Photo of former Parliament member 'nuzzling' another woman invasion of privacy - iMediaEthics

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A story in the UK Sun last November claimed that a former British Parliament member, Lembit Opik, was called a “rat” who “accidentally” sent his girlfriend pictures of himself “nuzzling” another woman. The Sun published the photos in question.

Opik complained that the photos and story were an invasion of privacy, and the UK press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, agreed.

In his complaint to IPSO, Opik said the photos were taken as a joke during a private vacation in a private location. He alleged that he did not send the photos to his girlfriend; rather, they were sent by a “third party” through his e-mail account or were stolen, IPSO reported. Furthermore, Opik was upset that the Sun called him a “rat” and claimed the woman in the photographs was his “lover,” because he said it suggested he was in a relationship with two women at once.

The Sun countered, claiming that since someone else took the photographs of Opik with the woman, it wasn’t a private activity, and that it was OK for the newspaper to report on the matter since Opik’s former girlfriend wanted to speak about it and was concerned the woman in the photograph was a “lover.” The Sun also denied it was inaccurate to say Opik didn’t comment when contacted. The newspaper, in fact, said it did not hear back from him until after the story was published.

The Sun declined to comment to iMediaEthics; iMediaEthics has tweeted Opik.

IPSO noted that Opik “had not placed the photographs in the public domain,” regardless of the dispute between the Sun and Opik because on one hand, Opik said he didn’t send the photos out, and in the Sun’s defense, the newspaper thought Opik accidentally sent the photos. Further, the photos and their implied narrative–that he was involved with another woman–were related to his private life.

Opik’s former girlfriend had “a right to exercise her freedom of expression” in talking about the relationship, IPSO explained, but the photo was possibly “particularly intrusive” and not in the public interest. “The complainant’s former partner had not been present on the holiday, and the photograph had been disclosed to her without the complainant’s consent,” IPSO ruled. “The publication of photographs have the potential to be particularly intrusive, and the newspaper had not identified a public interest that would justify the publication of a photograph of the complainant sharing an intimate moment, and the extensive speculation and discussion of this moment.”

However, IPSO ruled that the Sun‘s claims that the woman was a “lover” and  that Opik was a “rat” were fair because the newspaper accurately reported that these were the claims of his former partner.

For breaking privacy guidelines, the Sun must publish the IPSO ruling in its first seven pages of the print edition, and online.

Hat Tip: Press Gazette

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Photo of former Parliament member ‘nuzzling’ another woman invasion of privacy

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