The Daily Record removed a lifeboat worker from a photograph because he was accused of fish poaching in active criminal proceedings.
The newspaper is to publish a clarification after the Press Complaints Commission was alerted to the alteration, which readers were not informed of.
Rod McLean, of the Arbroath Lifeboat Station crew, complained to the PCC that the photograph, published on 26 February, breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
The PCC judged that the Record had published the photograph in a “significantly misleading manner”, but said the clarification it offered to remedy the breach was sufficient.
The article reported that the Arbroath crew had been nominated for the newspaper’s Emergency Hero Award after saving the lives of two jet skiing men.
But the complaint was received after the Record altered the accompanying photograph by removing one of its members, who had played an important role in the rescue.
It said the crew member had been removed following legal advice, because he was a defendant in criminal proceedings concerning fish poaching. He later pleaded guilty.
The PCC said: “It argued that the alteration of the photograph was justified on this basis. However, the newspaper offered to publish a clarification, to explain to readers that the image had been altered, the reasons for this alteration, and the fact that the crew member concerned had played an important role in the rescue. “
The regulator said the newspaper should have notified readers that the image had been altered.
It said: “Readers are entitled to trust that published photographs are an accurate depiction of what was before the camera. In this instance, the precise line-up of men shown in the photograph was of particular significance as they were not named in the coverage; the photograph was the only means by which the men involved were identified."