IPSO UPHOLDS COMPLAINT AGAINST THE SUNDAY TIMES BY MOHAMED AHMED

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The below is republished from the corrections section of The Times online as this website has a paywall installed, meaning only those that subscribe or register to the site can access it. 

Following an article published in The Sunday Times on 28 May 2017 headlined “I’m not altruistic, I’m pretty selfish, but I had to do something, so I took in a refugee…”, Mohammed Ahmed complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times had breached Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complaint was upheld and IPSO has required The Sunday Times to publish this adjudication.

The article, which included the complainant’s first name and unpixelated photograph, was the journalist’s first-person account of her experience hosting the complainant, at the time an asylum seeker, in her home. The article included various details about the complainant’s background and personal life, and reported the journalist’s recollection of various conversations that she had with the complainant. It also included the text of a letter of apology that the complainant had written to the journalist after they had argued.

The journalist recalled that, while living with her, the complainant had suffered from an illness and the article included details of the illness. She also said that the complainant had left pornographic images on her computer, and she described the content of these images.

The complainant was concerned that his life and experiences had been the focus of a story in a national newspaper, which he considered to be an intrusion into his privacy. He was not a public figure, and had not expected to be the subject of an article. He had not consented to its publication.

The newspaper said that the article was a first-hand piece on a challenging topic written by a widely acclaimed journalist of great experience and integrity. In sharing her story, the journalist was exercising her right to freedom of expression. She was entitled to report her experiences and opinions, and was contributing to a topic of general discussion and debate.

The newspaper did not accept that the article had intruded into the complainant’s privacy. It said that the complainant did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to his behaviour, or conversations with the journalist, while staying at her home. It noted that he was a non-paying guest in the house, and that he had shared most of the information in the article with his host voluntarily, in the knowledge that she was a journalist working for a major newspaper.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee emphasised that first-person journalism has a long history as a means to exercise the right to freedom of expression. Clause 2 of the Code makes clear that everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence. This reflects the enhanced privacy rights that people have in their own homes. The Committee rejected the newspaper’s position that, as the complainant was not paying rent, these rights were forfeited. It also did not accept that, as his host was a journalist, the complainant should have presumed that any information he shared with her might be published without his consent.

The article included extensive information about the complainant, relating to: his family and personal relationships; his domestic arrangements; his financial circumstances; his journey to the UK; his asylum application; his relationships and interactions with the journalist, including an argument they had had, and a letter he had written to her, expressing his feelings about the disagreement; his psychological and physical health; his drug use; and allegations about the possession of private, sexual material. These details were used to create a detailed and intimate portrait of the complainant, and his life.

The complainant was not a public figure, and had not publicly disclosed the information about his experiences contained in the article, or consented to the article’s publication. The extent of this detail, published without his consent, and where no steps were taken to obscure his identity, represented an intrusion into his private life. While the journalist was entitled to publish her story, and the Committee recognised that the matters discussed in the article were of significant public interest, this was not sufficient to justify the extent of the information about the complainant, and the resulting intrusion into his private life; the journalist’s right to freedom of expression did not outweigh the complainant’s right to privacy in this instance. There was a breach of Clause 2.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

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STATISTICS SHOW THAT DAILY MAIL WAS BY FAR THE MOST UNRELIABLE UK PAPER IN 2017

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Picture: LSE

The Daily Mail transgressed the press regulator rules no fewer than 50 times in 2017, making it by far the biggest offender of the year out of the publications monitored by IPSO.

This was more than the combined total of the next three worst offenders (Daily Express, The Sun and the Daily Telegraph) and far in excess of its 2016 total, when the paper also topped the charts.

The 2017 figures show an overall rise in IPSO sanctions compared to 2016, which could be due to worsening press standards or greater vigilance among those monitoring and reporting transgressions to IPSO.

In terms of overall figures, the Daily Mail chalked up 50 offences. The Daily Express was second worst with 19, then The Sun with 17, the Daily Telegraph with 10, The Times with 8, the Daily Star with 6 and the Daily Mirror with 5.

