Is it an invasion of privacy for a newspaper to report personal details from another news outlet’s article? Or, at that point, is the information in the public domain and fair game?
In the case of the Daily Mail, it was an invasion, the UK press regulator ruled, because the original story itself was an invasion of privacy.
The Mail‘s story reported on a Sunday Times article by journalist Lynn Barber about her experience hosting a Sudanese refugee. Her article included a photograph and the first name of the refugee, Mohammed Ahmed, and various claims about him, including that he wasn’t trustworthy, that he viewed pornography on her computer, that his trip through Europe “looked more like a holiday jaunt than a desperate flight to asylum” and so on. As iMediaEthics previously reported, Barber’s article noted that she had someone show an earlier draft of her article to Ahmed and he was very upset, yet she added more to her article and published it in the Times. IPSO ruled that Barber’s Times article was an invasion of privacy.
The Mail then published its article about Barber’s article, which it headlined “While liberal hand wringers made empty pledges to take in a refugee, one acclaimed writer quietly did so – only to have her kindness betrayed.” A copy of the print article is available on Press Reader’s website.
In addition to complaining over the Times article, Ahmed, the refugee who stayed with Barber, complained the Mail‘s article was an invasion of privacy, inaccurate, harassment and discriminatory. Again, IPSO ruled that publishing the information about Ahmed — his name, family information, finances, asylum application, health and so on — was an invasion of privacy. IPSO flagged it especially as an invasion because Ahmed is a private figure and Barber’s article even noted Ahmed was upset about a potential article.
“The re-publication of this information, given the extent of the detail, and the fact that no steps were taken to obscure the complainant’s identity, represented an intrusion into his private life,” IPSO ruled. “The fact that this material had been published by another newspaper was not sufficient to justify this intrusion in the public interest.”
IPSO found the article also broke accuracy guidelines because the Mail didn’t take “any steps to verify the accuracy of the claims made” in the Times article. However, IPSO dismissed Ahmed’s complaints about the articles being discriminatory or harassment.
The Mail must publish IPSO’s ruling against it.