The following is taken from the correction the Daily Mail had to print following the IPSO ruling on its front page article “Another Human Rights Fiasco!” last December. Although the apology appeared on the front page in print, it hasn’t been published on the Mail Online website, so here it is in full.
Shoaib Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the Daily Mail breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, in an article headlined “Another Human Rights Fiasco”, published on 15 December 2017.
The article reported a High Court judgment, awarding compensation to an Iraqi man for unlawful imprisonment and ill treatment by British soldiers, during the Iraq War. It was the main story on the front page, and continued on page 4. The front page subheadline was: “Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with bomb’ wins £33,000 – because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”. The first line reported that “taxpayers face massive compensation bills after a suspected Iraqi insurgent won a human rights case against the Ministry of Defence yesterday”.
The complainant said that the judge had found that the claims that this man had been caught “red handed” with a bomb, or that he was an ‘insurgent’, to be false. He also said that he was not awarded £33,000 for being “kept in custody for too long”. He was awarded £3,300 for unlawful detention, and a further £30,000 for being beaten at the time of his arrest, and inhuman and degrading treatment when in custody.
The newspaper said that it had relied on the court’s press summary of the judgment, which did not include the finding that these claims were false. It said the article did not suggest the man was still suspected of being a terrorist or bomb maker; it fully explained that he had been unlawfully detained, as it could not be proven he was a threat to security. It said that the full explanation of the damages award was included elsewhere in the article, which had to be read as a whole. In response to complaints, the newspaper published two clarifications on these points in its page 2 corrections column. The complainant said that the inaccuracies were significant, that they had appeared on the front page, and that the correction should be published on the front page.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee said that central to the article’s characterisation of the judgment as a “fiasco” was the front-page subheadline’s description of one of the claimants as an “Iraqi ‘caught red-handed with bomb’”, and the reference to it being case where “a suspected Iraqi insurgent” had “won a human rights case”. However, the article never explained that the claim he had been caught with a bomb had been discredited shortly after his detention, or that the judge had found the claim was “pure fiction”, and that there was no evidence that the man had engaged in insurgent activity. These details were in the full judgment, which was available to the newspaper. The repetition of these serious allegations against the man, with no indication they had been disproven, seriously misrepresented the judgment, and breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code.
The claim that the Iraqi man received “£33,000 – because our soldiers kept him in custody for too long”, was inaccurate. As the newspaper knew, only £3,300 was for unlawful detention; the remaining £30,000 was for ill treatment. The contrast the article drew between the Iraqi man’s damages, and the payments to British soldiers for injuries, was therefore based in part on an inaccuracy. This was a further failure to take care over the accuracy of the article.
Both these errors were serious and significant in the article. The previously published corrections did not directly acknowledge the errors, and were not prominent enough. The Committee required publication of this adjudication as a remedy, with a reference on the front page of the newspaper.
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 email@example.com to voice your concerns. If enough complaints are received, they will have to look into it.
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