Resolution Statement 06762-17 Richards v Daily Express
1. Edward Richards complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined ”Why does the EU hide its accounts?”, published on 5 May 2017. The article was also published online
2. The article was an opinion piece, discussing the “£50bn divorce bill” the UK might have to pay the EU as a result of Brexit. The article claimed that the “EU has never provided its accounts – examined and endorsed by the Court of Auditors as demanded by its own constitution – for 20 years”. It suggested that the UK should only agree to pay the divorce bill if the EU would publish these accounts. It claimed that the reason the accounts had not been published was that large sums of money had “gone missing”. It claimed that as one of the largest contributors to the EU, this could mean that £50 billion of British money was unaccounted for, and stated that this would be “End of controversy”.
complainant said that the EU had published its accounts, and that the article
was therefore inaccurate.
4. The newspaper said that the accounts published by the EU had not been endorsed by the Court of Auditors. Rather, the Court of Auditors have found that the accounts are affected by material error, such that they have given an adverse opinion on the legality and regularity of the payments. In any event, the newspaper said that the manner in which the EU releases primary financial material seriously lacked transparency.
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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the publication offered to publish the following clarification in its clarifications column:
In our article “Why does EU hide its accounts?” on May 5, 2017, it was claimed the EU has “never provided its accounts – examined and endorsed by the Court of Auditors as demanded by its own constitution – for 20 years, maybe more”. In fact the EU does publish its accounts, but when it has done so, the Court of Auditors has found material errors in the way that EU has spent money. We are happy to make this clear.
8. The newspaper also offered to amend the online headline to: “Frederick Forsyth: Why does the EU not publish fully endorsed accounts?”, and to publish the following footnote:
The headline of this article was amended on 27 July 2017. It originally asked, “Why does the EU hide its accounts?” which one reader considered to be misleading because the EU does in fact publish its accounts. In addition the article claims that the EU has never provided its accounts – examined and endorsed by the Court of Auditors as demanded by its own constitution – for 20 years, maybe more”. Whilst it is the case that the EU does publish its accounts, when it has done so, the Court of Auditors has found material errors in the way that EU has spent money. We are happy to make this clear.
9. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.
10. 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: 07/05/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 25/07/2017
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