IPSO called in to investigate accuracy of indyref claims
THE BODY that regulates the UK press has found that the Express newspaper has not breached the editor’s code of practice, over claims in an article that there were “widespread outbreaks of violence” during the Scottish independence referendum of 2014.
A complaint was made in September by a member of the public, Jamie Macintyre, who claimed that an article in the Express of 10 September, titled “You want this AGAIN Nicola: Sturgeon urged to stop multi-million pound referendum crusade”, breached accuracy rules.
Macintyre complained about the reference to “widespread outbreaks of violence, threats and public disorder” and “violent outbreaks, death threats and ugly scenes all over Scotland” that the article alleged accompanied the referendum. He also complained that the use of photographs in the article misleadingly suggested violence by Yes supporters.
But the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) found against the complaint and that clause one of the editors code, dealing with accuracy, had not been breached by the paper.
The first clause of the editor’s code of practice, dealing with accuracy, contains the following sub-clauses:
“i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.”
The Ipso judgement states: “On receipt of a complaint, Ipso’s executive staff reviews it to ensure that it falls within our remit, and represents a possible breach of the editors’ code of practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint under the terms of the code. Having considered the points you have raised in full, we have concluded that your complaint does not raise a possible breach of the code.
“You complained under clause one (accuracy) that it was inaccurate for the article to report that there was widespread disorder during the Scottish independence referendum campaign. The online article included footage which appeared to show violence, including fighting, during referendum protests and reported that high profile figures and journalists were issued with death threats.
“The article also stated that Police Scotland was forced to set up a special task force to “monitor daily ‘running logs’ of incidents compiled by each of Scotland’s 14 policing divisions”. Further a statement issued by Police Scotland confirmed that 11 arrests for offences including disorder, breach of the peace and vandalism were made, following the protests at George Square on 19 September 2014.
“In circumstances where there was violence even if it was largely peaceful we did not consider the article to be significantly misleading. As such this aspect of your complaint did not raise a possible breach of clause one.
“You also complained under Clause 1 that the uncaptioned photographs of a specific instance of disorder were misleading. You said that readers may have understood that the disorder was widespread and that the perpetrators were from both sides of the referendum debate. The point of the article was that the referendum and the campaign led to violence not that the perpetrators of the violence were necessarily all Nationalists. Further the article made clear that violence was carried out by both sides. In these circumstances we did not consider the photographs to be misleading and could not therefore consider your concerns did not (sic) raise a possible breach of clause one.”
Ipso was the body established to replace the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), which was criticised for lack of intervention in press standards at the time of the News International phone hacking scandal in 2011. The subsequent Leveson Inquiry into press ethics advised that a new body be established.
“I have never made a complaint to Ipso before. However, I was so shocked by the clear misrepresentation of the referendum in this article, I was moved to do so – not least because I am increasingly aware that, though I am sceptical about what I read in the press, many people take it at face value.” James Macintyre
Responding to the judgement, Macintyre told CommonSpace: “I have never made a complaint to Ipso before. However, I was so shocked by the clear misrepresentation of the referendum in this article, I was moved to do so – not least because I am increasingly aware that, though I am sceptical about what I read in the press, many people take it at face value.
“The response from Ipso is extraordinary. Essentially “violent outbreaks, death threats and ugly scenes all over Scotland” was an accurate description, in their view. Then again, we’re told it’s now ok for politicians to lie, so why should we expect better of the press?”
The Express article became the centre of an intense controversy after pro-independence website Wings Over Scotland was suspended from the social media site twitter, after it criticised author Siobhan McFadyen over the article’s content.
The argument continued over several days in September, as leading Scottish journalists criticised twitter’s decision to suspend the Wings Over Scotland account.
There were violent scenes on 19 Spetember 2014 when loyalist mobs attacked peaceful independence supporters in Glasgow’s George Square. Police Scotland praised those involved with the referendum for its otherwise peaceful nature.
Ipso told CommonSpace they were not able to comment on the judgement or the article, as a complaint was still ongoing.
Picture courtesy of faungg's photos
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