Decision of the Complaints Committee 17018-17 Various v Sundayexpress.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. The Independent Press Standards Organisation received various complaints that sundayexpress.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “F**k the rich! What Jeremy Corbyn really thinks of high-rate taxpayers”, published on 9 July 2017.
2. The article reported that in 1997 Jeremy Corbyn had told a crowd of young protestors “we have to address the problems of society by redistributing wealth. F**k the rich!” at a rally against cuts to university grants. The article stated that the Labour party had not responded to the publication’s request for comment on this issue, but did include a statement made by the Labour party in 2015, stating that Mr Corbyn “just doesn’t swear… The only ‘f’ with Jeremy is fairness.”
3. IPSO received around 60 complaints about the article, all of which related to the same alleged inaccuracy. Complainants said that the article had misquoted Jeremy Corbyn, who had said “tax the rich,” not “fuck the rich” at the student rally in 1997. Complainants said that Jeremy Corbyn’s address had been inaccurately reported by another publication in 1997, which had published a correction making clear that Mr Corbyn had in fact stated “tax the rich.”
4. The publication said that the article was based on a newspaper article reporting on the rally in 1997. The article had reported that Jeremy Corbyn had told students to “fuck the rich” during his address at Hyde Park. The publication had put the full allegation to the Labour press office prior to publication, but they had not responded. Once the publication was made aware that the original article may have been subject to a correction, the article was removed. The publication contacted the original publication and once it was confirmed that the original article had been subject to a correction, the publication posted the following correction on the 1 August 2017 on the express.co.uk website for 24 hours before archiving it in the normal way:
On 8 July we reported that Jeremy Corbyn had said “Fuck the rich” whilst addressing students at a rally held in London’s Hyde Park in 1997. Our report was based on an article that appeared in the Times newspaper on 27 November 1997. Prior to publication, we contacted the Labour party press office for their comments on the quotes from 1997. We did not receive a response.
Following publication of our article, we were made aware that the Times had published a print correction in December 1997 confirming that Mr Corbyn had been misquoted in its article and he should have been reported as saying “tax the rich”. Our article was therefore removed. We are happy to set the record straight.
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 correction, promptly and with due prominence, and –where appropriate- an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Findings of the Committee
6. The claim that Jeremy Corbyn had said “fuck the rich” in 1997 was based on a contemporary article that reported on the rally, which the publication was entitled to rely on. The Committee accepted that the published correction was not electronically available, and therefore the publication had not been aware at the time of publication that the statement was inaccurate. The publication had taken steps to ensure the accuracy of the information, by contacting the Labour party press office for comment. When it did not receive a response, the publication included a previous denial issued by the Labour party in 2015 when the issue had previously been reported. In these circumstances, there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article and therefore no breach of Clause 1 (i).
7. Nevertheless, it is now accepted that Jeremy Corbyn had been misquoted, and had in fact said “tax the rich” during the 1997 rally. Reporting that Mr Corbyn had said “fuck the rich” represented a significant inaccuracy. The article was removed once the publication was made aware that the information may have been inaccurate. Once the original correction was obtained, a standalone correction was published. The correction appeared on the homepage for 24 hours, it addressed the inaccuracy in the article, making the correct position clear and was sufficiently prompt as to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).
8. These complaints were not upheld.
Remedial Action required
Date complaint received: 10/07/2017
Date decision issued: 30/08/2017
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