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Figure 1 (above): Total number of IPSO rulings 2017

These include breaches of various clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice, including accuracy, privacy and harassment. Concerning accuracy alone, the Mail breached the code on 37 separate occasions. This is over twice the number of times it breached the code in 2016 (when it was sanctioned 17 times). The Express followed with 17 breaches, and The Sun with 16 (both up on their 2016 totals).

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Figure 2 (above): IPSO rulings for inaccuracy 2017

This means that the three worst offenders in terms of publishing inaccurate content were sanctioned a total of 70 times between them in 2017, an increase of more than 50 per cent on last year (when they were sanctioned 43 times between them).

This is worrying news for the Daily Mail, the most popular daily paper in the UK in terms of online readership, but perhaps highlights why Wikipedia made the decision to classify it as an unreliable reference source in 2017.

Regarding subject matter of articles pulled up for inaccurate content, it was a mixed bag for the Mail although slightly more common themes were Jeremy Corbyn/Labour Party and issues relating to immigration and refugees (3 each). There were clearer patterns where the Express was concerned, with nearly half of its inaccurate content (8 articles) relating to the EU/Brexit and a further four concerned with Islam/Muslims. The most common theme of The Sun‘s inaccurate content was Corbyn/Labour (3 articles).

Perhaps what these figures show more than anything is that the current IPSO sanctions are ineffective. If they were working, you would expect the number of times these papers were pulled up for inaccurate content to decrease. The very fact that the Mail, the Express and The Sun are committing more offences than ever before does little to instil confidence in the current IPSO model as a regulatory force.

IPSO was established in 2014 as an independent regulator of the press but has been criticised for not imposing sufficient penalties when guidelines are breached. Offenders generally get away with printing a small correction notice months after the original offending article was published.

Surely it’s time to make papers pay for their indiscretions rather than handing out token ineffective punishments. Some have suggested forcing papers to publish corrections in bold print on the front page. Others have suggested imposing fines to hit publications where it hurts.

Another idea could be to impose a ban on papers covering certain subjects for different periods of time if they can’t report truthfully and accurately on them. After all, if a paper has repeatedly demonstrated that it can’t handle a topic responsibly, why should it be allowed into a position where it can influence millions of people?

IPSO does have the power to impose tougher sanctions such as increased prominence of corrections notices or even fines for serious or repeat offences. It can be contacted here.

*The Daily Mail is used here to include the Daily Mail, the Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online. Likewise, the Daily Express is used to include the Daily Express, the Sunday Express and the Express Online, and so on. 

**IPSO rulings include both breaches of the Editors’ Code of Practice, where no agreement between the parties can be reached and IPSO has to intervene, and Resolution Statements, where the publication admits it has breached the code and offers to make a statement/concession that is to the satisfaction of the complainant. 

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

 

THE SUN’S INVESTIGATION INTO FOSTERING REVEALS ONE THING – THE PAPER IS HELLBENT ON STIRRING UP RACISM

You may remember the furore caused by the press (mainly The Times and the Daily Mail) back in the summer over the case of a Christian child in Tower Hamlets being placed with Muslim foster carers and allegedly being stopped from eating pork or wearing a crucifix.

You may also remember that a subsequent inquiry into the case rejected the press claims, seemingly putting the whole sorry episode to bed.

Well, the issue has sort of reared its head again. The Sun, clearly spotting an opportunity to stir up a bit of trouble, decided to carry out an ‘investigation’ of its own. For no apparent reason other than to try and make a story where there was none, it’s gathered up information from across the country on mixed faith fostering cases.

It presented the results in an article earlier this week which it claimed highlights a ‘crisis of faith’. The story, which appeared in Thursday’s edition of the paper as an ‘exclusive’ by Tom Wells, carried the headline ‘101 CHRISTIAN CHILDREN FOSTERED BY MUSLIMS’.

sun muslim foster care

There are four things worth noting about this.

