THE Press Complaints Commission has ruled that an article published in the Glasgow Evening Times did not breach their Code of Practice.
The ruling followed a complaint from a man who appeared in two photographs used to illustrate an article about a “crackdown” by Glasgow City Council on shisha cafes flouting the smoking ban.
The complainant was featured in two photographs showing him smoking a hookah pipe at a local café.
He said he had been assured by the photographer that he would be “out of focus” and had understood from this that he would not be identifiable.
The sharpest focus of the photographs, published along with the article under the headline “Sling your hookah!”, had been on the pipe, but the complainant’s features were readily identifiable. In his view, the photograph was intrusive.
The newspaper did not accept a breach of Clause 3 of the Code, and denied that the photographer had misled the complainant.
It provided information from the photographer regarding the conversation that had taken place about the taking of the photographs in the café.
The Commission found that, in line with its existing case law, the complainant would generally have had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the café.
The key issue for the Commission was the nature of the consent he had provided for the taking of the photograph.
The Commission noted its view that if an individual has consented to be photographed in a private place on condition that he will not be identifiable, publication of a photograph in which he was identifiable “would normally amount to an intrusion”.
In this case, however, the Commission could not establish that the photographer’s comments amounted to such an assurance, and it therefore found no breach of the Code.
However, it made clear its regret that the photographer had used a phrase which had confused the complainant, and stressed the need for newspapers and magazines to “take steps to ensure that any conditions or assurances are clearly agreed in advance”.
A further aspect of the complaint made under Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice was not upheld.
Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints and Pre-publication Services, said: “This was an unusual and difficult case for the Commission. Its ruling draws attention to the importance of ‘full and open communication’ about the taking of photographs, particularly if they show an individual in a private place”.