Birmingham Live breached the Editors’ Code of Practice when it relied on a council’s “ambiguous” tweets to wrongly report that a company had been fined £10,000 for fly-tipping, the UK’s largest press regulator has ruled.
As a result, the website was unable to use any contemporaneous reports of what was said in court to back up its inaccurate claim that Ejaz Iqbal’s hardware store had “dumped huge piles of waste”.
Iqbal’s company pleaded guilty to failing to ensure waste was transferred to an authorised person with appropriate documentation, and failing to provide information when asked about how its waste was disposed.
However Birmingham Live, the website attached to Reach-owned daily Birmingham Mail, reported the business had been fined for fly-tipping in its article headlined “Erdington DIY shop slammed with £10k fine for fly-tipping in Aston” published on 18 June.
The article was based on a series of tweets from Birmingham City Council.
One tweet said: “Flytipped waste that was found to be linked to a #Brum building merchant has led to the firm being hit with a £10,500 fine after a prosecution by the city council.”
Another said that “officers from the…Waste Enforcement Unit searched flytipped waste on Aston Lane in Aston. Cardboard and plastic waste was found and identified as linked to [the complainant’s company]”.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled there had been a failure to take care over the article’s claims that the company had been fined for fly-tipping and dumping waste, finding it in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
IPSO’s Complaints Committee said: “The tweets had been ambiguous, in that they had made clear that the waste was ‘linked’ to the complainant’s company, but had not stated that the company itself had ‘dumped’ the waste.
“The publication had not been able to rely on any contemporaneous report of what was heard in court in relation to the matter to support its claim that the company had itself dumped the waste.”
A number of other complaints from Iqbal were not upheld.
IPSO said the publication was entitled to rely on the council’s tweets over a claim that a “mystery man” had collected waste from the company, and also cleared it of breaching the code over a set of photos taken from the Twitter posts.
Although the website had denied any breach of the Editors’ Code, during IPSO’s investigation it changed the headline of the story to read “Why Erdington DIY shop was ordered to pay more than £13,000” and added a clarification.
The addition notes the business was “not found guilty of illegal dumping, or flytipping” and makes clear the exact charges and fine received.
IPSO said no further action was required, saying the clarification addressed the inaccuracy with “sufficient prominence and promptness”.