Resolution statement 12765-17 Peter Ford v telegraph.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. Peter Ford complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Revealed: How Britain’s former Syria ambassador appeared on BBC to defend Assad…after quietly taking a job with dictator’s father-in-law”, published on 22 April 2017.
2. The article reported that the complainant, a former British ambassador to Syria, had appeared on the BBC to “defend the Assad regime” following a chemical attack which had occurred in Syria. It claimed that prior to the attack, the complainant had become a director of the British Syrian Society (BSS). The article reported that the BSS’s accounts did not show whether the complainant received any payment or remuneration for his role.
3. The complainant said that the headline was misleading because it suggested that he had gained financially from his position on the Board of the BSS; that his political advocacy in the matter of Syria was bought; and that he was trying to hide this fact “quietly”. He said that he was not paid for this role. The complainant also said that the newspaper did not contact him for his comment prior to the publication of the article.
4. The newspaper said that the focus of the article was the apparent conflict of interest occasioned by the complainant’s appearance on the BBC programme, and that whether or not he was remunerated was not a material point. It said that it was unable to contact the complainant directly, therefore it contacted the BSS with questions regarding the complainant’s remuneration and responsibilities.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1
(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.
(v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. Following IPSO’s intervention, the newspaper offered to publish the following clarification as a footnote to the online article:
CLARIFICATION: This article's headline originally stated that Mr Ford had 'quietly' taken the job as a director of the British Syrian Society. In fact, Mr Ford has never sought to hide his position as this could have implied and the headline has been amended. We are also happy to clarify that Mr Ford receives no remuneration or other material benefit from his directorship of the Society, or from the positions he espouses on the subject of Syria.
8. The newspaper also offered to publish the following clarification in the Corrections and Clarifications column on page 2 of the newspaper:
Mr Peter Ford
Following our article "Former UK ambassador linked to Assad lobby group" (23 April), we wish to make clear that Peter Ford, the former ambassador to Syria, receives no remuneration or other material benefit from his directorship of the British Syrian Society, or from the positions he espouses on the subject of Syria.
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: 30/05/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 10/08/2017
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