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Press watchdog backs Sunday newspaper in copy approval row

tim-hetheringtonThe press watchdog has backed a Sunday newspaper in a row over copy approval following a complaint by the mother of a photographer killed in Libya.

Judith Hetherington complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Wales on Sunday breached Clause 3 (Privacy) and Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice after one of its journalists interviewed her about her son Tim, left, who died covering the 2011 conflict in the African country.

However, IPSO did not establish that there was a failure on the newspaper’s behalf to respect her privacy or honour any agreement with her over the issue.

Mrs Hetherington said she had agreed to speak to Wales on Sunday n the understanding that the angle of the interview would be her son’s work, his legacy and the work of the trust, adding that she agreed over the telephone to be interviewed on the basis that its journalist would let her agree her quotes, and that he would not publish anything she was unhappy about.

She said that this agreement was probably made before the journalist began the interview, and while she did not believe the journalist used the words “copy approval”, he did agree to return to her prior to publication to agree her quotes, and so that she would feel content about the article.

Mrs Hetherington answered questions about her son’s death, but said she had felt unable to ask the journalist to stop.

The piece was published on 16 November 2015, and the following day she read an email sent by the journalist on Friday 14 November requesting photographs of her and her son.

Mrs Hetherington replied explaining that she felt uneasy about her discussion of Tim’s death in the interview, and asked to see what the newspaper intended to publish.

She then read a further email from the journalist sent on the Saturday night containing the quotes from the interview, and responded by saying that she did not want some of her comments about her son’s death to appear in print.

On the Tuesday, the journalist responded saying the article had already been printed that Sunday and that by sending her the quotes he was not giving her copy approval, but that given she was unhappy about what she said, the newspaper would not publish the interview online.

Wales on Sunday said there appeared to have been a misunderstanding in relation to whether the newspaper had granted copy approval because the journalist had sent Mrs Hetherington her quotes as a goodwill gesture.

It added the journalist was not made aware that any subject was out-of-bounds, and that the complainant would have been able to say if she was unhappy about a question, or talking about a particular subject, and that the journalist did not receive the impression that the complainant was uncomfortable answering his questions.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.