Ruling

09775-23 Rizwan v Daily Mirror

    • Date complaint received

      14th September 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment, 6 Children

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09775-23 Rizwan v Daily Mirror


Summary of Complaint

1. Syed Rizwan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Mirror breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 3 (Harassment) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code in two articles published on 13 January headlined: 

  • “Tracked down... the Brit who kills for fun”
  • “'British trophy hunters should not be allowed to bring home their sick souvenirs'”

2. The headline of the first article appeared on the newspaper’s front-page and was accompanied by two images of the complainant, captioned: “SHOCKING  Syed Rizwan with dead lion in South Africa. Inset, the Mirror’s [journalist] confronts him”.

3. The article continued on a two-page spread which spanned pages six and seven, under the headline “On hols to KILL”. At the top of the two-page spread was a banner, which read “MIRROR TRACKS DOWN AN UNREPENTANT HUNTER”, and the strapline “British trophy killer defends shooting wild beasts for fun”.

4. The article was an interview with the complainant about his hunting practices. It reported that the complainant “accepted that many think trophy hunts are controversial but said they don’t understand everything that goes on”, adding that the publication’s campaign was “wrong” and not “helping the animals” but “putting them more in danger”. It reported that the complainant said that the hunt industry protects wild creatures from poachers; “dismissed claims of dwindling lion numbers”; compared African hunts to UK pheasant shoots where the birds are “reared for the hunt”; and said it was “stupid” for “anti-trophy” people to object the killing of a lion but not a deer.

5. The article also reported information posted by the complainant on his Facebook page. It stated that the complainant – a “father of three” – listed his hobbies as “hunting” and “fishing” on his Facebook page next to “a profile picture of him holding the mane of a dead lion in South Africa”. It then reported that the complainant “removed” this image “once contacted by the Daily Mirror”. It then stated in “another post” on Facebook, the complainant wrote “out with the little hunter again” next to “dozens of images of his son at hunts in the UK, including one of the youngster smiling next to a dead deer”.

6. The article named the town where the complainant lived; identified the complainant as the director of a named company; and noted that “his car number plate ends with the letters GUN.” It was accompanied by a series of photographs: three showed the complainant with his “trophies” from hunting and two showed the complainant outside his home speaking with a journalist. The second of these images included the front of the complainant’s vehicle and showed the final three letters of his number plate.

7. The first article also included a text box, titled “What the law says”, which stated that “the Convention International Trade in Endangered Species bans the trade, import and export of the body parts of endangered animals, other than in exceptional circumstances”. It then stated that “animals killed by trophy hunters [were currently] exempt” and a Bill addressing this was currently passing through Parliament.

8. A similar version of the first article also appeared online, under the headline “EXCLUSIVE: Brit trophy hunter poses with dead lions and has 'GUN' car number plate”, with a sub-headline which said as follows: “Syed Rizwan, 44, has been on hunts all over the world. He claimed the trophy hunting industry protects wild creatures, such as rhinos, from falling into the hands of poachers”. The online version of the article, when reporting on “what the law says” about trophy-hunting, said that despite “increasing threats to many species, there is a loophole allowing the movement of hunting trophies in the internal agreement on animal protection”.

9. The second article under complaint was a leader column which was critical of the complainant’s conduct. This article was accompanied by two images of the complainant standing next to dead animals.

10. Prior to the publication of both articles, on 21 November 2022 and on 11 January 2023, a reporter acting on behalf of the publication attended the complainant’s home. The complainant said that the approach and conduct of this journalist breached Clause 3 of the Editors’ Code. He said that his wife had made clear to the reporter at the time of the first approach that he did not wish to comment. The complainant said that he had spoken directly with the reporter when they made the second approach to his home. He said that during the conversation, he made clear to the reporter that he did not wish to speak, but they continued to question him. Therefore, he said that the newspaper had ignored two clear requests to desist from questioning him, in breach of the terms of Clause 3.

11. The complainant said he was the victim of a “doxing” campaign by the publication, and the first article represented an unjustified intrusion into his private life in breach of Clause 2. He said that the article revealed the location of his family home: it identified the town where he lived and his company which, he said, was registered at his home address. The complainant also said that the article breached Clause 2 as it contained photographs of him standing outside his home. Further, he said that it contained a photograph of his car’s number plate – while it was partially obscured, the last three letters were clearly visible and therefore people in the local area would be able to identify him as the car’s owner.

12. He also said that photographs of him had been obtained from his private Facebook page and published in both articles without his consent, in breach of Clause 2. He also said that the reference to his child within the first article represented a breach of Clause 6, and referred specifically to the terms of Clause 6 (v), which states that editors should not use the notoriety of a parent as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.

