Decision of the Complaints Committee 16335-17 Houghton v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of Complaint
1. Roger Houghton complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Let inferno victims occupy empty homes, says Corbyn”, published in print on 18 June 2017, and online headlined “Jeremy Corbyn calls on supporters to 'occupy' empty homes to help victims of Grenfell fire tragedy”.
2. The article reported on comments which Jeremy Corbyn had made during a television interview following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The article reported that “The Labour leader has said ministers must do more to find homes for the families who lost everything in the devastating blaze”. The article reported that when asked by the interviewer what he would do with vacant properties in London, specifically if he would “seize it forever, or just take it for as long as they’re needed”, Mr Corbyn had replied: “Occupy, compulsory purchase it, requisition it, there’s a lot of things you can do”. The online article said that Jeremy Corbyn had “called on his supporters to ‘occupy’ empty buildings to find homes for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire” and contained a 46 second video clip of the interview.
3. The complainant said that Mr Corbyn had not called on his supporters to occupy empty homes, he had been stating what government action should be taken.
4. The newspaper said that the article had set out verbatim the exchange between Jeremy Corbyn and the interviewer, and the online article had included a video of the interview so that readers would been able to see Mr Corbyn’s comments in their full context. It noted that there was no clear and unambiguous meaning to Mr Corbyn’s comments, therefore any interpretation of his views was necessarily subjective.
5. The newspaper said that the meaning which it had attached to the Mr Corbyn’s comments were reasonable: the term ‘occupy’ refers to illegal action by individuals, and given that it would be reasonable to assume that only Mr Corbyn’s supporters would agree with his position, it followed that no call to 'occupy' the properties could or would be relevant to any other group.
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 article had set out the question which the interviewer had asked of Mr. Corbyn in full, as well as Mr Corbyn’s response, and the online article had also contained a video clip of the exchange: this had enabled readers to understand Mr. Corbyn’s comments in their full context.
8. The Committee noted that the complainant considered that Mr. Corbyn had been explaining action the government, rather than his supporters, should take. However the newspaper had quoted his words in full and was entitled to provide its interpretation of them. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that Mr Corbyn had not specified that his supporters should take this action. However, in the political context of his comments, the headline was not a significantly misleading representation of what Mr Corbyn had said. There was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 25/06/2017
Date decision issued: 01/09/2017
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