Posed prostitute picture misled readers

A “misleading” photograph of a prostitute standing on a street corner published by Luton on Sunday contravened the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The Press Complaints Commission has upheld a complaint about a picture which appeared on 12 October under the headline “Vice girls move into High Town”.

The complainant said the photograph, which accompanied an article about the increasing problem of prostitution in Luton, was misleading because it was not a real scene.

The image showed a street corner and a supposed vice girl on the pavement.

The complainant said the picture had either been posed or put together as an amalgam of two separate images.

The newspaper acknowledged that the photograph had been created from two separate images with a woman posing as a prostitute. The use of an illustrative photograph was quite legitimate in these circumstances, the newspaper argued, even if it did not show a real-life scene.

Clause one of the code states that newspapers and magazines must not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material including pictures.

In its adjudication the PCC said: “There was nothing to indicate to readers that the scene had been posed and, given that the subject matter concerned an important matter of local public interest, we considered that the newspaper should have taken greater care – for instance by publishing a suitable caption – to ensure that readers were not misled.”

The commission has reminded editors they must make clear when photographs have been altered.

A statement said: “If they are unsure about whether their changes are significant they should incline towards transparency and declare that the image has been altered or artificially assembled, as the newspaper should have done on this occasion.

“Although in this case the breach of the code was not particularly grave, it raised a point of principle to which the commission attaches high importance.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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