03378-21 Greenstein v thejc.com

Decision: No breach - after investigation

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03378-21 Greenstein v thejc.com

Summary of Complaint

1. Tony Greenstein complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thejc.com breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Arrested anti-Zionist compares himself to the Suffragettes”, published on 6th November 2021.

2. The article reported that the complainant, an “anti-Zionist activist”, had spent time in prison after being charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage and had written a blog post about his experience. The article stated that, in this blog post, the complainant had said he had been questioned about “whether [he] was an extremist” and had compared himself to the Suffragettes. The article contained a further quote from the blog in which the complainant wrote that he had “Another series of questions concerned whether I was an extremist! I had much pleasure pointing out… that all those who have fought for democratic rights in the past, such as the Suffragettes, were called extremists in their time”.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said that the headline and article inaccurately claimed that he had compared  himself to the Suffragettes. The complainant explained that his blog post was a light-hearted description of his experiences during a discussion with a prison officer. He stated that when asked if he was an extremist instead of simply stating “yes” or “no”, he had responded by asking what the prison officer had meant by “extremist” as he considered that this term was subjective based upon an individual’s position. As part of his discussion with the officer, he explained that many people to whom we owe our democratic rights were considered extremists in their time, such as the Chartists or the Suffragettes.

4. The publication said it did not accept a breach of the Code. It noted that the comparison between the complainant and the Suffragettes came from the complainant’s blog, and that this quote had been reproduced in the article, providing the context for the comparison. The publication said that the quote from the complainant explicitly compared him to the Suffragettes as an example of someone being called an extremist whilst fighting for democratic rights. It said that the inclusion of the quote, and the context of where it was taken from, would be understood by the reader.

Relevant Clause 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.

Findings of the Committee

5. The article reported on the content of a blog which the complainant accepted he had published. During the course of IPSO’s investigation, the complainant provided additional information about his exchange with the prison officer, but the question for the Committee was whether the newspaper’s report of the comments made by the complainant in his blog, rather than the conversation itself, was inaccurate or misleading.

6. The article explained that, in his blog, the complainant had said he had been asked whether he was an extremist, to which he had replied that “…all those who have fought for democratic rights in the past, such as the Suffragettes, were called extremists in their time". The article had accurately quoted the comment made by the complainant and had explained that he had made the comment after he had spent time in prison charged with conspiracy to cause criminal damage in connection with his alleged activism. In light of the nature of the complainant’s comment, the circumstances in which it had been made and where it had also been quoted in the article, it was not misleading for the article to characterise the comment as the complainant having compared himself to the Suffragettes. There was no failure to take care over accuracy in breach of Clause 1(i) and no significant inaccuracy requiring correction.

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

8. N/A

Date complaint received: 18/04/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/08/2021

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