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  1. Media Law
August 9, 2018

Labour member wins IPSO complaint against Jewish Chronicle after telling newspaper he is not a Holocaust denier

By Charlotte Tobitt

A Labour member has won a complaint against the Jewish Chronicle after the newspaper ran an article that claimed he was a Holocaust denier, which he refuted.

The Chronicle reported on 4 February that Mike Sivier had made “‘anti-Semitic’ remarks about Jews and Zionism”

It said Sivier had been readmitted to the Labour party after being suspended last year over the remarks, which it said included a “claim that he could not comment on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust he said ‘I don’t know’” [sic].

Sivier complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that this was a misleading account of something he had written on his website in response to a comment listing incidents of anti-Semitism on the left.

The commenter had referred to a leaflet which he said omitted Jews from a list of Holocaust survivors and put the number of deaths from the genocide at thousands rather than millions.

Sivier had responded: “I’m not going to comment on ‘thousands’ instead of ‘millions’ because I don’t know, but the Nazi holocaust involved many other groups as well as Jews, and it seems likely that the SWP was simply being ‘politically correct’”.

Sivier told IPSO that when he said “I don’t know” he was referring to not knowing why the leaflet made this claim, rather than not knowing the number of Jews who died.

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He contacted the Jewish Chronicle and the publication amended the online article to include a comment from him saying he is not a Holocaust denier and that he had always used the figure of 6m Jews having been killed.

The newspaper denied the article was inaccurate, saying its interpretation of the “thousands or millions” claim was plausible.

However, the Independent Press Standards Organisation upheld a breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

It said Sivier had not expressly said he “could not comment on whether thousands or millions of Jews died in the Holocaust”.

“The publication was entitled to give its own interpretation of what the complainant had meant by his comments,” IPSO added.

“However, the article did not make clear that it was reporting the publication’s interpretation of the complainant’s comments.”

IPSO said the article had given the impression Sivier had said something he had not “on a subject liable to cause widespread offence”.

The regulator ordered that the Jewish Chronicle publish a clarification, which now appears as a footnote on the online article.

“This article was edited after Mr Sivier contacted the JC to say that he was not a Holocaust denier,” it says.

“Mr Sivier says that his comment ‘I don’t know’ had been made in reference to whether an SWP leaflet put the number of Holocaust victims at ‘millions’ or ‘thousands’; he says that he does not dispute that 6m Jews died in the Holocaust.

“He also says that he did not defend Ken Livingstone’s comments made after his suspension from the Labour Party in 2017, and that any comments he defended were not anti-Semitic. We have amended the article to reflect Mr Sivier’s account of his position.”

Sivier also complained about the article saying he had written a book “defending former London mayor Ken Livingstone’s claims about Hitler and Zionism”.

He said he had defended comments made by Livingstone in defence of another Labour MP in 2016, but not those made after his suspension in 2017, and that the comments he defended were accurate.

IPSO said the article’s claim was accurate and that no misleading impression of the book had been given.

Sivier also objected to a claim in the article that “in a post on his website, he said ‘it may be entirely justified’ for former Scottish Linlithgow MP Tam Dalyell to remark that Tony Blair had been unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers”.

He said this also gave a misleading impression of a comment he made on his website, in which he said: “I would point out that (without further information) concerns that Tony Blair was being ‘unduly influenced’ by a ‘cabal of Jewish advisers’ may have been entirely justified.”

IPSO said that omitting “without further information” in the article had not given a misleading impression of Sivier’s comment as a whole and so was not a breach of clause 1.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

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