13. The complainant said that the first article misrepresented the comments he provided to the reporter, in breach of Clause 1. He said that his comments were taken out of context and not reported “verbatim”. He said that his comment that “they don’t understand everything that goes on” was directed at journalists that covered this topic rather than members of the public, and this was not made clear in the article under complaint. He also said that his comment about the double-standards in attitudes to hunting in the UK – involving the regular shooting of deer, pheasant, and partridge – was taken out of context. He also denied that he called anti-hunting campaigners “stupid”. He further denied that he “dismissed claims of dwindling lion numbers” and expressed concern that the article omitted to make clear that “lion hunting pays for most lion conservation”.

14. The complainant also denied that he “removed” a specific image “once contacted by” the publication and said that this inaccurately implied that he was embarrassed by the image.

15. In addition, the complainant said that the first article was inaccurate to report that “despite the increasing threat to many species, there is a loophole allowing the movement of hunting trophies in the international agreement on animal protection”. He said that this was the case because national governments have the power to ban trophy import and exports, and the UK was in fact planning on banning such imports – though any ban would not apply to Northern Ireland. The complainant also denied that the “Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species [CITES] bans the trade, import and export of the body parts of endangered animals, other than in exceptional circumstances.” He said that the actual aim of CITES was to “ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species” and that the export of species threatened with extinction was permissible should there be “the prior grant and presentation of an export permit”.

16. The publication did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code, and denied that the conduct of its reporter represented a breach of Clause 3. The publication provided IPSO with a copy of recordings made by the journalist during both approaches to the complainant’s home. In the first recording, it noted that the complainant’s wife did not explicitly state that her husband did not wish to comment. Instead, she indicated that she would pass the reporter’s contact details on to the complainant:

Reporter: Hiya. Is Syed Rizwan in?

Complainant’s wife: He is not in. Can I take a message?

Reporter: Do you know how I get hold of him?

Complainant’s wife: He is not here.

Reporter: Do you have a telephone number that I could call him on?

Complainant’s wife: Where are you from?                                         

Reporter: I’m calling from the Daily Mirror newspaper. I just want to speak to him about a hunting trip that he had been on.

[…]

Complainant’s wife: Can I speak to him and take your number.

Reporter: Yeah. Sure. Sorry to call like this. Thank you. If you could […] message me. Can he receive messages on his phone?

[….]

Complainant’s wife: I don’t want to say much […] because I don’t know if [he] wants to share with you

Reporter: Yes, that’s my telephone number […] if you could ask him to message me. I would be grateful to talk to him. Thank you. Cheers

The publication noted that it did not receive any communication from the complainant after its first approach which would indicate that he did not wish to be approached for comment. The reporter therefore approached the complainant for comment at his home address a second time, and had the following exchange with the complainant:

Reporter: I’m [reporter’s name] from the Daily Mirror […] would it be okay to have a quick chat?

Complainant: Yeah, hold on […] Yes, madam?

Reporter: Hiya. I did send you a message.

Complainant: Ah yeah, I was on a hunt abroad […]

Reporter: I just wanted to have a chat with you about your sort of side of the story about this.

Complainant: I really don’t want to say anything about it. The problem is: I have friends who have gone through this procedure. And at the end, nobody likes it. You never publish the things what we say […] I have seen this with my friends and what happened after that, they didn’t like it.

[…]

Reporter: I just want to know why you participate in those hunts.

Complainant: I don’t want to answer this, to be honest.

Reporter: It’s just that some people get very upset about the animals that have been killed. There are not many lions left.

Complainant: How do you know about all of these things?

Reporter: What do you mean?

Complainant: How do you mean about there not being many lions left? What about the other things people are shooting in this country? What difference does it make to you when a life has been taken? Whether it be a lion or a deer? What difference does it make?

Reporter: Okay. That’s an interesting point. Because some people could say that lions are decreasing in numbers.

Complainant: No […] first of all I don’t want to talk about it, but this information is wrong.

Reporter: Okay. That’s why I want to ask you: when you went recently which animals did you kill?

Complainant: I don’t want to tell you anything. You keep forcing me. And I know what I’m saying. First of all, I’ve noticed the film cameras […] you were parked here for a long time, waiting for me to come out so you can interview. I’m not scared of anybody. I’m just telling you…

Reporter: It’s because I was trying to make sure that we could speak to you.

Complainant: What if somebody doesn’t want to talk to you?

Reporter: Well. I now know you don’t. But I messaged you. I left a message with your wife.

Complainant: No. Now I don’t want to give any information.

Reporter: Okay. But we are going to publish the story now.

Complainant: We don’t care […] You can publish it. But I’m not going to say anything about it.

Reporter: Okay. Fine. I tried. I left a message. I’ve come here twice now. I’ve spoken to you.

