Read Press Gazette’s digest of the latest newspaper and media legal settlements, regulatory breaches, corrections and mistakes.
Included are the most noteworthy rulings from regulators including IPSO, Impress, ASA and Ofcom and any privacy, libel, contempt and other legal cases involving the media.
If you spot a media mistake we have missed, and which others can learn from, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
IPSO | Grubb vs mirror.co.uk
19/5/22: IPSO has sided with a member of the public over an accuracy concern at mirror.co.uk, but ruled the website’s own remedy to the error was satisfactory.
The December 2021 article in dispute was titled “New Year’s asteroid bigger than Big Ben to crash into Earth’s atmosphere” and opened by claiming the celestial body would “burn through Earth’s atmosphere”. The article subsequently made clear it would pass Earth by.
Made aware of the complaint, the Mirror changed the headline to “New Year’s asteroid bigger than Big Ben to come close to Earth” and added a note saying: “This headline and article have been amended after publication to correct the claim the asteroid would ‘crash into Earth’s atmosphere’. It is due to pass over 3 million miles away.”
Although the complainant wanted the Mirror to go further and explain “how the error had occurred”, IPSO said it was satisfied with the correction offered. Full ruling here.
IPSO | Horner vs express.co.uk
19/5/22: IPSO has upheld an accuracy complaint by a member of the public over an express.co.uk headline originally headlined “Army sent in as border crisis explodes – desperate EU forced to beg UK for help”. The article was subheadlined: “BRITAIN will send 140 military engineers to Poland to support its efforts to deal with a crisis at the border with Belarus, as the EU desperately attempts to stem the influx of migrants entering the bloc.”
The EU had not made a request for help with the border struggles, however. Instead, the request had come from the governments of Poland and Lithuania, both of which are EU states. Upon receipt of the complaint, the Express altered the headline to say that “EU nations”, rather than the EU itself, had made the request.
IPSO determined this was insufficient, describing the claim as “inaccurate, misleading, and unsupported by the text of the article” and saying it “did not accept that direct actions undertaken by member states equated to actions undertaken by the union as a whole”. The regulator ruled that a standalone correction should appear on the Express website. Full ruling here.
Impress | Edwards vs Waltham Forest Echo
22/4/22: Impress has upheld a complaint against the Waltham Forest Echo made by a freelance about her own article.
The freelance columnist, Michelle Edwards, said that the paper had distorted an aspect of her story when it edited a passage describing a tower block fire warden’s actions during a blaze.
Edwards had written that, according to an interviewee she spoke with, one warden “materialised, stood in the doorway and is said to have shouted the word fire and fled’.” The Echo edited the account to say that the interviewee “did recount seeing a warden raise the alarm as she left her flat but, when her fire alarm remained silent, she still felt the need to knock on her neighbours’ doors herself”.
Edwards said that this change of emphasis constituted an inaccuracy because it obscured an alleged dereliction of duty by the council-employed fire warden. The Echo said it had deliberately edited the passage because it had judged that those claims were “unsubstantiated defamatory opinions, from two anonymous sources, about someone performing their professional duties who had not given a right of reply”.
Impress ruled that the Echo breached clause 1.1 of the code (“publishers must take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy”) because “if the publisher had any doubts as to the accuracy of the statement or the risks involved by its inclusion in the article, it should have taken further steps before deciding to publish the article at all”. Full ruling here.
IPSO | Power vs Mail Online
7/4/22: IPSO has ruled that Mail Online did not report a “significant inaccuracy” in a February 2021 article describing asylum seekers entering the UK irregularly as “illegal migrants”.
The article reported on asylum seekers who had allegedly received Covid-19 vaccines ahead of more vulnerable people and who were being housed in “plush” quarantine hotels, which the Mail contrasted with comparatively Spartan accommodation for British returnees from red list countries.
Mail Online repeatedly described the asylum seekers as illegal migrants, including in the headline. A complainant disputed this, arguing that under the UN Refugee Convention contracting states agree not to impose penalties on anyone entering a country through extra-legal means, provided that they promptly present themselves to authorities as asylum seekers.
The Mail argued “that it was not mutually exclusive” to describe such entrants “as being both asylum seekers and illegal migrants”. IPSO agreed, saying that while the terms were “not interchangeable”, the migrants had entered the country illegally, and the article had besides been clear that they were asylum seekers.
On a separate matter brought up by the complainant, IPSO also accepted Mail Online’s argument that “it was not significantly inaccurate to refer to a breakfast of bread, butter and jam as an ‘English breakfast'”. Full ruling here.
Privacy settlement | Hitchin vs Channel 5
4/4/22: Channel 5 has apologised and agreed to pay a man “substantial damages” for breach of privacy over an episode of bailiff documentary series Can’t Pay? We’ll Take it Away!
