The Camberley News and Mail apologized for invading the privacy of a girl by identifying her and her medical condition without her parents’ approval, the UK Press Complaints Commission reported. The Camberley News and Mail is owned by Trinity Mirror.
The newspaper’s March 2 story was about a friend of the girl’s, who was raising money by “selling cakes at a farmer’s market,” to donate to an organization that researches the girl’s medical condition, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). The News and Mail ran a photo of the two girls and both their names, but had gotten the medical information from the friend – not the girl who had it, the PCC explained. And, the parents of the girl with the medical condition didn’t give the newspaper the OK to report on their child in any way.
According to the PCC, the parents of the girl with the medical condition “had previously chosen to inform people of her condition only when necessary, and the article had therefore caused great distress.” The family’s biggest concern, according to the PCC adjudication, was that the their daughter’s medical condition was revealed, as opposed to her photo being in the newspaper.
While the newspaper said it didn’t know the medical information “was confidential,” the PCC “expressed concern that the photographer had apparently acted on an assumption that the information was not confidential, without verifying this.” The PCC noted in its adjudication that the newspaper said it was at the farmer’s market because the market’s “organisers” called “seeking publicity.”
The PCC noted that the newspaper apparently meant no harm but still violated the PCC’s code, writing: “It was evident that in publishing this coverage, the newspaper had intended to support a laudable initiative by local children. Nonetheless, the publication of medical information poses a significant potential for intrusion and should only be undertaken once appropriate checks have been made.”
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And, the PCC noted that the newspaper’s source for the information about the girl was “a third party, herself a child.”
The PCC reported that its Head of Complaints and Pre-publication services’ Charlotte Dewar explained that this case was a double whammy because not only were there two ethical issues involved, they were related to a child.
The article in question isn’t online. The PCC’s Catherine Speller told iMediaEthics by email that “the original story only appeared in print, not online” and that “the newspaper was required to publish the full text of the PCC’s critical adjudication in full, and with due prominence.”
We have written to the Camberley News and Mail for more information and will update with any response.