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‘Responsible journalism’: Why UK publishers have not used Kate picture

Why UK newspapers and broadcasters have not used Princess Kate picture published by TMZ.

By Dominic Ponsford

No UK media have used a paparazzi image of Kate, the Princess of Wales, observing a long-held convention not to use such pictures.

The image was taken by a photographer for Backgrid (which was bought by Shutterstock last month) and was published in the UK on celebrity news website TMZ.

Whereas most UK news publications adhere to the Editors’ Code, US publications do not and are used to a legal framework where the First Amendment (guaranteeing freedom of expression) tends to trump the right to privacy.

In the UK, the right to privacy is well established and the publication of images such as this one would need to be justified in the public interest.

Kate has not been photographed in public since she underwent abdominal surgery on 16 January, prompting widespread speculation on social media about her health.

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The Editors’ Code, which underpins the work of press regulator IPSO, states: “Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.”

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It states that it is unacceptable to photograph people without their consent in public places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The photograph in question, which is grainy and looks to have been taken with a long lens, shows the Princess on a private car journey being driven by her mother.

Vice-chair of the National Association of Press Agencies Mike Leidig said: “By long arrangement with Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, the British media agrees not to intrude into areas, such as health, which could be considered sensitive. In return, they are kept up to date off the record. 

“There is also the IPSO Editors’ Code clause on privacy, which binds the British media to show restraint and sensitivity to people undergoing medical treatment, even if they appear to be in a public place where anyone could see them.

“Having said that, there does seem to be an anomaly where the British public has to remain in the dark about the Princess of Wales’s recovery while readers in America, or anyone with internet access can see it for themselves. It was running on X almost within seconds.”

Camilla Tominey, an associate editor of the Daily Telegraph covering politics and the Royal Family, said: “My understanding is no newspaper is running them in the UK because they are deemed a breach of privacy and there’s no longer a market for paparazzi photographs of the Royals in the wake of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales and the Leveson Inquiry.”

And executive director of the Society of Editors Dawn Alford said: “The decision by the UK press not to publish the paparazzi photos of Kate Middleton is an example of responsible journalism. Kensington Palace has asked that the Princess of Wales be allowed to recover in private following her operation and UK newsrooms are respecting this.”

Agency Backgrid which took the Kate image was involved in an incident in New York last May when Prince Harry said he and his wife Meghan were chased around the city by paparazzi photographers.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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