Resolution Statement 01278-19 Tahwa v stokesentinel.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Rita Tahwa complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the stokesentinel.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Stoke-on-Trent loan shark, 43, who made £40k out of people's misery ordered to repay cash - or face jail”.
2. The article reported that the complainant had been convicted of illegal money lending, having been involved in administrating a traditional Zimbabwean borrowing scheme. The article reported that she had made “500 loans to 100 victims” in which customers were required to sign an agreement which put assets against the loans; it also reported that one victim had been “threatened” with being publicly shamed if she could not repay her loan.
3. The complainant said that the court did not find that she had made 500 loans to 100 victims, and in fact, very few borrowers were asked to put up assets in order to secure loans. She also said that it was accepted by the court that none of the borrowers were subject to aggressive enforcement action and that she was not aware that her actions were illegal, and these factors were reflected in her sentence; it was therefore misleading to describe her as a “loan shark” or that she had made money “out of people’s misery”.
4. The publication said that the article was based on a press release from the Illegal Money Lending Team, whom the publication contacted on receipt of the complaint, and remained satisfied that this was accurate.
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. During IPSO’s
investigation, the publication agreed to change the headline of the article to
remove any reference to “loan shark” and making money “out of people’s misery”,
and amended the article so that it read: “It was heard that, in total, she made
around 500 loans to 100 members of the Zimbabwe UK community, with some running
into thousands of pounds”, as a gesture of goodwill.
8. The complainant
said that this would resolve the matter to her 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: 19/02/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/03/2019
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