Number one, why is the headline focusing on the number of Christian children fostered by Muslims when the number of Muslim children fostered by Christians is nearly four times greater? The 394 Muslim children fostered by Christians are mentioned in the sub-header – almost as if the paper is proud of the prejudicial way in which it is presenting the information – but are then edited out of the article altogether.

Someone obviously had a word with The Sun about this as within 24 hours the paper had edited the headline to the online article.

sun foster caring

Number two, the information is taken from 73 councils across England. So that works out as between 6 and 7 cases per council on average (just over one Christian child with Muslims and just over five Muslim children with Christians per council). Or, to put it another way, there are approximately 50,000 foster children in England, so the total number of cases highlighted here are less than 1%. If we focus purely on the cases of Christian children placed with Muslim foster carers (which are the ones that The Sun is trying to make its readers outraged about), it works out at around 0.2% of all fostering cases.

The Sun tries to make something out of the fact that just over half of the councils approached didn’t provide figures, saying that ‘the true total is likely to be far higher’. But even if that were to be true, it’s not going to amount to a particularly large number of cases when you put it into an overall perspective.

Number three, the paper frames its investigation within the context of the Tower Hamlets case. But although it broadly reports the claims that initially appeared in the press, there is no mention of the inquiry that rejected these claims because there was no evidence to support them. Why is the paper reporting on baseless claims as fact?

Number four, who cares if foster children are placed with carers who happen to be of a different religion, as long as they’re being cared for properly? By making a story out of this, The Sun is implying that there’s something unacceptable about fostering children from a different cultural background.

Of course, efforts should be made to find the most suitable carers for a child. But there is currently a shortage of foster carers in this country, with the Fostering Network stating recently that over 7,000 new carers are urgently needed to meet demand. In these circumstances, of course there are going to be instances where children end up being placed with people from different backgrounds.

If The Sun and its journalists had any interest in the plight of foster children, they would focus on highlighting this shortage and encouraging people to become foster carers. Instead they publish sensationalist drivel to stir up Islamophobia, which only serves to denigrate foster caring. Irresponsible journalism at its very worst.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

TEN SHAMEFUL MOMENTS FROM THE SUN’S PAST

In honour of the fact that The Sun seems to be so keen on digging through people’s social media histories to find any old tweets or Facebook posts that can be used against them, this blog thought it would be a good time to trawl through the paper’s own past to dredge up some misdemeanours that make silly offensive tweets from ten years ago look like child’s play.

Now, of course we are all aware of the shameful lies told about Liverpool football fans in the wake of the Hillsborough tragedy. Lies that mean that to this day, the paper is not sold in newsagents throughout the city.

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But here are nine other episodes from The Sun’s history that the paper would probably prefer weren’t mentioned. It’s something you can share with others the next time you feel that The Sun needs a taste of its own medicine.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT REJOICED IN THE SINKING OF AN ARGENTINIAN SHIP

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The Sun‘s jingoistic coverage of the 1982 Falklands War reached a peak (or nadir) when the Argentinian General Belgrano ship was torpedoed and sunk while outside the 200 mile exclusion zone and reportedly sailing back to port. The paper’s front page headline read GOTCHA. It emerged that nearly 400 people were killed in the strike. Sun owner Rupert Murdoch was reportedly against changing the headline and toning down the reporting for later editions once the casualties were known.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT REFERRED TO AIDS AS THE GAY PLAGUE

sun gay plague

Throughout much of the 80s, The Sun and its sister paper the (now defunct) News of the World repeatedly referred to the AIDs virus as the ‘gay plague’ and were among the main culprits spreading misinformation and hearsay about the disease. In 1989, the paper published an article titled STRAIGHT SEX CANNOT GIVE YOU AIDS – OFFICIAL and claimed the idea that heterosexuals also caught HIV was ‘homosexual propaganda’. The press regulators criticised the paper for ‘gross distortion’ but the punishment was a measly apology printed on page 28 (sound familiar?).

