Decision of the Complaints Committee – 11372-20 Various v Telegraph.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received various complaints that Telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “The scrapping of Dfid is good news in Westminster. The attack on Churchill's statue is not”, published on 22 June 2020.
2. The article was an opinion piece which reported on the calls for the statue of Winston Churchill to be removed. The article described some of the actions that Winston Churchill had done in his life, including liberating “our friends on the continent from the curse of Hitler's extreme Left, anti-Semitic, German National Socialist Workers' Party regime”.
3. IPSO received 213 complaints about this article. Complainants said that the article breached Clause 1 as it was inaccurate to describe the German National Socialist Workers' Party (Nazis) as “extreme left” as communists, socialists and other left-wing activists were persecuted by the Nazi Party. It was also said that as fascists the Nazi Party had to be right-wing. Some complainants also said that it was offensive, revisionist and an attempt to smear left-wing people and parties to characterise the Nazis as left wing.
4. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It stated that the article had been clearly identifiable as an opinion piece, as it was found within the comment section of the website, it included a byline with the writer’s photograph and was written in the style of an opinion piece. It said that because of this readers would understand that it was the author’s opinion that the National Socialist Workers’ Party was left wing. The publication said that it was not established as fact whether the Nazi Party was left or right, and could only be opinion. It said that where the Party fell on the political spectrum had been subject to some debate, and provided copies of other articles in which columnists had opined that the Party was left wing. Further, it said that terms such as “extreme” left or right are intrinsically opinion based, which readers should recognise. It also said that the National Socialist Workers’ Party is so well-known that the inclusion of “extreme Left” would not mislead readers as to the Party’s fundamental nature.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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
6. The characterisation of political philosophies as “left” or “right” on the political spectrum is a subjective assessment, rather than a verifiable fact. The Committee acknowledged that where a given political party is placed on that spectrum, will be a matter of debate. The Committee was satisfied that due to the subjective nature of assessing a group as being politically left or right, and the placement of this assessment within an easily distinguishable first person opinion piece, the columnist’s characterisation of the Nazi Party as “extreme Left” would be understood to be his personal assessment. On this basis, the publication had taken care not to publish inaccurate information under Clause 1(i) and there was no significant inaccuracy that required correction under Clause 1(ii).
7. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 24/06/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 21/09/2020Back to ruling listing