Credit: naeim a from Pixabay

To help editors make sensitive decisions on sex and identity, Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has created non-binding guidance, based on its monitoring of editorial standards and the complaints it receives.

The guidance is intended to support the decision-making of journalists and editors. As such, a draft is up for consultation, and IPSO is accepting public input until 10 March 2023.

Reporting of defendants

The guidance says that journalists and editors should uphold the same standards regarding accuracy, privacy and discrimination and defendants have the right to privacy without unjustified intrusion.

When covering these stories, consider the name and pronoun the defendant uses in court; whether gender identity is relevant to the nature of the alleged offence; the defendant’s gender identity at the time of alleged criminal activity and any relevant public interest in protecting public health.

This section of guidance is welcomed by Dr Amy Binns, senior lecturer of digital journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, who authored a research paper last year into the challenges of reporting court cases involving trans-identified defendants in the UK.

A key issue of her paper focused on the issue of defendants changing identities and news organisations being able to freely refer to previous names. One recent example is the case of Isla Bryson, a transgender woman who was initially charged under a different name, then self-identified as a woman while awaiting trial.

"There is a strong public interest in clearly identifying such defendants to encourage other victims to come forward, rather than allowing offenders to hide behind a new identity," Binns said via email.

The importance of accuracy

The guidance reminds journalists that they have the right to publish opinions which may be critical or considered offensive when they contribute to public debate.

However, reporting must always be accurate regardless of one's opinion. Although the Code does not prescribe specific terminology, it calls on journalists not to use any prejudicial or pejorative terms when talking about sex and gender. It is also good practice to ask individuals how they prefer to be addressed and identified regarding their sex or gender identity.

When reporting on disputes, journalists must take care to accurately present conflicting views. The same goes for comment pieces about sex and gender that can generate fierce debate or cause hurt or offence. While it is fine to report on someone’s strong stance, this needs to be clearly identified as opinion and not presented as facts.

The guide contains some questions to help assess accuracy:

• Is the terminology being used likely to create a misleading or inaccurate impression?

• Has any comment, conjecture or characterisation been clearly identified and distinguished?

• Is the basis for any characterisation included within the article?

• If there are claims of fact in an opinion piece, has the publication ensured that care has been taken over the accuracy of these claims?


Everyone has a right to privacy but this can be influenced by public interest. When considering whether an article may be intrusive, think whether an individual made their gender identity or sex known; whether the information in the article is already in the public domain or has been disclosed by the subject of the article; or whether there is a genuine public interest that outweighs expectations of privacy.


There is a significant public interest in the reporting of children’s gender identity, according to the document. However, when reporting on the welfare of a specific child or children, journalists must keep in mind their particularly vulnerable position. Do not intrude when they are at school and seek permission of a responsible adult before publishing an interview with those under 16s.

You can view the document in full here.

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