As the country prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack on May 22, we should once again pay tribute to the exceptional ambulance staff who responded to the tragic event.
These paramedics put their own lives at risk to save others. They are the unsung heroes of our communities, often going well beyond the call of duty.
In the immediate aftermath of an incident such as the Manchester Arena attack, paramedics and other emergency sometimes find themselves having to marshal the media who arrive at the scene and at the nearby hospitals.
On occasions, the presence of journalists can be unexpected, unsettling and distressing for the families and friends caught up in such tragedies.
IPSO regulates 90% of UK newspapers, including their online publications, and we have strict rules within the Editors’ Code which journalists must follow or face sanction.
The code requires journalists to approach bereaved family members with sympathy and discretion; not to break the news of a death to immediate family; and to ensure their reports are accurate. Reporters must also respect privacy and stop their approaches if an individual decides they do not wish to talk to the media.
Journalists are provided with clear instructions on how to obtain information in hospitals and similarly sensitive locations. Clause 8 of the Code states that reporters must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
If a newspaper is found to have breached our rules, IPSO can force a newspaper to publish a correction. When these corrections are issued, we decide the wording and even the font size. On 18 separate occasions, we have ruled that a reference to an IPSO ruling must appear on a newspaper’s front page.
In the majority of cases, journalists comply with the rules, respect the wishes of the family and conduct themselves with dignity and compassion. But what can paramedics do if they are worried about press behaviour?
If someone has made it clear to you that they do not want to speak to reporters, you can advise them to contact IPSO, or contact IPSO on their behalf.
IPSO has a 24- hour harassment helpline to offer support and advise to those who believe they are the subject of press intrusion.
In the most serious cases, we can issue a Private Advisory Notice to the news desk which makes it clear to reporters that a person does not wish to speak to the media. To date, we have issued more than 150 private advisory notices.
The notices are an effective tool to tackle media “scrums” or as a method of preventing press intrusion. In some cases, these notices can come into effect within 20 minutes. These are extremely effective for families who have suffered a bereavement or who do not wish to be contacted by the press.
Some people may feel that they have nowhere to turn in the face of press intrusion. I can assure those people that IPSO is the organisation to call if you ever feel uncomfortable about the behaviour of journalists and want to seek advice.
IPSO can be contacted on 0300 123 22 20. Our emergency 24 Hour Emergency Hotline: is 07799 903 929. Find out more about our work at www.ipso.co.uk
By Matt Tee, Chief Executive, Independent Press Standards Organisation