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January 22, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 8:50am

Jewish Chronicle wrongly identified Labour member as Jewish, IPSO rules

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Jewish Chronicle has been rapped by press regulator the Independent Press Standards Organisation after wrongly reporting that a prominent Labour member was Jewish.

It is the second time in under two months that the weekly paper has been found in breach of editorial guidelines set by the regulator.

The Chronicle reported in March last year that Jenny Lennox had told a meeting of the Walthamstow Labour Party that the only anti-Semitism she had seen within the party was “Jews attacking other Jews for having the wrong attitude on Israel”.

The article, headlined “Top activist: ‘Only hate is Jews vs Jews’,” reported that Lennox was on the executive of the Labour Representative Committee and also that she was Jewish – two errors that made up the bulk of her complaint to IPSO.

The online headline read “Jewish member of John McDonnell–backed Labour Representation Committee dismisses Labour anti-Semitism”.

The online article also contained quotes from a recent LRC statement including a suggestion that “allegations of Jew-hate were ‘propaganda’ from the ‘ruling class’”.

Lennox told IPSO she had left the executive of the LRC, which has Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as its president, in 2012.

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She said it was therefore “misleading” to use recent quotes and points from the LRC “as this associated her with anti-Semitism deniers”.

The Jewish Chronicle accepted the two claims complained of were inaccurate and offered to publish a correction.

But it claimed the errors were not in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice as it had “taken care when researching these claims”.

It said a prominent Labour website reported that Lennox was still on the executive of the LRC.

And it produced a further quote from Lennox at the meeting, from which it said it was “reasonable to infer” that she was Jewish.

Lennox had said: “I’m not going to speak in tropes about Jewish people, but it’s certainly said about my family, how many Lennoxes does it take to change a light bulb, it takes one to change it and the rest to all debate about it, but I’m fairly sure that’s true of an awful lot of Jewish people.”

In its ruling that the Chronicle was in breach of the code, IPSO said it had relied on a third-party website unaffiliated to either Lennox or the LRC for its claim that she was on its executive.

It also noted the journalist’s inference from her quote at the meeting “was the only information which suggested that she was Jewish”.

“On this basis, relying on a third party website, and an inference from a personal anecdote without taking further steps to ensure the accuracy of these claims within the article, represented a failure to take care…” the regulator said.

IPSO’s Complaints Committee ruled that both claims made in the newspaper constituted “significant” inaccuracies.

It said the online article had highlighted and criticised the LRC’s approach “in a way that related their views” to Lennox.

“In addition, as the article was reporting on anti-Semitism, and where the complainant’s religion would have a bearing on these views, incorrectly reporting that the complainant was Jewish was also found to be a significant inaccuracy,” the regulator said.

The Chronicle amended the online article two days after being contacted by Lennox, but IPSO later ordered it to publish a full correction online and in print.

Lennox also claimed the article was an intrusion into her privacy as her comments were made at a meeting that was only open to Labour members with about 40 people in attendance, and it is against Labour rules to record such meetings.

But IPSO said she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy on her comments made “on a current, political matter” and that reporting “her views on a highly controversial and current topic was in the public interest” given her role as a “political figure”.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

IPSO ordered the Chronicle to publish a 1,300-word adjudication in November after it failed to produce evidence to support claims it made about a Labour activist.

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