Resolution Statement – 00874-21 Mullins v telegraph.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Justin Mullins complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Kent Covid variant '30 per cent more deadly'”, published on 22 January 2021.
2. The article reported on a press conference given by the Prime Minister regarding a mutant strain of Covid-19. The headline stated “Kent Covid variant '30 per cent more deadly'”, and the article said the Prime Minister had warned that the “new Covid variant may be deadlier than the original strain” and included a quote which stated "It now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality."
3. The complainant said that the headline of the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it had been made clear at the press conference that the strain “may” be more deadly, whereas the headline gave the impression that the strain was definitively more deadly. The complainant also noted that the quote in the headline was not repeated in the article.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It stated that the “30 per cent more deadly” part of the headline was in inverted commas, which readers would understand to mean a claim rather than fact. It also said that the article in full made clear that it was not certain.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. The publication offered to amend the headline to read “Kent Covid variant may be 30 per cent more deadly” and to publish the following as a footnote to the article:
Clarification: The headline of this article has been amended to make clear there is a possibility the variant may be associated with a higher degree of mortality as was always made clear in the article.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
9. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 02/02/2021
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/02/2021Back to ruling listing