The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has concluded that mirror.co.uk breached the Editors' Code of Practice in an article from April 4 2020, headlined “Cyclists ignore UK coronavirus lockdown rules as they ride together in the sun.” The body upheld a complaint about the use of a photo that gave a distorted impression of the distance between cyclists, concluding it was clear they were actually at least two metres apart.
A number of newspapers were accused of distorting the truth through the use of misleading photos of cyclists during the first lockdown last year.
Images were published in the Mail Online and the Mirror that appeared to show groups of cyclists huddled closely together in London’s Regent’s Park.
The newspapers suggested cyclists were flouting strict social distancing rules, but the photos were taken with a long lens that foreshortens the shot and gives a false impression of proximity.
The Times subsequently did something similar with photos of cyclists on Box Hill.
A number of people reported publications to IPSO, including Cycling UK.
Speaking at the time, campaigns director Duncan Dollimore explained: “The effect and implications of using a telescopic lens would have been known to the photographer.
“It has been used to bolster an inaccurate story and dangerous narrative, namely that it is somehow wrong and in breach of guidance and regulations to cycle outside during the COVID-19 crisis, and that groups of cyclists are routinely breaching the social distancing guidelines. None of this is supported by the facts reported or the images used.”
IPSO this week upheld a complaint made by Glen Tarman, one of the cyclists who appeared in photographs accompanying the Mirror story.
Tarman said that he had been cycling for exercise with one other member of his household, as permitted by government guidelines at the time.
He said that he did not know or engage with any of the other cyclists pictured and always maintained a two-metre distance from them.
He went on to say that the angle of the photo gave a distorted impression of the distance between him and the other cyclists, making them appear closer in proximity than they actually were, and that road markings visible in the photo proved this.
The Mirror did not accept it had breached the Code. It maintained the photo did not distort the positions of the cyclists and provided additional photographs taken by the same photographer which it said demonstrated this.
Cycling campaigner Mark Treasure also highlighted a claim made by the British Press Photographers' Association, which said it was a “misconception” that telephoto lenses gave a more crowded view of a scene.
The IPSO ruling begs to differ, stating explicitly that the published photograph did indeed make the cyclists appear closer together than they actually were - https://t.co/nfQ3pCrCZz pic.twitter.com/3wXVr1Ta0c
— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) February 4, 2021
It ruled that the cyclists in the image had maintained a two-metre social distance, as required by the government’s guidelines at the time of publication, and that the suggestion Tarman was ignoring the lockdown rules was misleading.
It has asked mirror.co.uk to add a correction to the online article and also publish a standalone correction in the online corrections and clarifications column.