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  1. Media Law
June 23, 2017

Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has complaints against Express and Mail rejected by IPSO – but Sun meets her and removes article

By Freddy Mayhew

Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller has had numerous complaints against articles in the Daily Express and Mail Online dismissed by IPSO.

But The Sun agreed to remove an article after a complaint from her and also met with her in person.

Miller, who won a legal challenge against the Government over its triggering of Article 50 to leave the European Union, complained the articles variously focused on the fact she was “foreign”, “wealthy” and billed her as an enemy of the people.

She complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over the following articles, all of which were published in November last year, as well as readers’ comments online:

  • “Who do EU think you are?” – The Sun in print and online
  • “’KILL HER, SHE’S NOT EVEN BRITISH’ Brexit blocker Gina Miller receives rape and death threats after bombshell Article 50 ruling” – The Sun in print and online
  • “The South-American born former model and her ‘arrogant’ bid to derail Britain’s democracy: Wealthy investment fund manager is behind landmark legal bid to block Brexit being triggered” – Mail Online
  • “Wife of Mr Hedge Fund wins massive Brexit victory a decade after he lost £5m in divorce payout when his lawyer said ‘it’d be cheaper to run over’ his previous partner” – Mail Online
  • “KATIE HOPKINS: Three judges think they know better than the British voters – but will MPs be so brave? Bring it on Theresa and DARE them to defy the will of the people” – Mail Online
  • “Mrs Hedge Fund, a £5m Divorce and a Touch of Jackie Collins” – Mail Online user-generated comment
  • “We must get out of the EU” – Daily Express in print
  • “After judges’ Brexit block now your country really needs you: We MUST get out of the EU” –

Her complaints were made under clauses 1 (accuracy), 2 (privacy), 12 (discrimination) of the Editor’s Code of Practice.

Miller said The Sun referred to her as a “foreign-born multimillionaire” and used “Guyana-born” as a prefix to her name as well as calling her a “Brexit blocker”.

The paper also referred to judges overruling “the nation as loaded foreigners defy the will of British public and derail Brexit”.

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Miller (pictured below) told IPSO the Sun’s “editorialising, combined with the inaccurate and distorted reporting had resulted in xenophobic sentiment”.

She said many of the readers’ comments on the two online articles reflected the “inaccuracies and pejorative reporting”, and that the newspaper was responsible for these.

Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to remove the second article from its website and also offered to remove the words “Guyanan-born”, and “foreign-born” from the first article.

IPSO also arranged a meeting between Miller and the newspaper at the press regulator’s offices.

IPSO said: “During this meeting, the newspaper agreed to remove user comments from a further article, and to take action to ensure that similar problems did not arise in relation to user comments on future online articles which are about the complainant.

“It agreed that, unless it was clearly relevant in the article, it would avoid using the words “Guyanan-born”, or “foreign-born” as prefixes to the complainant’s name in the future.”

Miller said the actions taken resolved the matter to her satisfaction.

As regards the Mail Online, Miller said the website had reported details of her life and background, describing her as “wealthy” and a “former model” who is “married to a multi-millionaire fund manager”.

It also described her as “the woman with the cash” and a “Guyanan-born wife of a multi-millionaire, laughing in the faces of ordinary Brits”.

Miller said the reference to her being born abroad was discriminatory. She said she had arrived in the UK when she was ten years old and was a British citizen.

She said that the articles’ emphasis on her place of birth, without reference to her British citizenship, suggested that she was “a foreigner, at odds with the British people” and that this was “misleading”.

Miller said the four Mail Online articles incited a large number of readers’ comments which discriminated against her on the grounds of her race, colour and sex.

She said that where these comments contained explicit threats to her life, they represented a “risk to her personal security” and this impacted on her private life.

Mail Online said Miller was a central figure in a controversial legal action. The public had a right to information about her background, and to comment on her role the case. It said her claim that the reference to her place of birth was a “proxy reference to her race or colour was tenuous”.

The website said one of the central issues in the referendum campaign was the free movement of people and the fact that the person leading the opposition to the referendum result was born outside of the UK was “genuinely relevant”. It also said Miller had referred to her place of birth in a number of interviews.

Mail Online said readers’ comments on the articles under complaint were not moderated and when it was alerted to the complainant’s concerns, it removed the comments in question. It said the comments therefore fell outside of IPSO’s remit.

Miller said the publication was first put on notice of her concerns about readers’ comments in a legal letter sent to the Daily Mail prior to her complaint to IPSO. In this letter, her representatives requested that certain comments be removed, and that the publication check for any others.

Mail Online said the legal letter was directed at the Daily Mail, rather than their newsdesk, and that it had not had sight of this before it received the IPSO complaint.

It said it had removed certain readers’ comments from the online version of the newspaper’s article, which it did, and as it had stopped accepting further comments on the story believed no further action was necessary.

IPSO said it only has a remit to pass a judgement on readers’ comments if they have been pre-moderated by the publication, which was not the case with Mail Online.

It said debates around national identity figured “prominently” in the EU referendum campaign, and the fact that the complainant was born abroad was therefore “relevant to coverage of her role as the lead claimant in the Article 50 legal challenge”.

It said references to Miller as Guyanan or South American-born did not constitute references to her race or colour but “formed part of a broader narrative which sought to criticise the complainant more generally as being unrepresentative of the British public”.

It said the articles “did not imply that she was not a British citizen”. The complaint was not upheld.

As regards the Express, Miller said the Article 50 legal challenge decision as a “crisis as grave as anything since the dark days when Churchill vowed we would fight them on the beaches” and a “shattering blow for the cherished concept that the ballot box reigns supreme”.

She said that the articles omitted details of her British citizenship, and juxtaposed the fact that she is “Guyana-born”, with “the votes of 17,410,742 British people”. She said that this presented her as a foreigner, and was misleading.

In the context of the article, IPSO said the reference to Miller being born abroad did not imply that she was not a British citizen

It said it was not significantly misleading of the Express to claim that the complainant had “convinced the courts that the votes of 17,410,742 British people in the referendum do not count”. The complaint was not upheld.

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