Decision of the Complaints Committee 01573-14 Elzenga v The Sun
Summary of complaint
Summary of complaint
1. Henk Elzenga complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation on behalf of MOBO Organisation Ltd that The Sun had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mobo no-go”, published in print and online on 24 October 2014.
2. The article reported that the police had closed down the after-party of the MOBO Awards “amid chaotic scenes”, and that as a consequence singer Mel B had left the event after ten minutes. The article had been referenced to on the newspaper’s front page, with the headline “Mel B flees MOBO bash mayhem”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate. There had not been “chaotic scenes”, “mayhem” or “terror” at the event. Rather, some guests had become annoyed. The organisers of the event had not “feared a riot”, and the police had been called by the owners of the hotel at which the event was taking place, rather than the organisers of the awards as reported. Mel B had stayed longer than the article had suggested; she had had a good time but had left early as she had obligations the following morning. The complainant also stated that no arrests had been made. He made reference to the following statement from the police: “At approximately 22.30hrs on Wednesday 22 October officers were called to assist security during an event organised at a premises at Lakeside Way, Wembley, after a large crowd was trying to gain access to the venue. After consultation with police, the organisers agreed to end the event. No arrests were made and the crowd dispersed at 01.15hrs”. The complainant considered that it was misleading for the article to omit the final sentence of this statement. He also objected to the newspaper’s assertion that a MOBO spokeswoman had “tried to play down events”, stating that this was biased reporting.
4. The newspaper did not accept that the article was inaccurate or misleading. It was not in dispute that the police had been called and had shut down the party. Its reporter had attended the event, and had witnessed angry scenes both inside and outside the venue, with people “pushing and shoving” in an attempt to be admitted. There were clearly health and safety issues, which was why police were called. The reporter had feared for her own safety. The word “organisers” was used in a quote from a witness who would not necessarily have distinguished hotel staff from awards organisers. A police officer had told the reporter that the party had been shut down due to overcrowding and that there was a “fear of rioting” outside. Mel B’s early departure had been confirmed by her PR representative. The newspaper said that a MOBO spokesman had indeed tried to “play down” events, but was willing to make an amendment to the online article to omit this phrase.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. There was no dispute about the fact that there had been crowd control concerns at the event, and that the police had been called, and had decided to close down the party. In this context, and given the scenes witnessed by its reporter, the newspaper was entitled to refer to “chaotic scenes”, and “mayhem”. The article had not stated that arrests had been made. The newspaper’s selection of a section of the police statement was not significantly misleading such that a correction was required.
7. The newspaper was entitled to rely on confirmation from Mel B’s PR representative that the singer had left the event early due to crowd control concerns. In the absence of a complaint from Mel B, the Committee did not establish a breach of Clause 1 on this point.
8. It appeared to be accepted that the police had been called by the owners of the hotel, and not the official organisers of the event. However, as they had been called by individuals with an official involvement with the party, it was not significantly misleading to state that they were called by “organisers”.
9. The Committee did not share the complainant’s view that the presentation of a statement from an organisational spokesperson as “playing down the incident” constituted bias. There was a dispute as to the gravity of the problems and the newspaper was entitled to present the complainant’s position in this manner
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 30/10/2014
Date decision issued: 20/02/2015Back to ruling listing