Sheikh loses complaints against three UK newspapers over coverage of son’s death

The ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah has lost complaints about coverage of his son’s death in the Sun, Mail and Metro newspapers, having deemed the timing of their articles to be “insensitive”.

Prince Khalid Al Qasimi, founder and creative director of fashion brand Qasimi, died aged 39 at his London penthouse on 1 July after taking drugs, as confirmed by an inquest in December.

Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi (pictured), who has ruled the UAE’s third largest city Sharjah since 1972, made five formal complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation about nine different stories about his fashion designer son’s death and funeral.

He originally complained to Associated Newspapers over the Metro and Mail stories, but these must be treated separately under IPSO rules as they have separate editorial teams.

The stories complained about were:

Sheikh Dr Sultan and his family claimed the timing of the stories published on the day of his son’s funeral was “insensitive”, “flippant” and “gratuitous” and were in breach of Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

He criticised “excessive” and sometimes “sensationalist” speculation on the prince’s cause of death before an inquest had been held, and the level of detail provided on the circumstances in which his body was found.

The complaints also condemned “insensitive” references to Prince Khalid’s brother, who died of a heroin overdose in 1999, and the fact that photos and videos showing both the deceased’s covered body and his father in a state of grief had been published.

The Sun told IPSO one of its “highly experienced” journalists had been told by a reliable and confidential source that a party with drink and drugs had been held at the prince’s apartment the night before his death.

It noted the accuracy of its information had not been questioned by the prince’s family and that the reporter subsequently had the details confirmed by other sources, making a coroner’s finding unnecessary.

The Daily Mail said its articles only briefly and sensitively referred to speculative details, adding that the prince was a prominent figure whose death would therefore naturally attract press attention but that it had done so in a respectful tone.

The Metro said it had published a “straightforward news report” repeating source claims from another national newspaper , adding it had “not ridiculed Prince Khalid in any way”.

IPSO dismissed all five complaints, saying it was not insensitive to publish articles on the day of the funeral.

“Journalists have a right to report the fact of a person’s death, even if surviving family members would prefer for there to be no reporting,” the committee said.

The regulator also said the Editors’ Code “does not require that publications sanitise the circumstances of a death”, backing the titles’ right to publish source claims.

It noted the Sun had still taken steps to avoid excessive and gratuitous detail in its original reporting.

IPSO went on to note that the images published of the funeral had been put into the public domain initially with the family’s consent, adding that they “showed a televised state funeral of a prominent member of the Sharjah royal family rather than a private occasion”.

Read the full rulings here.

Picture: Reuters/Alex Grimm

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