· Decision of the Complaints Committee 01754-14 Thomason v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Ms Laura Thomason complained that The Daily Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Alternative health: what is naturopathy?” published on 7 November 2014 in print and online.
2. The article was an interview with a naturopath, which discussed the alternative therapies which she offered.
3. The complainant said that the article was misleading, as it implied that the methods used by the naturopath were effective to diagnose, treat or cure health conditions. She considered that the article should have made clear that bioresonance and live blood analysis were not valid medical techniques, and that the therapist was not a qualified medical professional. The complainant said that the therapist’s company had been listed as a non-compliant advertiser by the Advertising Standards Authority, due to its failure to remove from its website uncorroborated claims made about alternative therapies. She expressed concern that there was a risk of physical, financial or emotional harm to readers who believed the article’s claims to be true.
4. The newspaper did not accept that the article was inaccurate or misleading. It had made clear that naturopathy was an “alternative therapy” and did not make any claims regarding the efficacy of techniques referred to. All statements were clearly attributed to the therapist. Nonetheless, it had amended the article slightly, adding several more references to the comments in the article being the “claims” of the therapist.
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.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Findings of the Committee
6. The Press is entitled to report individual comment and conjecture, as long as such claims are clearly distinguished from fact. The Committee emphasised the importance of this distinction in articles which report matters which could have an impact on public health.
7. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern regarding the efficacy of the techniques described in the article, and that another regulator had previously issued a decision stating that claims about live blood analysis were unproven. However, the piece was headlined as a report of “alternative health”, signalling to readers that any techniques described were outside of conventional health practice. Further, the article was clearly presented as an interview with the practitioner in question. It was therefore implicit from the context that all claims were those of the naturopath. In the context of such an article, the newspaper was not obliged to include criticism of the therapy described.
8. The Committee noted with some concern the headings in the article, “what is it?”, “what is it good for”, and “how does it work”. However, the article was part of a series in which these headings were used as standard. The Committee was therefore satisfied that these headings were a means of presentation, rather than claims of efficacy.
9. The Committee welcomed the newspaper’s amendments to the article, which had the effect of distinguishing more clearly that the comments in the article were those of the therapist interviewed. Nonetheless, given the nature of the original article, the Committee was satisfied that the references about which the complainant was concerned were not significantly misleading, such that a correction would be required. While naturopathy may be a controversial subject, the newspaper was entitled to present the position of a practitioner of alternative therapy. There was no breach of Clause 1.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 11/11/2014Date decision issued: 23/01/2015 Back to ruling listing