For many, being suddenly subjected to the scrutiny of the media can be very stressful. And, if handled incorrectly, press intrusion has the potential to cause irreparable damage to that individual’s reputation.
You are also well within your rights not to consent to interviews or photos. Our right to privacy is enshrined by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Of course, the press retains the right to free expression (Article 10), however this only undercuts Article 8 where the intrusion into private life can be deemed justifiable and proportionate (such as to to uphold national security). As such, individuals can take action in instances where the media cannot justify their intrusion into someone’s private life.
Most (but not all) national newspapers have chosen to be regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which signs them up to the Editors’ Code of Practice (the Code). This Code sets out the professional standards of conduct that members of the press should abide by. Clause 2 and Clause 3 of the Code contain terms relating privacy and harassment.
In short, Clause 2 requires that members of the press honour every individual’s right to respect for their private and family life, and where they do intrude, can offer justification for doing so. Following on from this, Clause 3 further requires that journalists must abstain from any form of harassment or ‘persistent pursuit’ of an individual, where requested to desist.
As such, it is advised that you communicate, clearly and at first instance, your wish not to be photographed or interviewed by the press. Should they continue to persist, you are entitled to make a complaint to IPSO about a breach of the Code.
Anyone who has been affected by the press’s behaviour is entitled to make a complaint (alternatively, someone can make a complaint on your behalf, but you will need to give IPSO your permission for them to do this). Vardags can assist you in liaising with IPSO and the relevant press body, should you wish to make a complaint.
However, it is important to note that IPSO does not award compensation. Rather, the IPSO Committee takes the role of deciding whether the Code has been breached, and, if such a finding is made, may mediate the situation by requiring the press to make clarification, issue an apology or take down any offending content.
Also important to note is that IPSO only handles complaints for newspapers and magazines. The following authorities cater to different media outlets:
Alternatively, you may wish to take legal action against the media for infringing your privacy. There exists the possibility that you could, in these cases, claim under the law of defamation or the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
In these instances, it is advised that you seek appropriate legal advice. Vardags regularly engages with the media to halt the publication of private information about our clients. In many cases, the matter can be resolved through legal correspondence. However, we are also expert at making applications for emergency injunctions at short notice if necessary. When considering whether to grant an emergency injunction, the court will conduct a two-stage test:
As part of this balancing exercise, the court will consider whether there is a public interest in the information. Public interest has to be genuine; it is not enough that the information is simply interesting to the public.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, if a journalist is investigating you/your company, they are also likely to be viewing your social media profiles and those of your close friends and family. Should this kind of intrusion be undesirable to you, you may fare better updating the privacy settings on all your accounts (or, alternatively, creating secondary private accounts, of which you do not disclose to the public).
It is possible to request the removal of anything published about you online. The first step is usually to engage with the publisher via legal correspondence and request a correction or removal. We regularly seek the removal of defamatory allegations and rectification of inaccurate data on behalf of clients, contacting media publications through to bloggers. However, it’s important to remember that it is not just the author who has the power to remove content. Website hosts and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) also bear some responsibility and will remove content in certain circumstances, particularly if the content breaches their own Terms & Conditions.
If you expect further media scrutiny in future, it is advised that you instruct a lawyer or team who can help you navigate these kinds of situation, particularly if you are being bombarded by multiple press outlets. It may be that the assistance of a PR team will also be required: they can work to draft prepared statements for journalists and help prepare you for an interview – indeed, your best bet is always to prepare and practice.
The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.