No press was allowed at an annual “swingers festival,” but that didn’t stop two UK outlets from getting and publishing photos from the event. After photos appeared in a Mail Online article last July on Swingfields, which bills itself as “the UK’s biggest Lifestyle festival,” one participant filed a complaint with the UK press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation.
The man, who was not named by IPSO, complained that the Mail‘s reporter and photographer took photos of him without his knowledge. He complained about an invasion of privacy and undercover reporting. The Mail stood by its staff, however, saying they got the photos from “an open public footpath” and that the faces of people in the photos were pixelated to hide their identities.
While the Mail stood by its reporting, the news website offered to take the story and photos down after IPSO got involved. The complainant was satisfied with that response, so IPSO stopped investigating and didn’t make a decision about whether the article broke its journalism standards.
In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, Swingfields Festival’s representative told iMediaEthics the event is a “private ticket only event” that is “clearly not open to the public.”
“There is no secrecy and indeed we invite the press to liaise with us before the event if they need any information,” the festival representative told iMediaEthics. “Both the Daily Mail and the Sun however chose to gain access in 2016 through the use of hidden and long range camera equipment and for NO other reason except the honest and open personal preferences of those attending. The actions they took were a gross invasion of privacy and underhand tactics were used to gain access.”
Further, the festival wrote, “We ask that in future years that the press observe and respect peoples’ fundamental right to enjoy a private event. We live in 2017 and society does not judge people on their legal choices, so the media should respect peoples’ sexuality and preferences.”
The Mail‘s July 3 article was headlined “The Glastonbury of the ‘alternative lifestyle’: Hundreds enjoy the UK’s biggest swingers’ festival in secret location in Wales.” It reported that “more than 700 people” were at the three-day festival. While it has been deleted from the Mail‘s website, it was re-published elsewhere.
“Hundreds of people have enjoyed Britain’s biggest swingers festival this weekend which celebrates everything related to the alternative lifestyle,” the Mail‘s article by Joseph Curtis read. “Three-day event Swingfields took place in a secret location in Wales that was only revealed to the attendees two days before it began last Thursday.”
The man also complained about an article in the Mirror, “Inside Swingfields sex festival where 700 horny guests enjoyed weekend of debauchery in quiet Welsh village.”
While the IPSO report doesn’t say what happened beyond it being “settled privately between the parties,” iMediaEthics notes that the article’s link goes to an error page, suggesting it has been unpublished. iMediaEthics has written to the Mirror for comment.