I do not have confidence in the independence or effectiveness of IPSO and the Editors’ Code Committee, on account of IPSO’s failure to meet the standard of “Recognition” as assessed by the Press Recognition Panel.
Nonetheless, this submission highlights several areas where the Code is in urgent need of improvement and reform which I hope the Committee will consider.
Intrusion and abuse
The courts give equal right to free expression and privacy, yet IPSO’s public interest guidance refers to the public interest in the freedom of expression on a standalone basis (subclause 2).
The Code should be amended so that the public interest guidance, like the courts, gives the same weight to the right to privacy as it gives to freedom of expression.
When an individual is the subject of a story, newspapers will often trawl the person’s social media pages for images to publish. Sometimes these can even be very personal and intimate photographs.
The Code should be amended to require newspapers and their websites to stop stealing photos from Facebook and other social media without permission and without offering to buy the copyright.
There is no legal protection for the reputation of deceased people. A competent regulator ought to be able to act to remedy the libelling of the deceased, which can cause huge distress for families.
Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief of shock) should be amended to provide specific protection for the bereaved from attacks on the reputation of the deceased, especially when they are children, young people or not in the public eye.
There is a pattern of coverage around suicide deaths, where minor details of coroners’ reports are misrepresented as major factors in a person’s suicide.
Speculation over motives is considered dangerous, because it can assist individuals at risk of suicide in rationalising a decision to end their lives. Mental health charities and activists have called for reform in this area many times before.
Clause 5 should be amended to require newspapers to avoid speculating over the motives of suicides except where in the public interest and, where reporting on the findings of a coroner, to give a proportionate and reasonably complete picture of the factors which may have led to a person’s suicide.