Resolution Statement – 09696-19 Hudson v The Times
Summary of Complaint
1. Dermot Hudson complained the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Briton recruited at 14 into Kim’s ‘propaganda cult’”, published on 24 December 2019.
2. The article reported on a British man’s experience of being “recruited” as a child aged 14 into the Korean Friendship Association (KFA), a British group which supports North Korea and its leaders. He said that he enjoyed the group at first, but then felt that he was being “indoctrinated” by the group’s leader, who was named. The man described the group as having a “cult-like atmosphere” and was “riven by…paranoia”. The article reported that the group “was subsidised by the North Korean embassy in London”. It also reported that the man had doubts about the group’s support of North Korea, and that he “finally fell out” with the group on a visit to North Korea where he “questioned inconsistencies in the [North Korean] system”. He was then “expelled” by the “longstanding leader” of the group who was named. The article concluded by reporting a statement posted by the group on its Facebook page, in which it denied the claims made by the man, and accused him “acts of arrogance, classism…outrageous disrespect” and a “colonialist attitude”.
3. The article also appeared online in the same form and with the same headline.
4. The complainant was the man named as the “longstanding leader” of the KFA and as being responsible for expelling the man. He said that the article contained several inaccuracies. He said that the man had not joined the KFA when he was 14; the first time he could call recall meeting him was in 2012, when the man was 16. He also said that the man was not “recruited” as he joined the KFA of his own free will and the KFA was not a “cult…riven by…paranoia”. The complainant also said it was inaccurate to report that the man was “expelled…after falling out with the…longstanding leader” of the group, as in fact the man was expelled due to serious complaints about his behaviour towards other members of the KFA and there was no “falling out” between himself and the man. The complainant said that the group was not “subsidised by the North Korean embassy in London”. He said it was instead funded through donations and sales of books, souvenirs, and posters. Finally, the complainant said that the article breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) he considered that as it discriminated against him on grounds of belief.
5. The publication did not accept it had breached the Code. It stated that the man joined the organisation in 2011 when he was 14. It stated that whilst he had joined voluntarily, given that he was young and impressionable it was not misleading to use the word “recruited”; especially as the man had been invited to meetings by the complainant. The publication also stated that much of the article simply reported the honest opinions of the man expelled, including references to the group being “rife with…paranoia” and “cult-like”. It stated that the man had confirmed that the group received financial support from the North Korean embassy, this was also confirmed by a former North Korean diplomat. It said that it was matter of public record that the complainant was the leader of the KFA; the article did not contain any prejudicial or pejorative references to any of the complainant’s protected characteristics.
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.
7. Clause 12 (Discrimination)
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
8. The complaint was not resolved during direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to amend the online article to add the following statement:
“A spokesperson said that Meads was expelled after a complaint against him and was given an opportunity to refute the charges against him and to present evidence in support of himself”.
10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
11. 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: 28/12/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 23/04/2020Back to ruling listing