Decision of the Complaints Committee 08163-16 Napier v The Jewish Chronicle
Summary of complaint
1. Mick Napier complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Hitler salutes and abuse greet Israel festival-goers”, published online on 18 August 2016 and in print on 19 August 2016.
2. The article reported that there had been an anti-Israel demonstration at the International Shalom Festival in Edinburgh. It reported that those attending the festival had been subject to heckles and abuse from pro-Palestinian activists. It said that sounds of bombs exploding could be heard from a public announcement system and that at one point “a group within the crowd taunted the visitors with Nazi salutes”.
3. The article appeared online in substantively the same form.
4. The complainant, the chair of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said that there was no evidence to support the claim that there was a group amongst the crowd of activists making Nazi salutes. He had attended a majority of the event, and had seen no such gestures; he said that he had been notified by the police that they had not witnessed any salutes. Many people had taken photographs of the event, and there were no photographs that showed demonstrators engaged in such behaviour. He said that in any event, such gestures would not have been tolerated by the organisers or the demonstrators. In these circumstances, it was therefore inaccurate to report that the salutes had taken place.
5. The newspaper said that there were two separate instances where witnesses had seen protesters making Nazi salutes. The first was witnessed by an organiser of the event and her partner; the second was witnessed by the journalist herself, but only after she had filed the copy for publication. The newspaper provided the journalist’s account of what had happened at the event as well as her contemporaneous notes which made reference to “sieg heils”.
6. The newspaper did not doubt that the salutes had taken place; however, it acknowledged that the salutes were isolated incidents, and did not reflect the overall mood that day. As such, and following complaints from a number of individuals who said they witnessed no such salutes, the newspaper amended the online article to reflect that the claims about the salutes had come from a witness, and that this claim was denied by protestors. It also removed the reference to the salutes from the headline, and appended the online article with a footnote documenting the change.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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.
Findings of the Committee
8. The journalist had spoken to one of the event’s organisers who said she had witnessed the alleged Nazi salutes; the organiser’s account had been corroborated by her partner. The journalist had also made a contemporaneous note which contained a reference to “sieg heils”, which the newspaper said referred to Nazi salutes. Further, and while the Committee understood the complainant’s position that he had been at most of the event, the fact that neither the complainant nor the police had witnessed the salutes did not mean they did not happen. The article made clear that the alleged salutes took place during an isolated incident, in the wider context of abusive shouting. There was no failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1 (i).
9. The Committee welcomed the newspaper’s amendments to the article, in the interests of clarity.
10. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received : 27/08/2016
Date decision issued: 19/01/2017
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