Decision of the Complaints Committee – 07156-19 Walters v
Summary of Complaint
1. Ailsa Walters complained to the Independent Press
Standards Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the
Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Why are Man City fans booing
Liverpool star James Milner in Vincent Kompany testimonial?”, published on 11
2. The article reported that footballer James Milner had
been “booed by a smattering of Manchester City supporters when he touched the
ball during Vincent Kompany’s testimonial.”
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in
breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) as Mr Milner did not play at Mr Kompany’s
testimonial and it was therefore impossible that he had been booed by fans. She
also noted that the match was a testimonial, rather than a competitive match,
which had a large impact on whether he would be jeered as it was for charity.
4. The publication did not accept that Clause 1 of the Code
had been breached, though it accepted that the article was inaccurate. The
article had been prewritten, based on previous games in which Mr Milner had
been booed by Manchester City fans. In addition, the publication had relied on
social media claims that Mr Milner had received abuse after leaving the team
bus. The article had then been accidentally published. The publication had
taken steps in order to stop this mistake from reoccurring, by sending a formal
email to the journalist in question and a general email to the team to make
them aware of the issue and to stop it from happening again. The article had
been removed shortly after publication and the following correction was
published after the complaint was referred by IPSO:
Correction - Man City fans boo James Milner - 19.09.19
In an article headlined 'Why are Man City fans booing
Liverpool star James Milner in Vincent Kompany testimonial?' and published on
September 11 2019 we claimed that James Milner was booed by Manchester City
supporters when he 'touched the ball during the Vincent Kompany's testimonial.'
To clarify, the match was between the Man City Legends and Premier League All
Stars teams. The match was a celebration of Kompany's 11 years at Manchester
City and to raise money for the charity 'Tackle 4 MCR' which campaigns to
support homeless people in Manchester. James Milner was expected to appear as he
was listed on the team sheet for the 'Man City Legends' though in fact he did
not play. He has previously been booed by Manchester City supporters in their
matches against Liverpool at the Etihad stadium in March 2017 and again in
September 2017. In January 2019 he was again booed by Manchester City fans
during the match against Liverpool. At the time of the Kompany testimonial
match there were unconfirmed claims on social media that when James Milner had
got off the Man City Legends' team bus he had received abuse. Those unconfirmed
claims should not have formed the basis of the article and we apologise for
that error. We are happy to set the record straight.
5. The complainant said that the correction was inadequate
and did not put the correct position on record, as booing on previous occasions
was not relevant to the article and therefore not to the correction either.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. 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
7. The publication had reported that Mr Milner had been
booed during a football game, despite Mr Milner not having played and not
having been booed. The article had been written in advance of the game and had
been published by mistake. This represented a failure to take care not to
publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1(i).
8. The entire article centred on Mr Milner being booed
whilst playing; this did not occur and therefore the article was significantly
inaccurate. A correction was required under the terms of Clause 1(ii).
9. When alerted to the error, the article was removed from
the website and the publication had published a correction, which was suitably
prompt. However, the Committee did not consider that the published correction
had clearly identified the inaccuracy being corrected or made the correct
position clear in order to satisfy the requirements of Clause 1(ii). The
wording also contained additional information regarding the reasons for the
match and the previous times Mr Milner had been booed. The inclusion of this
information, which was not required to correct the inaccuracy, further obscured
the position. As such, there was a breach of Clause 1(ii).
10. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1(i) and Clause
Remedial Action Required
11. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what
remedial action should be required. In circumstances where the Committee
establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a
correction and/or adjudication. The nature, extent and placement of which is
determined by IPSO.
12. In circumstances where the publication had promptly
published a correction, albeit that the wording was not suitable to satisfy the
terms of Clause 1 (ii), the Committee considered that the publication of a
further correction in the online corrections page was the appropriate remedy.
13. The wording should only include information required to
correct the inaccuracy: that the article had been written before the match had
taken place and had been published in error; and that the original article had
reported that Mr Milner had played in the match when he did not, and that he
had not therefore been booed. The wording should also state that it has been
published following an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards
Organisation. The full wording should be agreed with IPSO in advance.
Date complaint received: 12/09/19
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 30/04/20
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