11th April 2024
Navigating Ethical Crossroads: How Impress Handles Your Complaints

In the age of digital media, the responsibility of news publishers should extend to the careful navigation of ethical standards of high-quality, reliable news. 

At Impress, we don’t just create standards, we live by them. Through our Standards Code and complaints procedure, we ensure an intricate balance between freedom of the press, accuracy, and protection of vulnerable individuals. 

Many of our complaints’ cases, ranging from issues of identifying minors involved in criminal proceedings to the responsibilities of publishers in verifying content accuracy, underscore the evolving landscape of media ethics and regulation. 

Reporting on Children 

Case: 570/2023 – A Complainant and The Stray Ferret 

This case highlighted that publishers must exercise caution when reporting on children who have been involved in criminal proceedings to avoid directly or indirectly identifying them. Reflecting upon this case, Impress also recognised the need to address and clarify the Code’s relationship with legal precedents and legislation. Here for instance, Impress referred to Section 49(1) Children and Young Persona Act (CYPA) 1933 to determine whether the children were identifiable in the article, whereas the publisher had applied a different legal test. 

Verifying Accuracy 

Case: 367/2021 – Michelle Edwards and Waltham Forest Echo 

This case highlighted that a publisher must take reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of their content where significant edits have been made to a freelancer’s copy. It also signalled the need for a mediation service, which would help with resolving internal disputes amicably between publishers and their contributors for instance. Impress has subsequently introduced its Mediation Scheme which is open to all media participants, including Impress-regulated publishers. 

Freedom of Expression 

Case: 574/2023 – Bob Seely and IW Observer 

This case highlighted that there is an overwhelming presumption in favour of freedom of expression when speculating about the suitability of a politician or a public official for holding public office. This means that it may be found that freedom of expression will outweigh a potential breach of the Discrimination clause which has occurred through such speculation. However, this would be determined on a case-by-case basis. 

As the news media landscape continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly evident that a nuanced understanding of journalistic standards and ethical news production is indispensable for news providers. By highlighting these cases, we not only emphasise areas for improvement but also reaffirm the significance of ethical journalism in fostering an informed and responsible discourse within society. 

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