In its reporting on a trial, the South Wales Argus provided enough information to identify a rape victim, the Press Complaints Commission decided.
The Argus’ story provided the victim’s age, nationality and the name of the school where she was studying. Because of the PCC’s ruling, the Argus edited its online article “to remove a number of details which contributed to a breach of the code,” a PCC spokesperson told iMediaEthics by email. After complaints, the Argus said it would not name the school in any other stories. But since so much other information was already reported, the PCC decided it was “strongly likely” people could figure out who the victim was.
Back in 2011, the PCC issued new guidance for how to report on sexual offenses. That guidance specifically called for reporters to not provide enough information where “jigsaw identification” — or when people can put together pieces of information to ID the victim — might happen.
This complaint that was upheld against the Argus is at least the second time this year the PCC has called out a UK media outlet for reporting on sexual assault victims. In February, the PCC ruled against the UK Daily Mirror for naming a sexual assault victim. A PCC spokesperson told iMediaEthics that the decision against the Argus is the first time since the ruling against the Mirror that the PCC “considered any further complaints under Clause 11.”
According to the PCC’s ruling, the newspaper defended its reporting, noting that the person accused in the rape was a local. The PCC said that the South Wales Argus told it that “it believed that it had met that obligation [to protect victims] in this instance.”
The PCC noted that there’s a fine line between reporting fully and protecting anonymity, but regardless, the Argus made it possible for the victim to be identified. In another case of a complaint against a newspaper for reporting on the same victim, the PCC found that newspaper the Herts Advertiser didn’t identify the victim and the complaint wasn’t upheld.
The Argus published the PCC’s ruling in full on its website May 31, as required by the ruling.
iMediaEthics has written to the South Wales Argus seeking comment about the ruling and will update with any response.