IPSO dismisses complaints against newspapers for violation of Covid rules


Two weekly newspapers were cleared by the press watchdog for their coverage of a New Year’s party hosted by school staff, prompting allegations they broke Covid rules.

The Basingstoke Gazette published the story on its website on January 5 under the headline “School staff accused of hosting New Year’s party”, while a similar report appeared in the headline. Newsquest’s sister, Andover Advertiser, three days later.

The stories described how a parent reported staff members at two local schools for a possible violation of Covid-19 rules after photographs appeared on Facebook showing them allegedly enjoying a New Years party together.

He quoted the concerned parent as saying, “The message clearly shows a New Year’s party indoors without social distancing and without regard for our own and other children and families.”

One of the heavily pixelated Facebook images used in the story

However, the articles sparked complaints from the Independent Press Standards Organization that the headlines violated Clauses 1 (Precision), 2 (Confidentiality), 6 (Children), and 9 (Reporting Offenses) of the Code. ‘editor.

Complainant Charlotte Cohen, who attended the rally and was pictured in the photographs, said the article violated Clause 1 because she believed it was mistakenly claiming that she and her family had broken Covid rules .

She also claimed that the article violated Clause 2 because the pixelated photographs posted in the article were originally posted in a Facebook post posted by her sister, and the photograph showed her child in violation of Clause 6.

Finally, the complainant said that by alleging a violation of Covid rules, resulting in hostility from members of the public, the article also violated Article 9.

No post admitted he broke the Code, pointing out that they did not claim that the complainant and her family violated the lockdown rules, but rather that there had been allegations of a rule violation. .

A reporter had contacted a local councilor, police, county council and schools that employed Ms Cohen and her sister and the county council confirmed the case was under investigation.

Regarding the privacy complaint, the posts admitted that the photo was shared with around 140 Facebook friends of the complainant’s sister, one of whom forwarded the message to them.

However, they noted that they had pixelated and unnamed the individuals in the photographs, and denied that children were visible in them.

In its ruling, IPSO said the articles did not claim Mr. Cohen or his family had violated the lockdown rules, but rather clearly distinguished those allegations as allegations made by a relative based on the photographs. , which he reposted.

He said that in light of the fact that the publication presented the claims as such and took the appropriate steps to verify them prior to publication, there had been no breach of the accuracy of the article and therefore there had been no violation of clause 1.

On the issue of privacy, the complaints committee said that the intrusion into the complainant’s privacy caused by the posting of the photographs of the Facebook post was limited given the extensive pixelation and justified by the public interest of ” illustrate alleged wrongdoing.

The complaints were not upheld. The full decisions can be viewed here and here.

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