January 9, 2008
PCC upholds privacy complaint against OK!
Magazine found in breach of PCC Code for identifying woman attending Alcoholics Anonymous
The PCC has upheld a privacy complaint against OK! Magazine in respect of an article about a male celebrity which stated that he had been “spotted at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting” with his friend, the complainant.
The PCC ruled that the magazine had clearly published private information about the complainant, the fact of her addiction and treatment. It found that taken together, the photograph, its caption, which repeated that she had attended an AA meeting, and the information in the article constituted intrusive material. The fact of her treatment was not in the public domain, and there was no public interest reason for publishing references to it without her consent.
The defence advanced by the magazine, that there was no breach of the code because readers might think the complainant was at the meeting only to provide moral support, was found by the PCC to be “clearly without merit”.
The PCC also ruled that in the circumstances the magazine had acted “recklessly” in publishing the material since the article stated that the complainant had attended the meeting and published a photograph of her outside it but in fact did not know whether she had been there for treatment herself, and took no care in its presentation of the material to avoid a possible intrusion into her privacy.