Georgia and Alexandra Pryce complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the UK Telegraph was harassing their recently imprisoned mother, Vicky Pryce, by photographing her in prison.
Both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph claimed that the published photographs of Pryce were intended to show what her prison life was like.
The Daily Mail described its photos of Pryce as showing her “amid the prison’s easy-going regime.”‘ Pryce is pictured walking with three others, whose faces aren’t shown or have been blurred. And the Telegraph published a photo of Pryce with a story headlined “Pictured: Vicky Pryce strolls her ‘pleasant mansion’ prison.”
Who’s Vicky Pryce and Why is She in Prison?
Vicky Pryce and her ex-husband were recently sentenced to “eight months in prison,” the New York Times reported, after Pryce lied to police so that Chris Huhne, her husband at the time, wouldn’t get a speeding ticket.
According to the Times, Huhne, a member of Parliament, was caught on traffic cameras speeding on a London highway in 2003. But Price told authorities that she was driving, so Huhne wouldn’t get in trouble and get a “driving ban” because he had too many points on his license.
Pryce admitted to lying after her marriage to Huhne ended in 2010 when she learned that he was having an affair. Huhne had told Pryce about his affair when News of the World informed him that they were going to report on his cheating. Soon after that, Pryce and Huhne divorced. And, a year after that, News of the World folded after becoming embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.
Then, “in an effort to disgrace” her ex-husband and force him to resign from his position in prime minister David Cameron’s cabinet, Pryce fessed up to lying about speeding in Huhne’s car back in 2003, the Times explained. Both Huhne and Pryce were prosecuted over the lies and were sentenced earlier this month for “perverting the course of justice.”
Newsworthiness of the Photos?
Guardian media blogger Roy Greenslade commented that he thought “editors were wrong to publish” the photos of Pryce. He blogged of the photos:
“It certainly heaps an extra bit of humiliation on to the woman who is serving an eight-month sentence for perverting the course of justice. Is that what papers are for? To humiliate people who are already suffering from humiliation?”
But in response, the British Press Photographers Association’s Chris Eades defended the photos as part of a “valid news story.” Eades challenged Greenslade’s commentary in a letter arguing that photographers didn’t break the law or the Press Complaints Commisson’s code.
Eades also called for Greenslade to correct his blogposts critical of the photos and cited “a series of untruths” and “suppositions” that he said were wrong. For example, where Greenslade blogged that there was a possibility the photographers weren’t sent by a newspaper, Eades retorted that “the ONLY photographers in attendance were in fact working directly for papers.” Check out Eades’ open letter in full.
Pryce Family Complained over the Photos
Besides Greenslade’s complaints about the photos, Pryce’s children were also unhappy about the media’s treatment of their mother.
The Press Complaints Commission’s Catherine Speller told iMediaEthics the Pryce children quickly complained about the Telegraph‘s photo of Pryce in prison. Speller wrote by email:
“I can confirm that the PCC has received a complaint from members of the Pryce family about a photograph which was published in the Daily Telegraph, made under Clauses 3 (Privacy) and 4 (Harassment) of the Editor’s Code of Practice.”
Georgia and Alexandra Pryce’s letter complained that the Telegraph “violated an express request by the PCC yesterday not to publish the picture” and accused the Telegraph of “stalking its prey” with its quest to photograph their mother, Vicky Pryce, the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade blogged. Greenslade said the letter was sent to the PCC and “several editors and journalists.”
The PCC says ‘Pre-Publication Advice’ is Confidential
But did the PCC actually tell the Telegraph not to publish the photo?
The PCC’s Catherine Speller explained to iMediaEthics that any PCC’s “pre-publication advice” is confidential but any PCC guidance pre-publication can’t be enforced. She wrote:
“The PCC never comments on its pre-publication advice, either to confirm or deny whether it has been given. This is because the service is, by its very nature, strictly confidential and not for publication.
“I would point out that the PCC does not have formal powers to prevent newspapers and magazines from publishing material. The PCC advisory notice system provides a means to help individuals who find themselves at the centre of a news story to communicate their concerns that the Editors’ Code of Practice is being breached, or may be breached in forthcoming coverage. Advisory notices sent by the PCC make editors aware of an individual’s position of the Editors’ Code. However, the decision whether or not to publish remains with the editor of the newspaper.”
Pryce Family: We’re “Ashamed” of the Media’s Actions
Georgia and Alexandra Pryce also touched on the debate over the future of UK press regulation in their letter, arguing that in light of the Telegraph’s treatment of their mother, they’re not surprised by the calls for changes to the regulation system. They wrote:
“We have no views on the current row over press regulation but as citizens we are ashamed that a British newspaper should seek to humiliate a grandmother in the way it has in breach of the PCC request. Little wonder that there is an overwhelming public demand for a press that has some ethical norms.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph asking for a response regarding the Pryce family’s criticism and complaint. We also asked why the paper decided to publish the photo. An email has also been sent to the Daily Mail asking if it has received any complaints from the Pryces over the photos, why it published the photos, and where it got the photos. We’ll update with any responses.