Decision of the Complaints Committee 02623-18 Templeman v dailystar.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. George Templeman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailystar.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Russia nuclear strike on Britain would kill 8 MILLION and cripple UK” published on 24 March 2018.
2. The article
reported on the possible impact of a nuclear attack on the UK, based on
declassified documents and various cold war simulations. It stated that
declassified documents showed 38 towns and cities UK officials believed Russia
may target, along with 70 other targets. It reported that if London was hit, a
239 mile radius would be affected, with buildings collapsing and widespread
damage. It went on to report that these simulations had been calculated using a
nuclear historian’s Nuke Map tool.
3. The complainant said that the article had inaccurately reported the potential radius that could be affected by a nuclear attack on London. He said that if a 239 mile radius felt the effects of one missile, this would encompass the entire country. He said the simulations did not show that. He also said that the article was deliberately sensationalist, and that there was no evidence to suggest that these Cold War simulations were applicable today.
4. The publication
said that the article had made clear that the potential effects of a nuclear
strike were based on Cold War simulations, which it was entitled to report. It
provided copies of the declassified documents and screenshots from the simulation
website. It accepted that the radius that would be affected by a potential
nuclear strike had been inaccurately reported in the article. It said that the
simulation had shown that the total area affected in the thermal radiation
radius would be 384km ² and the journalist had interpreted this as a radius of
239 miles in error. In fact, the radius was 6.9 miles. Once the complainant
made the publication aware of the error, it removed reference to radius from
the article, and published a correction as a footnote to the article. During
IPSO’s investigation, it updated the correction to clarify its position. The
updated correction stated:
In an earlier version of this article the word ‘radius’ was used to calculate the theoretical damage zones that a Russian Tool (ss-25) single 800kt warhead would produce. The article originally used the word ‘radius’ to give the measurement to the thermal radiation radius. The use of the word ‘radius’ in this context was not accurate. In fact the thermal radiation blast radius would be 6.9 miles which would affect an area of 384km2 (square kilometres) or 148 square miles (mi2).
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.
Findings of the Committee
6. The simulation showed that the radius of the theoretical thermal radiation zone would be 6.9 miles. This would affect a potential area of 148 square miles. The publication acknowledged that, due to a human error interpreting the calculations, it had inaccurately reported the area that could potentially be affected. There was a failure to take care over the accuracy of this information, in breach of Clause 1(i).
7. The article
reported that the radius of the thermal radiation zone was 239 miles. Reporting
this represented a significant inaccuracy, as even though the article made
clear it was a hypothetical scenario, the distance it was reporting could be
affected was significantly larger than what the simulation showed. This
inaccuracy required correction under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). The Committee
acknowledged that the publication amended the article and published a footnote
correction. Where the correction identified the original inaccuracy, and made
the correct position clear, there was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).
8. The article made
clear that it was reporting on a hypothetical scenario, based on declassified
documents, and a Cold War simulation, which it was entitled to report. The
article had accurately reported this material. There was no breach of Clause 1
on this point.
9. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action required
10. The publication had published a correction which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear. The Committee found that this correction was sufficient to meet the requirements of Clause 1 (ii).
Date complaint received: 27/03/2018
Date decision issued: 26/06/2018Back to ruling listing