PCC: Heat wrong to brand N-Dubz star a love cheat

A member of the pop group N-Dubz has had a complaint against Heat magazine upheld by the Press Complaints Commission after it published a story claiming he cheated on ex-girlfriend Tulisa.

Fazer, whose real name is Richard Rawson, complained to the press watchdog over a story published by the celebrity magazine in February 2012, a month after he split up with the X-Factor judge.

He claimed the story headlined 'Exclusive: ‘Fazer cheated on Tulisa with me…Fazer told me he didn't have a girlfriend – then we kissed'" – breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.

The article featured an interview with a woman claiming she met Fazer at a nightclub in November 2011, when the pair danced and kissed and he had denied having a girlfriend.

Fazer, who was represented by lawyers from the firm Lewis Silkin, accepted he had spoken and danced with the woman but strongly denied either kissing her or telling her he did not have a girlfriend.

He was also concerned Heat did not approach his representative before publication, telling him of the story only after it had gone to press and failing to include his denial.

In his complaint he noted the photos published in the magazine did not show him kissing the woman.

He also provided a witness statement from his stylist, who had been present, claiming he had not seen any kiss and did not believe that it had taken place.

According to the PCC, Fazer also 'considered that even had the claim of kissing been accurate, which he denied, the reference on the cover to ‘cheating' would be misleading, as it implied sexual intercourse".

In its defence, Heat provided an affidavit signed by the woman prior to publication 'confirming that she had exchanged a mutual kiss with the complainant".

 

It also provided a witness statement from the freelance journalist who had taken the photographs confirming that he had observed the kiss.

The magazine said it had not contacted his representatives before publication 'because it was confident of its accuracy, and the representative had previously made clear that he would not comment on the complainant's private life, but had asked to be informed of stories before the magazine went on sale".

In its adjudication the PCC said it was 'unable to reconcile the two conflicting versions of what had occurred".

Instead, it had to 'consider whether the magazine had taken care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information".

It said: 'The Code does not impose a specific requirement on newspapers or magazines to contact those who feature in a published article on every occasion, but where significant allegations are at stake, publications will often need to do so in order to test their veracity or to obtain alternative versions of events.

'The article had been highlighted on the magazine's cover, with the claim that the complainant had ‘cheated'. While the Commission did not agree that ‘cheating' necessarily implied a claim of sexual intercourse, the allegation of infidelity was significant.

'The magazine had published detailed claims about the complainant, including that he had been deceptive and unfaithful to his girlfriend. Although the magazine had taken a witness statement from the woman prior to publication and had obtained a further statement from the journalist, it was unable to provide direct corroborating evidence, such as a photograph, of the kiss.

'In the circumstances – which included the nature of the allegations and the prominence given to them – the Commission concluded that the magazine's decision not to contact the complainant's representative about the story prior to publication had represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information, and a breach of Clause 1."

Another claim that Heat had breached Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Code was rejected.

Fazer claimed the pictures, which were taken in the VIP section of a nightclub where entry was controlled, represented an intrusion into his private life.

But the event was a designated ‘press night' and in Fazer's own witness statement, his stylist commented that it would have been "stupid" for him to have kissed the woman because there were "many journalists, both inside and outside the club".

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