that it amounted to a failure to respect her private life. The complainant acknowledged that her Instagram page had not been set to private at the time of the post. 

5. The newspaper did not accept that the article had contained any inaccuracy. The image had accurately been described as “saucy” and this did not carry the connotations of obscenity which the complainant claimed. It was entitled to decline to publish the image in question – which some readers may have found offensive – and to use asterisks when spelling out the word “penis”. This would not have misled readers. Reporting the fact that the complainant had made the posting disclosed no private information about her; there was no breach of Clause 3.  

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. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance. 

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. 

Findings of the Committee

7. It was not inaccurate for the newspaper to have described the image which the complainant had posted as “saucy”, and the Committee did not accept that the story had suggested that the image had been pornographic or obscene. Any misleading impression given by the use of asterisks was not significant in the context of the article, which made clear the nature of the posting. 

8.  The image was posted publicly on the internet by the complainant. It did not disclose any private information about her, nor was the fact that she had posted the image private. Publication of information about her post did not raise a breach of Clause 3, and the newspaper was not therefore obliged to demonstrate that publication had been justified with reference to the public interest. 

Conclusions

9. The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial Action Required

N/A 

Date complaint received: 02/12/2014

Date decision issued: 23/02/2015