Pixelating faces to protect the underage and women in burqas
To pixelate or not to pixelate? That’s the question editors have to face when publishing news items featuring minors in criminal matters. The Telegraph, for instance, fell foul of the new IPSO Press watchdog when it published a Facebook picture of footballer Adam Johnson’s underage victim. The paper had taken care to alter her face but left her hair, pose and clothing unchanged.
It is an offence under the Sexual Offences Act to identify any alleged victim of a sexual offence unless that person has waived their right to lifelong anonymity. The press is prohibited from publishing any details that might lead to identification.
The Telegraph Media Group was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay the teenager £10,000 in compensation. That followed an earlier fine for the Sun, which had used the same picture, although it had taken great care that, in the judge’s words, “no facial features [were] identifiable from the photo, the hair colour has been disguised, the hair length has been changed, and the background to the photograph has been altered and indeed there have been other changes relating to, for example, clothing”. The paper was fined £1,300 costs and paid £1,000 in compensation to the girl for any distress caused.
So to Sydney, where two local teenagers have been arrested for allegedly preparing a terrorist attack. As Tim Blair says, “It’s against the law to identify charged children, which also means we can’t identify older relatives in case that leads to the children becoming known by association.”
One of the teenager’s mothers appeared in the Daily Telegraph. Dressed in a full burqa, the Daily Telegraph published her image unaltered. But Fairfax media erred on the side of caution and pixelated her eyes:
The case continues.