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  1. Media Law
June 11, 2015

IPSO third-party complaints on climate change ’empower bullies and curb press freedom’

By William Turvill

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has come under fire for the way it deals with complaints for third parties about scientific claims. Picture: Shutterstock

Since replacing the Press Complaints Commission in September, IPSO has ruled on at least 28 complaints made by third parties, according to Press Gazette research.

Of these, six relate to climate change (one upheld), six to politics (two upheld) and five to gender issues (one upheld).

Writing in The Spectator, journalist James Delingpole has told of the strain of dealing with a complaint made by a "political activist", and accused IPSO of doing an “absolutely first-rate job of empowering bullies and curbing freedom of speech”.

He did not go into detail on the complaint made against his article but said that what he had written could be proved on a "scientific website". He said it related to a claim “so uncontentious and easily verifiable that I might have written, ‘The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.’”

Delingpole said he had "every confidence" IPSO would find in his favour, but added that "by then it will be too late – for I will already have been forced to waste hours dealing with the kind of red-crayon complaint which, in more sensible times, would have been dealt with simply by allowing the ‘reader’ to present his case in the ‘letters to the editor’ section".

He also noted that journalist Christopher Booker “sometimes finds himself wasting days on end fending off complaints brought by activists passing themselves off as concerned readers”, once spending 12 days handling a complaint. Delingpole also revealed that Andrew Gilligan, of The Sunday Telegraph, “has to set aside ‘a day or two’ each month just to deal with” complaints made to IPSO.

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He said of IPSO, “as might be expected of the bastard offspring of the Leveson inquiry, it’s doing an absolutely first-rate job of empowering bullies and curbing freedom of speech in order to assuage the spite of that small but vocal lobby of caught-red-handed luvvies, lefty agitators and failed hacks which thinks our press has got too big for its boots”.

Six of the third-party complaints to IPSO listed above were made on the subject of the climate, with one upheld.

IPSO found that a Daily Express story headlined: "Climate change PROVED to be ‘nothing but a lie’, claims top meteorologist" was inaccurate.

One of the complaints which was not upheld was about an article in The Daily Telegraph claiming that living close to wind farms can damage hearing.

When IPSO did not uphold the complaint, the ECIU's director Richard Black, a former BBC environment correspondent, wrote a blog condemning the decision.

He concluded that IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses "is going to have to work a lot harder if he’s serious about demonstrating that in the realm of science, IPSO intends to be anything more than a sham".

On Delingpole's criticism, an IPSO spokesman said: "IPSO does not comment on complaints while they are still being investigated. When IPSO decides to investigate a complaint it has a responsibility to the complainant and the publication to investigate properly."

Below is the list of 28 rulings that Press Gazette has found and judged to have been brought by third parties. This does not include the IPSO investigation into the Sunday Mirror over its Brooks Newmark sting, because the third party complaint was withdrawn. In other cases, it is not clear cut whether the complainant is directly involved, and so these have not been included.

Trans Media Watch v The Sun, upheld

Register v Daily Mail, not upheld

Smeeton v The Daily Telegraph, not upheld

Black v Sunday Express, upheld

Graham v Belfast Telegraph, not upheld

Wilkinson v Daily Express, not upheld

Khan v Mail on Sunday, not upheld

Evans v South Wales Echo, not upheld

Colley v Sunday People, not upheld

Ward v Mail on Sunday, not upheld

Aston v Belfast Telegraph, not upheld

Byrne v Mail Online, not upheld

Manson v Daily Express, not upheld

Full Fact v The Times, not upheld

De Pulford v The Daily Telegraph, not upheld

Wilkinson v Daily Express, upheld

Bareham v The Times, not upheld

Various v Daily Record, not upheld

Farrell v Metro, not upheld

Burrows v Mail Online, not upheld

Various v Daily Record, upheld

Wishart v Daily Express, not upheld

Thomason v The Daily Telegraph, not upheld

Bray v Daily Express, upheld

Littler v Sunday Express, not upheld

Miah v The Daily Telegraph, not upheld

Scott v The Daily Telegraph, not upheld

Adams v Metro, not upheld

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