PCC Rules Magazine Should Have Contacted Article's Subject Before Publication

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UK print regulatory body the Press Complaints Commission upheld a complaint against UK magazine Woman for the magazine’s March 2011 “first-person story about a custody battle,” Journalism.co.uk reported.  The March 14 article, “I’m Scared I’ll Never See My Little Boy Again,” was written by a woman named Sarah Antoniou.

Her former husband, Andreas Antoniou, contacted the PCC because he claimed that “a number of the claims” his ex-wife made were false, according to Journalism.co.uk.   Antoniou questioned one of the central elements of the woman’s story, which told of “the child was taken to the UK because he needed medical care that was not available in Cyprus.” The former husband, Andreas, said that he never OK’ed the trip to the UK.

The PCC noted that it didn’t address the “factual dispute at the heart of this story, not least since legal proceedings were ongoing and Ms Antoniou could not be reached for further input (or any documentary evidence to support her story).”

Woman didn’t contact him for fact-checking, according to Journalism.co.uk. The magazine defended its decision because it did fact check with the mother of the author and the man “had not been accused of any wrong doing.”

The PCC noted in its adjudication that even though its standards don’t address pre-publication notification, some stories — like this one — would warrant it for fact checking.  “In this case, the magazine should have gone to the complainant, especially given the contentious nature of the article, and informed readers of his response to the claims,” the adjudication reads.

The PCC’s director, Stephen Abell, is quoted as saying that while the PCC’s code doesn’t call for journalists to “contact an individual at the centre of a story before publication, a failure to verify information and obtain the comments of that individual can raise a breach of the Editors’ Code.”

Woman did tell Antoniou it would “publish a letter…or an article from his point [of] view” or even apologize in private.  The PCC’s adjudication notes that it did “welcome” Woman’s response to Antoniou’s complaint, it wasn’t enough.

StinkyJournalism has written about Max Mosley’s bid to the European Court of Human Rights to require UK newspapers to follow a rule for prior notification — making news outlets contact subjects of stories before publication.

Other Parts of the Complaint

According to the PCC’s adjudication, he also complained over invasion of privacy and publication of photos of the couple’s son without his consent. The PCC only upheld the complaint that the magazine should have contacted him prior to publication.

According to the PCC’s adjudication,  since the former wife gave the right to show  the photos and her story and it didn’t include “any excessive or gratuitously personal detail about the complainant,” his complaints weren’t upheld. StinkyJournalism has written to Woman for comment and will update with any response.

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PCC Rules Magazine Should Have Contacted Article’s Subject Before Publication

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