Resolution Statement 02921-19 ADF International v The National
Summary of Complaint
1. ADF International complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The National breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “MEPs call for probe into 'dark money' from US evangelicals claims”, published on 29 March 2019.
2. The article reported that a group of MEPs had signed a letter urging the EU to investigate sums of money being spent by “right-wing American fundamentalist Christian groups” to lobby governments and support groups in Europe. It said that one beneficiary of such funding was a Scottish ‘pro-life’ student group, and that “the anti-abortion group received funding and legal advice from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) International”. The article said that the Southern Poverty Law Centre had described ADF International as a “hate group” which had “’become one of the most influential groups informing the [Trump] administration’s attack on LGBT rights’”.
3. The complainant said that the article inaccurately reported the nature of the assistance it had provided to the student group, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). It noted the contents of a press release it had issued which celebrated the success of a legal challenge to a decision which had denied the student group membership of its university Students’ Representative Council. The press release stated that this had occurred “with the help of ADF International”, but did not state the nature of the “help” referred to. The complainant said that the publication had made the inaccurate assumption that this help was in the form of “funding and legal advice”; it said that this represented a failure to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. The complainant also disputed the article’s characterisation of ADF International as a “hate group”.
4. The publication also referred to the press release as the basis for the article’s claims, and noted that the complainant had not specified the precise nature of the “help” the release said it had provided to Glasgow Students for Life. It said that it would be happy to run a clarification or correction if the complainant could explain this.
Relevant Code Provisions
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.
8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to publish a letter from the complainant setting out its position in relation to the claims made in the article.
10. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to its satisfaction.
11. 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: 01/04/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 17/06/2019Back to ruling listing