Complainant: I understand what people are doing about it but what I don’t understand: why only me? There are people in this country are shooting deer, pheasant, and partridge every day. Why don’t you go to their house and ask them?

[…]

Complainant: Of course. When there is no interest left for people to protect those animals then poachers will obviously go there and kill all of those animals. Because nobody is protecting them; there is no interest in them […] First of all, what is left in the wild is completely different than what is bred. Like for this country […] Let me explain. These pheasants they shoot, they are not wild pheasant. They release [and] rear these pheasants just for the shooting. That’s another topic [about] whether they are supposed be doing this or not. But wild pheasants are there. Very few of them. All the other pheasants, they will live. I don’t know what to say. But they rear them for this sport, right? And then they release and shoot [these pheasants]. So that is not affecting […] the population of the wild pheasant […] same goes with all animals in Africa. Everything is fenced…

[…]

Reporter: Okay. I appreciate you talking to me but as I say…

Complainant:  I would have spoken to you […] the problem is what I’ve seen with my friends. That’s why I didn’t like this […] My friend said anything we have said, nothing has been published. Everything wrong was published. Everything against us was published. [This] is true […]

[…]

Reporter: Yeah, the paper. We are campaigning…

Complainant: Why are you campaigning against it? Can I ask you a question?

Reporter: Yeah. Because numbers are dwindling…

[…]

Reporter: Okay. Fine. Alright. I appreciate your time.

Complainant: No problem.

17. The publication noted that the reporter had introduced themselves during both visits and explained the purpose of her visit. While it accepted that the complainant told the reporter that he did not wish to comment several times during their conversation, it said that he had also willingly and voluntarily continued to engage with the reporter for 15 minutes – as was demonstrated by the recording. It added that the complainant had asked the reporter a series of questions about hunting and engaged in open conversation with the reporter. It said the complainant was entitled to end the conversation at any point and close his front door, which he did not, and the reporter would have respected this request to desist. It said that the recording demonstrated that the conduct of its reporter did not constitute harassment, intimidation or persistent pursuit.

18. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 2, or that the article included sufficient information to identity his home or reveal its exact location. Nor had the complainant made a specific request to the reporter for this information not be published. In any event, it noted that his address was already in the public domain; it had been published on the complainant’s own company website and featured on Companies House.

19. The publication also disputed that the complainant’s Facebook page was private. It provided screenshots of the complainant’s Facebook, which showed that the photographs published in the article had been available publicly at the time of the article’s publication. It also noted that the complainant had shared a photograph of his vehicle, which displayed the full number plate, on his open social media accounts.

20. The publication did not accept that the terms of Clause 6 were engaged: the articles did not name the complainant’s son, nor did they include any images showing him. In any event, it noted that the complainant had posted photographs of his son holding a firearm alongside animals that had been killed on his open and publicly available Facebook page.

21. With regard to Clause 1, the publication said that the article was an accurate report of the interview with the complainant – as demonstrated by the audio recording. It did not accept that it had taken the complainant’s comments out of context. In the recording, the complainant had said “everybody has the right to say whatever they want […] they don't know everything which is behind it” in response to the reporter saying that hunting was “controversial and some people are against it”. It also noted that the complainant said: “what about the other things people are shooting in this country, what difference does it make what life has been taken […] whether it is a lion or a deer?” and questioned the reporter on the difference between the hunting of certain animals. It also noted that the complainant used the term “stupid” during his conversation with the journalist.

22. The publication further said that the complainant had told the reporter they were “wrong” to say that lions were decreasing in number and denied that lions were on a list of threatened species. In addition, the publication noted that the complainant did not tell the reporter during their conversation that “lion hunting pays for most lion conservation”, therefore it was not inaccurate for an article covering the reporter’s interaction with the complainant to omit this. In any event, it was unable to ascertain whether this was factually accurate.

23. The publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate to report that the complainant had “removed” a specific image after being contacted by the publication. The complainant had updated his open Facebook profile picture, a few hours after he had spoken to the reporter, and it provided a screenshot to IPSO to demonstrate this.

24. Finally, the publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate to describe the current legislation which allows the movement of hunting trophies in certain circumstances as a “loophole”.  In order to support it position, the publication shared a paper from the House of Commons Library on the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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 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.

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 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.

Findings of the Committee

25. The Committee first considered the concerns raised under Clause 3. This Clause is intended to protect people from repeated unwanted and unjustified approaches from members of the press, and makes clear that journalists should not continue to contact people when asked to desist. The Committee had regard to the two recordings provided by the publication. It did not consider that the complainant’s wife had made a request to desist; instead, she had indicated that she would pass the reporter’s details onto her husband, and had not stated that he did not wish to speak to the reporter. Further, the Committee noted that in the recording provided, the complainant acknowledged that he had received the reporter’s message. Therefore, at the time of the second approach to his home, that complainant had not made a request that the publication desist from contacting him for comment, or approaching him at his home, or used the opportunity afforded to him by the publication prior to the second approach to do so.

