Changes to PCC Editors’ Code

Public interest and justification for privacy intrusions redefined

The Press Complainants Commission has announced three revisions to the Editor’s Code of Practice.

Ian Beales, Code Committee Secretary, said that the changes, which will take effect from 19 October 2009, "are intended to strengthen and clarify the Code, for the benefit of both complainants and the press."

Of particular interest is the amendment to the "public interest" definition under the Code which will require editors to demonstrate a "reasonable" belief that publication or the journalistic activity undertaken with a view to publication, would be in the public interest. This, Mr Beales explains, will allow for publication or investigative activity that genuinely appeared to be in the public interest, even where none actually emerged.

An amendment to the privacy provisions will permit editors to take into account the complainant’s own public disclosures of information when assessing whether the intrusion into any individual’s private life without consent was justified.

And in a change to the harassment prohibition, journalists will also be required, if requested, to identify themselves and whom they represent to individuals.