Decision of the Complaints Committee 02879-19 Jackson v The Sun
Summary of complaint
1. Jermaine Jackson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sun breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Be honest on Jacko’s history”, published on 2 February 2019.
2. The article was a “show-biz” column, in which the columnist discussed comments which the complainant had made during a recent television interview, regarding allegations of historic child sexual abuse made against his late brother, Michael Jackson.
3. The article reported that during the television interview the complainant had said he was “’1,000 per cent’ sure the dethroned King of Pop never molested children”. The columnist cast doubt on these remarks; he said, “25 years ago, when Jacko was alive and still sleeping with boys, his big brother did not feel the same way”. The columnist claimed that he had “uncovered a previously forgotten interview” which the complainant had given to another publication in 1993. The columnist said that in the interview, the complainant had “admitted to fears” that the allegations against his brother were “correct”, and had said, “I love him, but you have to wonder if there might not be some truth in it.”
4. The article was also published in substantially the same form online, under the headline, “MJ PAEDO WORRY Michael Jackson’s brother Jermaine expressed secret fears over superstar’s sex abuse claims in 1993 interview”, published on 2 February 2019.
5. The complainant denied that he had ever doubted his brother’s innocence. He said that he had no recollection of speaking to the publication referred to in the article in 1993, and denied that he would have ever said the quotes attributed to him from that time. He said that these comments were at odds with a position which he had always maintained, and had publicly expressed a number of times, including in 1993, namely that he had never believed his brother to be anything other than innocent in relation to child sexual abuse allegations.
6. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the article accurately reported comments in the public domain, made clear their provenance, and gave the year of publication.
7. The newspaper provided a copy of the article published in 1993 to IPSO. This article was an interview, headlined “My doubts about the innocence of Michael”, and was by-lined, “by Jermaine Jackson”. This article was presented as an interview. It said that Michael Jackson “could face criminal charges of child sex abuse within days”. It said, “in an emotional interview from inside the home which has become a prison, Michael’s closest brother Jermaine, 39, admits: ‘I am his biggest supporter. I love him, but yes, you have to admit you begin to wonder if there mightn’t be some truth in it’”. The piece continued by reporting personal remarks which the complainant was said to have made during the interview about his brother, his family, and the impact which the allegations had on them.
8. The newspaper said that it was entitled to report the comments made by the complainant in 1993, which had evidently not been subject to complaint, and the article made clear that the views expressed by the complainant in the interview contrasted with other public statements he had made about the allegations against his brother.
9. The complainant described the article provided by the newspaper, published by 1993, as “dubious”, and noted that the newspaper had no other evidence from its own inquiries, that supported the contested quote attributed to him in the article. He maintained that he had never made any comments which doubted his brother’s innocence.
Relevant Code Provisions
10. 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.
Findings of the Committee
11. The article under complaint accurately reported comments attributed to the complainant during an interview in 1993. It was not in dispute that these comments had remained a matter of public record, uncorrected, since that time. The complainant had denied that he had ever doubted his brother’s innocence. However, the newspaper was entitled to report on the contents of the interview published in 1993 and care was taken to make clear the provenance of these remarks. By reporting these comments, the article did not contain the suggestion that this was a position which the complainant currently held; the article made clear that the complainant had expressed strong support of his brother in 1993, and more recently. The newspaper had taken care to report the historic comments contained in the interview accurately, and no misleading impression was given of the content of the article published in 1993, such as would require correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). There was no breach of the Code.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 31/03/2019
Date decision issued: 20/06/2019
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