Clauses Noted: 3
Publication: Al Hayat
His Excellency The Ambassador of Israel, Mr Moshe Raviv, complained that Al Hayat published, in its edition of 6 September, photographs of a severed head and dismembered body parts of Israeli soldiers in breach of Clause 4 (Privacy) of the Code of Practice and that such publication was a despicable and uncivilised act.
The front page article featured a photograph of an Amal militia man holding up for public display the severed head of an Israeli soldier who was killed in Lebanon. Inside pages carried photographs of other body parts.
The editor-in-chief said he very much regretted the uproar caused by publication and that he had not intended to upset anyone by it. Following reaction to the pictures however he felt that he should not publish such photographs again. It had been an ugly picture of an ugly war and was intended as a statement against war. He had earlier published a photograph of the remains of a Lebanese child. He said the photograph complained of was distributed by a French agency and published worldwide often in full colour.
The Commission had to consider two points relating to the Code of Practice.
First, the Code acknowledges that newspapers are free to be partisan. In the complex tapestry that makes up the conflict in Lebanon, it is inevitable that deep emotions should be reflected in partisan comment in newspapers. This was clearly what had happened in this case.
Secondly, the Code also underlines that matters of taste and decency must be left to editorial judgement. The Commission is not there to act as a censor by adjudicating on what is or is not offensive.
The Commission could therefore make no formal finding on this complaint: as one about editorial judgement on a partisan matter, it fell outside the Code.
While the newspaper was clearly entitled to make a partisan comment and illustrate it in any way it wished, to his credit, the editor had recognised that his judgement had been mistaken - with which the Commission entirely agreed. He had made clear he would not use similar pictures in future. The Commission believed that this decision showed the strength of self-regulation in practice, and welcomed it.
<< Go Back