It was fair game for the Belfast Telegraph to report that a teenager quoted from Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf and described himself as “British, Loyalist, Fascist” in a yearbook entry, the UK press regulator found. The 18-year-old’s father complained to press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organization over the September article, which he said was inaccurate, harassment and an invasion of privacy.
The Telegraph pixelated images of the student that accompanied his yearbook page and didn’t name him in the report. As evidence for its report, the Telegraph included an image of the yearbook page on which the teen was quoted as saying he’d be “crushing socialism” in ten years and that his “confession” is 1923’s Munich Putsch, Hitler’s attempt to seize Munich.
The article reported on criticism of the school, Belfast High School, for allowing the comments, but didn’t name the student. iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph and the school for comment.
The student’s father complained that the comments and yearbook were only supposed to be seen by his son’s 110 classmates and the tone was “light-hearted” inside jokes “only apparent to fellow students and some of the teachers.” The father said another student quoted from Karl Marx and called himself a “Nationalist, Communist,” and that the Telegraph missed the “humorous nature” of the comments.
The Telegraph rejected the father’s complaints, pointing out that the man’s son made the comments knowing they would be published. Further, the Telegraph stood by the report as accurate and in the public interest.
IPSO agreed that the article wasn’t an invasion of privacy because the 100+ students who received the yearbook easily had the right to share their books with others and because the Telegraph didn’t name or use an unpixelated photo of the student. IPSO rejected the father’s argument that the Telegraph misconstrued his son’s comments or that the comments were actually jokes, noting that the Telegraph reported on the comments in context and the son didn’t provide any context.