Resolution Statement – 28382-20 Asaf v Midlothian Advertiser

    • Date complaint received

      18th March 2021

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

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

Resolution Statement – 28382-20 Asaf v Midlothian Advertiser

Summary of Complaint

1. Nosheen Asaf complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Midlothian Advertiser breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge), and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “County now has second highest Covid-19 rate”, published on 17 September 2020.

2. The article reported on rates of Covid-19 infections in the county of Midlothian. The article was accompanied by a picture of a woman wearing a face mask. The photograph showed the woman’s upper body, and the woman appeared to be looking directly at the camera in the photograph. The image was captioned “There have been 560 positive Covid-19 tests confirmed in the county since March.”

3. The complainant was the woman shown in the picture. She first said that the use of her image, in conjunction with an article about rising rates of Covid-19 in the county, was misleading in breach of Clause 1 as readers would believe that she had Covid-19. She said that she had already been approached by family members and friends who had seen the article and, consequently, believed that she had Covid-19.

4. The complainant also said that the publication of the photograph had intruded into her private life, in breach of Clause 2. She said that she did not consent to the photograph being taken or published, and further said that she believed it had been taken while she was queueing outside a medical clinic. She said that this represented a further breach of her privacy, as it revealed details about her and her family’s health.

5. The complainant also expressed concerns that the photo had been taken using a concealed camera, in breach of Clause 10. She said she considered this to be case as the image appeared to show her looking directly at the camera, and she did not recall seeing an individual taking photographs on the day in question. As such, she said that the photograph had likely been taken with a hidden camera.

6. Finally, the complainant said that the picture breached Clause 12, as she considered that she had been singled out due to her ethnicity.

7. The publication first apologised for any distress caused to the complainant by the publication of her photograph. It said that the image was intended to illustrate life in the local community during lockdown, but acknowledged that - regardless of the newspaper’s intentions - the complainant had been distressed by the photo’s publication. It said that it had not intended to imply that the complainant had Covid-19. However, it accepted that the use of the image in conjunction with the article headline had the potential to mislead readers into believing that the complainant had Covid-19, in breach of Clause 1. It offered to print a correction and apology in the upcoming edition of the newspaper, stating that the photo was used incorrectly to illustrate the article.

8. The publication said that the photograph had been taken on a public street, and that it had not been taken outside a medical centre, but rather on a High Street. It provided photographs to demonstrate that this was the case. It also said that the photographer had not used a hidden camera, and had been standing on the other side of the road holding cameras and lenses at the time the photograph was taken. It then emphasised that the photograph was not published with the intention to single-out the complainant due to her ethnicity, nor to discriminate against her. It did not accept that Clause 2 had been breached, and said that the terms of Clause 10 and Clause 12 were not engaged.

9. The complainant reiterated that she had not been aware that a photograph had been taken of her, and said that she did not consider this tallied with the publication’s explanation of how the photograph was taken. She also said that she would only be willing to resolve the complaint should the publication pay compensation directly to her.

Relevant Code 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 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

10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

11. The publication offered to pay the complainant £100, and print the following correction:

We would like to apologise for any distress inadvertently and unintentionally caused by the publication of a picture of Mrs Nosheen Asaf to illustrate a story published on page four of the Midlothian Advertiser on Thursday, September 17.

The story, headlined “County now has second highest Covid-19 rate” highlighted that Midlothian was experiencing an increase in positive Covid-19 cases.

The picture of Mrs Asaf wearing a face mask was one of a number taken by our photographer in Dalkeith town centre intended to show life in lockdown and how members of the community were adapting to the new regulations.

It was not our intention to suggest Mrs Asaf had Covid-19.

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

13. 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: 02/10/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/02/2021