Optometrist Brian Hitchin, 88, sued the channel in November 2021 after he was depicted in an episode of the show broadcast in October 2016. Hitchin, then aged 82, had owed money to a supplier, and High Court Enforcement Agents attended his premises to enforce the debt accompanied by a camera crew.
The crew remained on the premises despite Hitchin’s opposition, and their footage was supplemented with footage from the agents’ bodycams. Law firm Hamlins said the episode featuring Hitchin was broadcast “to over 5.7 million people in a form in which our client’s face was shown, and to an additional 6.2 million viewers in a form in which his face was blurred and his name removed.” High Court statement here.
Libel | Andrew Neil vs Jennifer Arcuri
31/3/22: A High Court judge has granted Andrew Neil permission to serve a libel claim on US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri over tweets he claims contained allegations he is a “paedophile” and was “complicit in the abuse of children” with Jeffrey Epstein.
Neil believes the alleged meanings of the two tweets made by Arcuri in December are “gravely defamatory and wholly false” and he denies ever meeting the deceased billionaire, PA reported the court was told.
Neil is is seeking damages and a court injunction preventing Arcuri from repeating the allegations he claims she made, according to PA.
Master John Dagnall said Neil had a “good arguable case” and that the alleged meaning of the tweets is “potentially an extremely serious one”. The judge permitted Neil to bring the claim against Arcuri, who lives outside the jurisdiction in Florida, but stressed he had not decided “at all” any “underlying matter of fact” in the case, which is still at “an extremely early stage”.
Libel | The Sun
31/3/22: Sun publisher News Group Newspapers has paid a “very substantial” five-figure sum to solicitor Uma Rajasundram, whose firm was falsely accused of “shamelessly touting a price list to help migrants stay in the UK”. The newspaper later admitted the article “confused” two types of fees.
The newspaper agreed to remove hundreds of “racist and threatening” reader comments from two articles on its website and then also took down the main article in question, according to Doughty Street Chambers.
The Sun then published a statement in print and online which clarified the fees “are for private clients only, not for legal aid”, adding: “We did not and do not suggest that Ms Rajasundram and colleagues act in any way outside the law or professional conduct and we are happy again to make this clear to readers.”
Rajasundram said: “What The Sun falsely claimed about my firm and I would have involved a serious breach of our professional ethics. Instead, this was unprofessional reporting. The gratuitous way that it chose to illustrate the article with a photo of me in a sari made the threatening and racist comments that it published underneath the article only too predictable, and left my team fearing for their safety.”
Complaint | BBC News
30/3/22: BBC News has responded to complaints about an article that referred to a pensioner arrested for murder with female pronouns, saying this was within its style guide. It has now added a line to clarify the suspect “recently identified as a woman” (read more).
The BBC News style guide says the term and pronoun “preferred by the person in question” should be used, and that it “may also be appropriate to refer to a transition to make sense of some stories”.
Correction | BBC News
28/3/22: BBC News has edited an article about endometriosis to replace the word “people” with the word “women” and remove the phrase “who are assigned female at birth”.
The BBC said the edits were intended to “make it clearer to the audience how the condition affects women” (read more).
Libel | Laura Murray vs The Telegraph
17/3/22: The Telegraph has apologised and will pay “substantial” damages after falsely suggesting ex-Labour staffer Laura Murray was an “anti-Jewish racist” and part of the “vile anti-Semitism of Corbyn’s Labour”, allegations it now accepts are untrue.
The comments were made in an opinion piece by former Labour MP Ian Austin, who also apologised, in December (read more).
IPSO | Various vs Daily Express
10/3/22: IPSO agreed that the Daily Express had broken the Editors’ Code provision on accuracy with two August 2021 articles, one published online and one in print, which claimed that Brits were being charged to enter the EU in “revenge for Brexit” and as a “new Brexit punishment”. In fact, the new £6 charge was being applied to visitors from more than 60 non-Schengen countries – something not mentioned in the Express’ article. The Express corrected the article to make clear that the “revenge” and “punishment” claims were a reflection of the Express’ view that the UK should get “preferential treatment” from the bloc as a recent member of the EU. Because it published its online and print corrections soon after being alerted to the errors, IPSO said no further action was necessary (full ruling).
Ofcom | BBC News at Six
7/3/22: Ofcom ruled that BBC News at Six on 26 February 2021 breached the Broadcasting Code with Scotland editor Sarah Smith’s statement that: “Alex Salmond said he believes Nicola Sturgeon has misled Parliament and broken the Ministerial Code, which he thinks means she should resign.” However Salmond had actually said “no doubt that Nicola broke the Ministerial Code, but it is not for me to suggest what the consequences should be”.
The BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit acknowledged that the broadcast did not meet the required standard of accuracy but said the BBC took sufficient steps to correct the error by noting it on its website, while Smith also posted a clarification on Twitter. However Ofcom said there should have been an on-air correction as it was a “significant” mistake on an issue of “significant public interest”.
