Resolution Statement 02180-18 Flynn v Belfast Telegraph

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement 02180-18 Flynn v Belfast Telegraph

Summary of complaint

1. Martin Flynn complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Belfast Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Victim’s sister who hugged soldier abused”, published on 14 February 2018. The article was published online under the headline “Troll targets sister of boy shot by Army in Derry after inquest into killing”.

2. The article reported that a woman whose brother had been shot dead by a soldier almost 46 years ago had “endured vile abuse because she hugged the killer’s commanding officer after he broke down during the inquest”. It reported that the woman had said that she had been “trolled by the man since the end of the inquest” and that she had “never spoken a word to him in [her] life”.

3. The complainant said that the article had contained false allegations against him. He said that although the article had not named him as the individual who the woman had claimed had sent abusive messages, the journalist had posted it to the woman’s Facebook page where she had repeatedly accused him by name.

4. He also denied that he had never spoken to the woman; in fact, they had known each other for a number of years. While he accepted that correspondence between them had become heated for one week 10 months after the inquest, they had always engaged with each other positively, including in the months following the inquest, and he provided examples to support his position. He expressed concern that the newspaper had made no attempt to contact him before it proceeded to publish the allegations.

5. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that before publishing the article, the reporter had checked the woman’s Facebook page to verify that abusive comments had been made, and it provided three examples, which it said supported the report. It explained that it had not sought the complainant’s comment before publication because it had no intention of naming him in the piece, and the reporter had made no comment whatsoever when she posted the article to the woman’s Facebook page. 

6. The newspaper noted that the article had not stated that the woman had never met the alleged troll; rather, it had stated that she had never spoken to him. In any event, it did not consider that this was a significant point in the context of the allegations.

Relevant Code provisions

7. 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.

Mediated outcome

8. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to publish the following clarification:

With reference to an article published on February 14, 2018 in relation to the alleged trolling of Derry Troubles’ victim Helen Deery, we would take this opportunity to clarify that a number of the claims made in the article were misleading.

9. The complainant accepted the publication of this wording as a resolution to his complaint.

10. 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: 06/03/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/06/2018

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