Decision of the Complaints Committee 03772-19 Freeman v getsurrey.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Julian Freeman complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that getsurrey.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Epsom and Ewell Local Election candidates 2019: The people looking for your vote”, published on 29 April 2019
2. The article was a list of all of the local candidates who were standing for the recent borough council elections. It said that the publication had asked every candidate to submit a 100 word biography, but that some candidates had not responded. The candidates who had not provided a response were listed as “No bio supplied”.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He was named in the article as one of the candidates who had failed to supply a biography. However, he said that he was not contacted by the publication, and so did not have any opportunity to submit a biography.
4. The publication did not accept that the article was inaccurate. It said that the reporter contacted all the local branches of the parties and associations presenting candidates for the election, including the branch of the complainant’s political party. It said that the email address it contacted in relation to the complainant was the one given on the official local party website, and was also the contact email provided by the complainant himself on a previous campaign leaflet. It provided a copy of this email, which explained the premise of the article and asked whether the candidates would like to provide a photograph and a short 100 word biography. The publication had received a response from that email address, asking if the request was intended for all candidates. The reporter had clarified that the email was intended for all of the candidates standing for that party, and not just for the immediate recipient.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
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. It was appropriate for the publication to try and contact the complainant through his local party office - this was where the local party and the complainant himself had directed enquiries. The Committee noted that the local party had not forwarded on this request to the complainant; however, the reporter made clear to the recipient that the request should have been distributed to all of the candidates – where this was not done, and hence no response was provided by the complainant, it was not a breach of Clause 1(i) for the publication to report that the complainant had been contacted, but had not supplied a biography. Reporting this was not inaccurate and there was no breach of Clause 1.
7. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 03/05/2019
Date decision issued: 02/07/2019Back to ruling listing