Ruling

Resolution Statement 08865-16 Gayton v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      12th January 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge, 12 Discrimination, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Resolution Statement 08865-16 Gayton v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

1. Sarah Gayton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “‘He is doing this to take citizenship’: Facebook friends of Syrian refugee marrying female British aid worker from Calais Jungle claim ‘he always dreamed of flying to Britain’” published on 27 September 2016.

2. The article reported that the complainant had met her fiancé while carrying out volunteer work in the Calais “Jungle” refugee camp. It said that her fiancé had fled from the city of Aleppo, and that he had proposed to the complainant a few months after they had met. The article said that Facebook friends of the complainant’s fiancé had claimed that he was only getting married to her in order to get UK citizenship. It included a number of comments from the Facebook friends.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to state that her fiancé’s Facebook friends had said that the reason for his wanting to marry her was because “he just wants UK citizenship”. She said she had seen some of the relevant Facebook conversations between the friends and the journalist, and none of these included that quote.

4. The complainant was also concerned about the conduct of a journalist who had approached both her and her fiancé prior to publication. She said he had harassed her fiancé, and taken photographs of him without his consent. She also said that the article breached her privacy by disclosing the value of her house, and that photographs of her and her fiancé had been taken from her Facebook page without her consent in breach of Clause 10. She was also concerned that the article included comments that were discriminatory of refugees.

5. The publication denied that it had inaccurately reported the comments of the complainant’s fiancé’s Facebook friends. It provided transcripts of conversations between the complainant and the journalist to demonstrate that the comments had been reported accurately.

6. It denied that the journalist had harassed the complainant or her fiancé: he had approached both separately, in order to offer them the opportunity to respond to the allegations made about them. It said that he had remained polite and courteous throughout the exchange, and left when it was clear neither wanted to comment on the matter. It also said that the photographs of the complainant’s fiancé were taken in a public place where he had no reasonable expectation of privacy.

Relevant Code provisions

7. 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.

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. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

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 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 information without consent.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Mediated outcome

8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties.  

9. Following further correspondence, the publication offered to amend the headline, and remove a quote from one of the complainant’s fiancé’s Facebook friends.

10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

11. 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: 27/09/2016
Date complaint concluded: 21/12/20
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