A story in The Sun that claimed a Love Island contestant was on a “romantic holiday” with a woman pictured in one of his Instagram posts has been ruled inaccurate by the UK’s main press regulator.
The news website has been told to publish a correction clarifying that the pair are “just friends” following a ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation that it breached its reporting guidelines.
The article, headlined: “Love Island’s Maura’s being used by Marvin as he enjoyed a romantic holiday with stunning brunette just weeks before entering the villa,” was published on 4 July last year.
It featured two photos of Russol Bashagha, one with reality TV star Marvin Brooks (pictured) at a pool party and another of her captioned: “Here’s the woman in question”, both taken from Brooks’ Instagram account.
Bashagha was not named in the article, which has since been taken down.
She told IPSO the Sun had “fabricated” the story as she was not romantically involved with Brooks but were “good friends from back home”.
She added that they had not travelled to Dubai together, where the pictures were taken, but that she was there for a business trip and met up with Brooks to go out for dinner and to a party.
Defending its reporting, The Sun told IPSO that “while it appreciated the complainant’s position that she and the contestant were both just friends, a break between them to a city popular with couples could be described as ‘romantic’”.
But IPSO’s Complaints Committe said the article had “reported as fact” that the pair had been on a “romantic holiday” and that this was a breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
“The newspaper had not taken any further steps to establish the accuracy of this position,” the committee said, adding that it was “not satisfied that the publication had taken sufficient care not to publish inaccurate information”.
It added: “The article misrepresented the nature of the relationship between the complainant and the contestant, representing a significant inaccuracy requiring correction…”
Bashagha also raised concerns that photos of her had been published without her consent, acknowledging they were from a public Instagram account but saying it had caused her “distress”.
The Sun said the photos had been provided by a news agency but that it removed them as soon as she asked for them to be taken down.
IPSO noted that Brooks had more than 61,000 Instagram followers and that the photos were taken in a public place in ruling that she had no reasonable expectation of privacy and the Sun was entitled to publish them.