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Harassed by journalists

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is the complaints-handling body for the UK newspaper and magazine industry.

In addition to dealing with complaints about published material under the terms of the Editors’ Code of Practice, the PCC can help individuals who are being harassed by a journalist or photographer. Unless there is a public interest for doing so, journalists should not follow or persistently question people once they have been asked to desist. This is a requirement of Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code, which states:

i)                    Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii)                  They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii)                Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

The PCC can help with unwanted approaches by journalists or photographers by passing on a private advisory message to relevant editors. This will make clear to the relevant newsdesks that an individual is being harassed and does not wish to speak to the media, and should help to prevent further unwanted approaches. The circulation list used by the PCC for this service includes broadcasters as well as national editors. Messages can either be sent to relevant editors across the industry, or can be tailored to focus on local and regional media as appropriate. PCC staff will advise (on a confidential basis) if this service is appropriate for an individual to use, based on the particular circumstances of the case.

Please note that the PCC’s remit does not formally cover news agencies (other than the Press Association). Broadcast journalists are also not covered by the Editors’ Code of Practice overseen by the PCC. However, if you have concerns about the presence or behaviour of such journalists as part of a “media scrum” involving journalists from all forms of media, the PCC can also forward this message to the broadcasters, who will then be able to take action.

If you have a concern which relates ONLY to an approach by a broadcast journalist(s), then you will need to contact the broadcaster directly. Ofcom is a post transmission regulator and can only become involved once a programme is broadcast.

This service is operated on a 24 hour emergency basis and can be accessed on 07659 152656. During office hours (Monday-Friday 9am – 5.30pm), please contact 020 7831 0022.

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