Agency fined over doctored image
A public relations agency based in Dubai has been fined Dh15,000 (US$4,083) for distributing a doctored photograph among the local media.
The fine, the first ever levied by the Middle East Public Relations Association (MEPRA), comes just weeks after the firm won four accolades at MEPRA's industry awards, including Agency of the Year.
The agency, d'pr, was fined after it sent out an image of its staff, taken at the MEPRA event and in which it had airbrushed out the names of the event sponsors and inserted its own logo. The photograph was sent to local newspapers and websites, several of which published it.
MEPRA said the photograph "was changed by the agency resulting in the sponsor logos being airbrushed out and d'pr's logo being inserted".
The association said the manipulation of the image broke its "code of practice" and was "a serious breach of ethics".
Sponsors of the event included the industry recruitment firm PRJS, the online monitoring firm Social Eyez, the public relations companies Grayling Momentum and Hill & Knowlton, and the media monitoring agency Meltwater Group.
Rebecca Hill, MEPRA's executive director, said the decision to fine d'pr was about "upholding standards" in the PR industry, rather than protecting the association's sponsorship interests.
"This is very much about the PR profession as a whole," Ms Hill said. She added that in a "self-policing" industry, the association could act only on breaches that were brought to its attention.
"If it's not brought to our attention, there's nothing [we] can do about it," Ms Hill said.
Aside from imposing a fine, the association placed d'pr on "a 12-month probationary period" and banned it from entering next year's Agency of the Year award. Under the ruling, employees at the agency have been asked to sign a copy of MEPRA's code of practice and must conduct internal training on ethics.
Camilla d'Abo, the managing director of d'pr, apologised for the "error".
"Obviously it was a mistake. As soon as it came to our attention we took immediate action," Ms d'Abo said. "We've made sure internally that mistakes like this don't happen again."