Decision of the Complaints Committee 06068-18 Latham v thejc.com
Summary of complaint
1. Stephen Latham complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thejc.com breached Clause 1(Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "What is the IHRA definition of antisemitism? And why has Labour outraged Jews by rejecting it?" published on 20 July 2018.
2. The article reported that “British Jews are furious the Labour party refused to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism…” and that "a total of 31 countries have adopted the IHRA definition". The article went on to report that the Labour Party had rejected the examples provided with the definition and had chosen its own. It reported which examples it had omitted, and that by doing so it had prompted a high level of opposition from the Jewish community in Britain.
3. The complainant said the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it overstated how widely the IHRA definition had been adopted; 31 individual countries had not adopted it. The complainant said that the IHRA plenary, of which there are 31 member nations, had voted to adopt the definition in order to guide its work, but that to date, only 8 sovereign countries plus Scotland and the City of London had individually adopted the non-legally binding definition.
4. The complainant also said the article was inaccurate as it claimed Labour had rejected the definition, when it had adopted it as early as December 2016. The complainant provided an article from 2016 which he said demonstrated this.
5. The publication
acknowledged the complainant's position, but denied any breach of the Code. It
said that the representatives of the 31 member countries had adopted the
definition at the meeting and had shown their commitment to the definition with
the authority of their respective countries. The publication said that in the
context of a newspaper summary it was not significantly misleading to state
that 31 countries had adopted the definition.
6. The publication
denied that it was inaccurate to report that the Labour Party had rejected the
definition. It said that Labour's rejection of some of the IHRA examples, and
therefore the full definition, had been widely and consistently reported.
7. As a means to
resolve the complaint, the publication amended the article to clarify that eight countries had enshrined the
definition in law and offered to publish a clarification with the following
"This story was updated on December 1 to make clear
that, to date, only eight of the 31 countries who adopted the definition have
additionally enshrined it in law."
Relevant Code Provisions
8. 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.
v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
Findings of the Committee
9. It was not in dispute that 31 members of the IHRA plenary voted to adopt the IHRA definition and that those members were representatives of 31 countries. Whilst the IHRA makes a distinction between countries that have adopted the definition and countries that have both adopted and endorsed the definition, the word "adopted" has a range of meanings and does not necessarily mean enshrined in law; the Committee noted that the article did not assert that the definition had been introduced into the domestic law of each member state. In an article which focused upon the position of Labour, the reference to 31 countries having adopted the IHRA definition was not misleading in circumstances where it was included as an indication of the extent to which the definition was approved of by the international community. The Committee welcomed the publication's offer of a correction but there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
10. It was not misleading to report that the Labour Party
had refused to accept the IHRA definition in circumstances where the article
highlighted the respects in which Labour had rejected or redefined some of the
examples which support the core IHRA definition. It was clear that the article
was criticising Labour for not having adopted the "full" definition
and it was not misleading for the publication to approach the subject on the
basis that the "full" definition included the examples. The Committee
also noted that the "full" definition, namely the core definition and
the examples, was not adopted by Labour until after the article was published,
in September 2018. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
11. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 13/09/2018
Date decision issued: 05/02/2019
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