 

THE TIME WHEN IT CLAIMED ASYLUM SEEKERS WERE EATING SWANS

swan bake

In 2003, the paper ran with a front page story headlined SWAN BAKE, claiming ‘callous asylum seekers are barbecuing the queen’s swans’. Although the story was supposedly based on an official Metropolitan Police report, it turned out that there was no record of any such offence. Again The Sun was sanctioned by the regulators but a mealy-mouthed clarification on page 41 was its only punishment.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT RAN A FEATURE CALLED ‘THE POOFS OF POP’

The Sun regularly ran homophobic pieces throughout the 1980s, speculating on which celebrities might be gay and looking to ‘out’ people with slurry headlines where it could. When EastEnders broadcast the first soap gay kiss, the paper published a front page story titled EASTBENDERS.

‘The Poofs of Pop’ was an 80s feature where Piers Morgan and Peter Willis speculated on whether various male pop stars were gay or not and spent their time hassling agents for a confession. According to Morgan, Sun editor at the time Kelvin Mackenzie was obsessed with people’s sexuality. ‘He generally thought that anyone who played a ‘dodgy sport’ – i.e. not football or boxing – spoke in a posh accent, sang pop music or just walked in a funny way was ‘as bent as a nine bob note’. And his staff were encouraged to share his suspicions rather than commit professional and medical suicide by challenging them.’

 

THE TIME WHEN IT HACKED THE PHONES OF RELATIVES OF MURDER VICTIMS

news of the world

Let’s not forget that employees of the News of the World, which was the sister Sunday paper of The Sun until its closure in 2011, hacked into the phones of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler, relatives of dead British soldiers and victims of the 7 July London bombings. Worth remembering this little nugget next time you see a Sun scoop on someone’s old tweets where they’re found to have used an offensive word once.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT RIDICULED MENTAL ILLNESS

bonkers bruno

In 2003, the paper covered the story of Frank Bruno’s deteriorating mental health with the sensitive front page headline BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP. Following public criticism, the headline in the later edition of the paper was changed to SAD BRUNO IN MENTAL HOME.

 

THE TIME WHEN RUPERT MURDOCH WAS CAUGHT TAX DODGING

The Sun may revel in reporting that the likes of Gary Lineker or Lewis Hamilton have been caught up in tax avoidance schemes, but as far back as 2001 an investigation into News Corp found that it had avoided £350 million in corporation tax over an 11 year period.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT PAID £22K TO A POLICEMAN FOR INFORMATION

In 2015, Sun reporter Anthony France was found guilty of buying 43 stories from PC Timothy Edwards for £22,000 between 2008 and 2011. Thirty-eight of the stories were published in the paper. Edwards pleaded guilty to committing misconduct in a public office in 2014 and was jailed for two years.

 

THE TIME WHEN IT COMPARED MIGRANTS TO COCKROACHES

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In 2015, columnist Katie Hopkins called migrants crossing the Mediterranean ‘cockroaches’ who were ‘spreading like the norovirus’. She advocated using gunships rather than rescue boats to deal with them. Her comments led to the UN High Commission for Human Rights making a statement in which it compared Hopkins’ language to that used by Rwandan reporters to stoke up hatred in the run up to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

NIGEL FARAGE PASSES TABLOID JOURNALISM ENTRANCE EXAM

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is celebrating today after successfully passing his tabloid journalism entrance exam by being caught smearing an anti-fascist campaign group.

Mr Farage withdrew a claim made last December that anti-racist organisation Hope Not Hate were ‘violent and undemocratic’ after being sued for libel and threatened with a court case. He issued a statement today saying he is ‘perfectly happy to acknowledge that Hope Not Hate does not pursue violent or undemocratic behaviour’.

The Sun and the Daily Mail and now understood to be in a battle to sign the controversial politician as a political reporter.

‘He made up his own facts about a group he doesn’t like and only retracted them months later after being forced to by legal proceedings’, said Sun political writer Tim Newton-Dick. ‘This is exactly the sort of thing we look for in a journalist. With his profile, track record of shit-stirring and propensity for accusing the BBC of left-wing bias, we could probably start him on a salary of around £125k.’

But the paper is under stiff competition from rival the Daily Mail, who also hinted that they would be prepared to offer a six-figure sum.