Ofcom said the error breached Rule 5.1 – “news, in whatever form, must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality” – and 5.2 – “significant mistakes in news should normally be acknowledged and corrected on air quickly. Corrections should be appropriately scheduled” – of the Broadcasting Code (full ruling).
IPSO | Brewerton vs thesun.co.uk, express.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, liverpoolecho.co.uk and dailyrecord.co.uk
3/3/22: IPSO dismissed complaints against five news sites made by Keith Brewerton, father of Aled Brewerton, a one-time councillor for Handforth Parish Council who resigned his position following a Zoom brouhaha with Cheshire Association of Councils chief executive Jackie Weaver. Both men featured in the resulting viral video, with the younger Brewerton in particular becoming infamous for calling for Weaver to “read the standing orders”.
Keith Brewerton complained that videos of the altercation posted by the sites had been misleadingly cut, that because the Brewertons had been in their homes in the footage their privacy had been breached, that the recording had been made clandestinely and illegally and was thus harassment, and that the video intruded into grief or shock. IPSO dismissed all complaints against all five websites. (Full rulings here for The Sun, The Express, The Telegraph, Liverpool Echo, and the Daily Record)
IPSO | Interlink vs The Daily Telegraph
28/2/22: IPSO upheld a complaint by Interlink, a foundation representing Orthodox Jewish organisations, over a February 2021 Daily Telegraph article titled “Forced marriage has no place in Britain, says PM”. IPSO agreed with Interlink that the article gave the misleading impression the prime minister’s remarks had referred specifically to forced marriage among ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities. An Interlink complaint about a second article, “Not anti-Semitic to tackle forced marriage, says Jewish group”, was not upheld (full ruling).
IPSO | Goemans vs Ely Standard
18/2/22: The press regulator rejected a complaint by artist Melanie Goemans, who said the Ely Standard had misrepresented her descriptions of her art and the gallery she set up in the front window of her home. The newspaper provided IPSO with a recording of the phone interview it conducted with Ms Goemans, which showed that, while the publisher did change her quotes in places, it substantially preserved the meaning of her statements. Ms Goemans subsequently complained that she had not been aware the Ely Standard was recording the interview. IPSO ruled, however, that “the publication’s decision to record the conversation did not breach the terms of Clause 1 of the Code; it enabled the publication to demonstrate its compliance with the Code” (full ruling).
IPSO | Matinvesi vs Mail Online
10/2/22: IPSO upheld a complaint by Esa Matinvesi that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code with an article headlined: “Number of EU citizens living in UK is now HIGHER than before Brexit with 4.6million people granted right to remain – compared to 3.1million before Britain left bloc.” IPSO said the claim that 4.6 million people had been granted the right to remain in the UK after Brexit was “an inaccurate representation of official statistics” (full ruling).
Defamation | Rebel News Network vs Al Jazeera
8/2/22: The Court of Appeal for Ontario has dismissed an appeal brought by the Rebel News Network against a decision to dismiss its defamation claim against Al Jazeera for $600,000. The right-wing news provider sued over an episode of the Listening Post in which Al Jazeera connected Rebel News Network coverage with violent acts against Muslims (full ruling).
IPSO | Soulsby and Sommerland vs Mail Online
4/2/22: IPSO has rejected a complaint brought by Sir Peter Soulsby and Lesley Summerland claiming that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy), Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) in an article headlined “Leicester’s Labour mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, 71, who has criticised ministers over city’s new lockdown broke Covid rules himself to visit his girlfriend”, published on 30 June 2020. IPSO found the article did not claim Sir Peter had broken the law (full ruling).
BBC | Today transphobia complaint upheld
4/2/22: BBC’s executive complaints unit held that an edition of Today programme on 13 October 2021 in which its presenter said Sussex academic Kathleen Stock was accused “falsely, of transphobia” was not duly accurate as it made it sound like the accusations were disproved (full ruling).
BBC | Antisemitic bus attack report wrong
27/1/2022: Media watchdog Ofcom has launched an investigation after the BBC upheld complaints made about the accuracy and impartiality of its coverage of an antisemitic attack on a Hanukkah party bus. The complaints were “particularly in relation to the claim that an anti-Muslim slur had been heard from inside the bus” (read more).
Privacy | Mail on Sunday pays £1 privacy damages to Meghan
6/1/2022: The publisher of The Mail On Sunday has agreed to pay the Duchess of Sussex £1 nominal damages for misuse of private information plus an undisclosed but “substantial” sum for copyright infringement after their court battle (read more).
IPSO | Mail Online wrong to report ‘no-go areas for whites’
24/12/2021: Neil Vass complained that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code in an article headlined “British towns that are no-go areas for white people: Muslim author’s study of mosques reveals children ‘attacked for being white’, parents making families live under Taliban-like rules and women who can’t leave home without permission”, published on 4 June 2021. The complaint was upheld. IPSO said the headline claim was not supported by the article (full ruling).