Decision of the Complaints Committee 03036-18 Khan v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Khalid Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined, “Leading Canadian gynaecologist claims British medical professor repeatedly groped her breasts in a hotel bar with his ‘octopus’ hands and refused to stop- despite being told no,” published on 15 December 2017.
2. The article reported on a blog post, written by a woman who said that the complainant had allegedly groping her breasts in a hotel bar in 2014. The article included a number of the claims made in the blog post, and also included a statement from the institution where the complainant was employed, stating that they had been made aware of the allegation and would be investigating the matter. It also reported a statement from the complainant, denying the allegations, stating, “I deny these allegations and I am keen to clear my name. I will be co-operating with any investigations. In the mean time I have stepped aside from my editorial position at the BJOG.”
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate, as it had reproduced claims from the blog post, which reported only the woman’s version of events. He said that all the claims made in the blog were inaccurate, and that he have never met the woman alleging this incident had taken place. He said that the publication had not investigated the claims to ascertain whether or not they were truthful prior to publication. He said that the incident had not been reported to the police at the time, and there was no criminal investigation into the claims.
4. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the article had made clear that it was reporting claims made in the blog post, which it was entitled to report. It said it was not responsible for the accuracy of these claims, but had a duty under the Code to ensure it accurately reported the claims, and make clear that these allegations had not been confirmed as fact. It also provided a copy of the correspondence between the journalist and complaint, prior to publication, and said it had included his denial in full in the article. It also said it had gone to the complainant’s employer prior to publication, which had confirmed it was investigating these allegations. Regardless, as a gesture of goodwill, the publication offered to consider publishing a further statement from the complainant, denying the allegations.
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.
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
6. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant denied the allegations made in the blog post. However it was not for the Committee to consider the accuracy of the claims, but whether they had been accurately reported by the publication. The article had made clear that it was reporting claims made in the blog post. It also went to his employers for comment, and included the complainant’s denial, in full, in the article. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the information. The article had clearly presented the allegations as claims, and accurately reported what the blog post had said. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii), and the publication had distinguished between comment, conjecture and fact. There was no breach of Clause 1.
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
The complainant complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.
Date complaint received: 11/04/2018
Date decision issued: 23/07/2018