Dr Sandrine Brissett and the Sunday Independent
The Press Ombudsman has decided to uphold a complaint by Dr Sandrine Brissett that an article published in the Sunday Independent on 13 October 2013 was in breach of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.
Dr Brissett complained about a statement in the article that reported that she had, in a book she had published, “revealed” personal information about the writer of the article concerned. She said the statement was inaccurate. The newspaper responded that it had published the article in good faith and that it accepted the bona fides of the writer. It did not accept that the writer of the article had been untruthful, or that the complainant had adduced any compelling evidence of inaccuracy.
On the basis of the evidence made available to him – and to the newspaper – in this instance, however, the Press Ombudsman is satisfied that the information about the writer of the article included in Dr Brissett’s book, while obviously deeply unwelcome to the writer, was already in the public domain and available to Dr Brissett and others before the book was published. In these circumstances, the statement that Dr Brissett had “revealed” the information in question in her book was significantly inaccurate, and therefore in breach of Principle 1 of the Code.
A number of other complaints about the article were not upheld.
Dr Brissett also complained under Principle 1 and principle 2.2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) of the Code that the article accused her of causing the attempted suicide of the writer of the article. However, the article made no such accusation, and this part of the complaint is therefore not upheld.
Dr Brissett also complained that the article had breached Principle 2.2 of the Code because it had, she said, accused her of breaching the privacy of the writer of the article, and in doing so had reported a rumour or an unconfirmed report as if it were a fact. The Press Ombudsman decided that the issue in question had already been substantively and adequately considered and upheld under Principle 1.
Dr Brissett also complained under Principle 2.3 that readers had not been informed that the writer of the article had a financial interest in attacking her. However, there was no evidence that the content of the article had been inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests or that the writer had not disclosed a significant potential conflict of interest to the editor, as would be required to uphold a decision that this Principle of the Code had been breached.
24 February 2014