Resolution Statement – 10972-20 Khan v birminghammail.co.uk

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement - 10972-20 Khan v birminghammail.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Asaf Khan complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that birminghammail.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined “City politician [named councillor] gets massive legal bill over bid to silence Twitter claims " published on 8 August 2019.

2. The article reported on a legal dispute between a named councillor and the complainant, a Birmingham resident. The article reported that “In February last year [2018] the Independent Standards Board of Birmingham City Council concluded an investigation into the conduct of [the named councillor] triggered by his handling of a controversial row over a schoolgirl relative wearing a hijab. The inquiry also looked at ‘historical speculation’ and ruled there was ‘no case to answer’”.

3. The complainant said that the statement that the “inquiry also looked at ‘historical speculation’” was inaccurate as the independent investigation had been focused on a single matter of complaint in relation to the use of social media, and had not addressed historic allegations against the councillor. He also said the claim that the inquiry “ruled there was ‘no case to answer’” was inaccurate as it had actually found there to be a breach of contract in relation to the use of social media. He said this was confirmed by extracts from the independent report and its terms of reference, both of which he had obtained via a Freedom of Information request. He also said this was confirmed by council minutes published in February 2020.

4. The publication said that it had not had access to these documents at the time the article was published. In addition, it said it had been widely reported in 2017 that the councillor had requested a review into all current and historical speculation. Nevertheless, it amended the article in light of the new information contained in the council minutes published in February 2020. It also published the following as a footnote clarification:

UPDATED: This article has been updated on 22 July 2020, to reflect the new information of the release of a public report to Birmingham City Council's Standards Committee, February 2020, which clarified that the inquiry by the Independent Standards Board looked at specific allegations relating to one incident, and did not look into historic allegations against [named councillor]. We are happy to clarify this. 

5. The complainant did not accept this offer as it did not address the allegedly inaccurate claim that the inquiry “ruled there was ‘no case to answer’”.

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.

Mediated Outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved during the referral period. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

8. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the following correction to appear as a footnote to the amended online article:

UPDATED: This article has been updated to clarify that an independent investigation into the conduct of [named councillor] looked only at specific allegations relating to his handling of a row involving a school uniform policy. It did not look into historic allegations against him. In addition, the investigation did not rule that “there was ‘no case to answer’” as originally reported. In fact, it found that there was a "breach of contract in relation to the use of social media".

9. The complainant said that this would resolve 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: 29/6/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 8/10/2020

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