AddThis SmartLayers

Sister titles breached children’s privacy in story about mum’s death

NewIPSOThree regional sister titles breached two children’s privacy by publishing their names and photographs in a story about their mother’s death.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld complaints against the Liverpool Echo, Lancs Live and Edinburgh Live, as well as Reach plc sister publication the Sunday Mirror, over the publication of the details, as well as the ages of the children concerned, without their father’s permission.

The story in question was based on comments from the maternal grandparents of the children, whose daughter had died in Pakistan after having flown there with them.

It reported the grandparents were “fight[ing] for answers over the death of their daughter in a Pakistan hospital – and the disappearance of their grandchildren”.

But its publication prompted Syed Abbas, the children’s father, to complain to to the Independent Press Standards Organisation under Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 6 (Children) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Mr Abbas said e had not consented to the publication of the information, adding the grandparents did not have custody, or similar responsibilities, so could not give their consent.

While it accepted that the story concerned the children’s welfare, Reach considered that consent from the children’s maternal grandparents was sufficient to publish the images – particularly where it did not think it was possible to contact Mr Abbas directly.

It also claimed elements of the story – the death of a British citizen abroad and how the investigation into this was handled by local authorities, how the family of the deceased had struggled to get answers about the circumstances surrounding their daughter’s death, and the involvement of several British officials – was in the public interest.

The publisher added that concern for the children’s safety and welfare warranted the reporting and was therefore proportionate to the public interest served, especially given the extensive involvement of official bodies in the matter.

It further believed the photographs were necessary to show the context within the family dynamic, the relationship between the mother and her children, their life in the UK, the “subsequent torment” the family were going through and the children’s likeness in case they were seen.

IPSO acknowledged the public interest arguments cited by Reach – in particular the concerns around the mother’s death and the investigation into it – but did not consider that publishing the children’s images or identities was warranted or justified under the public interest for the reasons cited, when balanced against the potential for intrusion into the children’s lives from identifying them in the context of these claims.

The Committee further found publication of the details represented an unjustified intrusion into the children’s privacy.

The complaint was upheld under Clause 2 and Clause 6, and the four titles were ordered to publish the adjudication by way of remedial action.

The full adjudication can be read here.