26. During the second approach to his home, the complainant had indicated during their exchange that he did not wish to answer certain questions posed by the reporter, and that he disagreed with her decision to approach him for comment. However, the Committee noted that the complainant never expressly asked the journalist to leave his property or to stop asking him questions. Indeed, he had continued to speak to the reporter and had in fact asked her a number of questions on a range of issues, therefore prolonging the conversation. On this basis, the Committee did not conclude that the publication had persisted in contacting the complainant after being asked to desist from doing so, or that the reporter had acted in a harassing or intimidating fashion. There was no breach of Clause 3.

27. The Committee next turned to the complainant’s concerns under Clause 2. The screenshots from the complainant’s Facebook page provided by the publication had showed that the images included in the articles under complaint were publicly available prior to the article’s publication. Regardless of whether the complainant had updated his privacy settings after being contacted by the newspaper, the information had been available in the public domain at the time of publication. The publication was entitled to report on information placed in the public domain and the Committee did not establish that the photographs contained any private information about him. The publication of this information did not therefore represent an intrusion into the complainant’s private life. There was no breach of Clause 2.

28. The Committee next considered whether the photographs taken of the complainant outside his home breached Clause 2. The complainant said they identified him and revealed his address. The Committee noted that these photographs had revealed the complainant’s likeness and showed him in conversation with the reporter; this was information which could be seen by the members of the public from the public road. The Committee also noted that the complainant’s full address had not been reported. Rather, the article only named the town in which he lived, and the further information in the article – a photograph of the corner of his home – was not sufficient, in the Committee’s view, to reveal the exact location of the complainant’s home in the manner he suggested. They noted that, at any rate, the complainant’s full address appeared on his company’s website, and was therefore in the public domain. In these circumstances, the Committee found that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of this information and there was no intrusion into the complainant’s private life by its publication. There was no breach of Clause 2.

29. The Committee did not consider that the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy over the last three letters of his vehicle’s registration number. It considered this to be the case as most of the car’s registration number had been pixellated; the vehicle would be visible to people passing by his home a public road; and he had previously published photographs of this vehicle on his open social media account. Nor did the Committee consider that the reference to his company in the first article represented a breach of Clause 2: the article identified him in the context of his professional role as a director of the company, and this information was publicly available; this was not private information. There was no breach of Clause 2 on these two points.

30. The Committee noted that the publication had not identified the complainant’s child. The Committee considered that the brief and limited reference to the child in the first article did not represent either details of the child’s private life or an unnecessary intrusion into the child’s time at school in breach of Clause 6.

31. The Committee next considered the concerns raised under Clause 1. The Committee acknowledged that the editing process might, on occasion, mean that verbatim comments by individuals are altered for publication, but also noted that the Code requires that any such changes do not misrepresent the comments of the individual in a significantly inaccurate, misleading, or distorted manner. In this instance, the recording provided by the publication showed that complainant had said: that people in general “don’t understand everything that goes on” in response to a direct question about how “many people” find the practice “controversial”; had discussed the double-standards in attitudes to hunting, stating that it was “stupid” that people objected to the killing of certain animals (for example, zebras) and not others (for example, deer); and denied that “lion numbers” were falling. These comments were accurately reflected in the article under complaint. In these circumstances, the Committee was satisfied that the publication had taken sufficient care under Clause 1 not to publish inaccurate or misleading information, and that no inaccuracy was established. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.

32. In addition, the Committee did not consider that the omission of the claim that “lion hunting pays for most lion conservation” rendered the first article significantly inaccurate or misleading. This claim had not been made during his conversation with this reporter and did not materially affect the accuracy of the article, which was a report of the complainant’s support for trophy hunting – it was clear from the article, at any rate, that the complainant considered trophy-hunting to be a positive activity. There was no breach of Clause 1.

33. Further, the Committee did not consider that the first article was significantly inaccurate to report that the complainant had “removed” a specific image after being contacted by the publication: the complainant had updated his Facebook profile picture, after the reporter had contacted him, so that people viewing the page would not immediately see the image in question. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

34. Finally, the Committee did not consider that the first article was inaccurate to characterise current relevant legislation as containing a “loophole”, where it allowed for the movement of hunting trophies in certain and specific circumstances. Nor did it consider that the article misrepresented the legislation covering the imports of hunting trophies in a significantly inaccurate, misleading, or distorted manner: the Convention International Trade in Endangered Species relates to the trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls (including through a licensing system). There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.

Conclusion

35. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

36. N/A

 

Date complaint received:  15/01/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  30/08/2023