‘I’ve always said that if the Daily Mail could somehow be turned into a politician, it would be Nigel Farage’, said political editor Izzy Oakfield. ‘His slippery conduct throughout this case has confirmed this, right down to him saying he’s perfectly happy to acknowledge he was wrong. We at the Mail always say we’re happy to make things clear in our retractions. It’s nice to smuggle a small piece of bullshit into a correction.’

‘If he could have got away with issuing his statement at the bottom of page 17 in our paper rather than announcing it publicly, it would have been perfect’, she added.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

COMEDIANS ARE MAKING TOO MANY JOKES ABOUT THE GOVERNMENT, SAYS SUN NEWSPAPER

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The Sun has once again accused the BBC of left-wing bias, saying that comedians on topical news quiz Have I Got News For You are making too many jokes about the government.

With Theresa May’s bumbling administration becoming more of an ‘omnishambles’ each day, many folk may feel that comics are simply doing their job by pointing out the ridiculousness of what’s going on and laughing about it.

Not The Sun, which has penned an article titled ‘LEFTY BIAS: BBC’S HAVE I GOT NEWS FOR YOU HAS A SKEWED VIEW AND MAKES FIVE TIMES MORE JOKES ABOUT THE TORIES THAN LABOUR’.

This revelation comes after the paper conducted ‘research’ into the first five episodes of the current series and found that – shock horror – 139 jokes have been made about the Tories compared to only 28 against Labour.

Some people might put this down to the fact that one of the main objectives of satirical comedy is to ridicule those in power, and that the government of the day is always likely to take more shots than the opposition. Look back at old HIGNFY episodes from the Labour government years and you will see that they were the butt of more jokes than the Tories back then.

Others might also point out that, during the five weeks since the current series started, the government has been beset by mishaps ripe for comedy – from Theresa May’s disastrous party conference to losing two cabinet ministers within a week – while Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour has been relatively quiet.

But not The Sun. The paper wheels out Tory MPs Andrew Bridgen and Jacob Rees-Mogg to claim this is evidence of ‘left-wing propaganda’ and that Ofcom should intervene.

They seem to be forgetting that this is comedians making jokes, not serious news or current affairs. If the Tory party doesn’t want to be ridiculed so much, it should stop behaving in a laughable and ridiculous manner.

But there is a more serious and worrying undercurrent to this article and such attacks on satirical output. The Sun seems to be advocating a restriction on the free speech of comedians who target the government. One of the great things about this country is the freedom to poke fun at those most powerful without fear of sanction. We shouldn’t allow a tabloid newspaper, whose own output is ironically so bad that it seems like satire more often than not, to threaten that.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.

NEARLY 18 MONTHS AFTER THE BREXIT VOTE, THE SUN STILL CAN’T TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT OUR EU BILL

brexit flags

The Sun has misused figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and put out more misinformation about Britain’s annual payments to the EU.

It’s not the first time that the paper has failed to report honestly and accurately on statistics, something which has led it to be voted bottom in a recent public survey on trust and accuracy in UK media outlets.

Reporting on figures released earlier this week by the ONS about the UK’s contribution to the EU budget in 2016, the paper wrote that the bill was £13.9 billion after the rebate.

In an article headlined ‘PUT THAT ON A BUS’, it reported that ‘Boris Johnson WAS wrong to say we face EU bill of £350 million a week… because it’s actually £363 million, official figures reveal’.

Except that neither of these figures is the final bill at all. The net contribution was calculated as being £9.4 billion a year (around £180 million a week) once public sector credits were accounted for. This was reduced further to £8.1 billion (around £156 million a week) if private sector credits (e.g. funding for university research) is taken into account.

The £363 million a week that The Sun is so keen to use in its headline is the gross contribution. But as the ONS makes clear in its report, ‘this amount of money was never actually transferred to the EU’. Read the report and download the full data here.

Don’t like what you’re seeing in the press? If you see an article you’re unhappy with, you can email the press regulators at inquiries@ipso.co.uk to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.

Tabloid Corrections Facebook page: here.