Decision of the Complaints Committee – 09479-20 Nulty v Daily Express
Summary of Complaint
1. Craig Nulty complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “European Union is sinking just like the Titantic”, published on 5 June 2020.
2. The article was an opinion piece which reported on the attempt to agree on a trade deal between the UK and the EU during the coronavirus crisis. It finished by reporting that “it looks like World Trade Organisation rules and so what? Canada and Australia trade with the EU and prosper without bowing and scraping. So that will do us nicely.”
3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “European Union is sinking just like Titantic, says FREDERICK FORSYTH”.
4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 because it gave the inaccurate impression that the trading relationship between the EU and Australia and that between the EU and Canada were the same. He noted that it was misleading to suggest that both followed World Trade Organisation rules.
5. The publication did not accept that there had been a breach of Clause 1. It said that the aim of the article was to state that a trading relationship similar to either Australia, Canada or the World Trade Organisation rules would work for the UK. It said that nowhere in the article did it report that the Australian and Canadian models were identical. It offered to amend the final sentence of the article to “So either of these would do us nicely” and add the following footnote correction to the online version: This article has been amended to make clear that Canada and Australia trade with the bloc under different and agreed rules. The publication did not offer a print correction.
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 sentence regarding the trade relationships between Canada and the EU and Australia and the EU came directly after a sentence which stated that the prediction was that the UK would “follow World Trade Organisation rules and so what?” After describing that the UK would probably use these rules and then immediately stating that “Canada and Australia trade with the EU and prosper” was, on balance, misleading as it gave the misleading impression that Canada and Australia traded with the EU under World Trade Organisation rules. Sandwiching the references to Canada and Australia trading with the EU, between reference to WTO rules, and the observation “so that will do us nicely” where “that” appears to be a reference to WTO rules, reinforced the suggestion that Canada and Australia trade under those rules. The publication had not taken care not to publish misleading information, and there was a breach of Clause 1(i).
8. In an article describing the potential trade deal between the UK and the EU, this reference was significantly misleading as it gave the impression that two countries followed World Trade Organisation rules which was not the case. This required correction under Clause 1(ii). The publication had offered to publish a clarification online, however it did not adequately identify the original inaccuracy, and was not offered in print, this failed to satisfy Clause 1(ii) and there was a further breach.
9. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial Action Required
10. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1, 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 an adjudication, the terms and placement of which is determined by IPSO.
11. The Committee considered that the publication did not take the necessary care to report on the trade relationship between the EU and Australia and the EU and Canada. The Committee considered that the appropriate remedy was the publication of a correction to put the correct position on record. A correction was considered to be sufficient, as the claim was not the central point of the article.
12. The Committee then considered the placement of the correction. It should appear as a footnote to the article online, and in the print version of the paper in the established corrections and clarifications column. It should state that it has been published following an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation. The full wording and position should be agreed with IPSO in advance.
Date complaint received: 15/06/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 11/09/2020Back to ruling listing