Decision of the Complaints Committee 19577-17 Campaign Against Antisemitism v Telegraph.co.uk
Summary of complaint
1. The Campaign Against Antisemitism 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 “What’s missing? The countries with no airports, railways, trees and World Heritage Sites”, published online on 26 September 2017.
2. The article was published in the publication’s travel section. It contained a number of lists of countries apparently lacking a certain characteristic. For example, it contained a list of 5 countries without airports, 15 countries with no mountains, and 9 countries without rivers. Under the subheading “no banks”, the article stated: “Only three countries on the planet don’t have a central bank owned or controlled by the Rothschild family”, and listed: Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.
3. The complainant said that the claim that these three countries are the only countries which do not have a central bank controlled by the Rothschild family, was inaccurate, and a modern version of the antisemitic myth that this particular Jewish family are behind the word’s ills, and part of a global Jewish conspiracy. It said that this modern version of the myth is supposedly the reason for a media and military campaign for Western powers to dominate these alleged bastions of independence from Jewish hegemony. The complainant said that this claim is only found on obviously antisemitic websites, and that the editorial processes leading to publication were plainly inadequate.
4. The newspaper said that publication of the claim was a regrettable error, arising from momentary carelessness. It accepted that the claim was significantly inaccurate, and said it would explain the background to this matter in routine editorial training and in its monthly updates to journalists, setting out errors and reminding them of the importance of careful sourcing and fact checking. The newspaper said that the journalist could not recall from where he had taken the claim, but that if it had been from an obviously and egregiously antisemitic website, the journalist would have been alerted to the risk of adopting information published on it.
5. The complainant first approached the newspaper directly, and the article was amended to remove the inaccuracy. The journalist and the newspaper wrote to the complainant to apologise on the same day. After IPSO began its investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to publish a correction as a footnote to the online article. Following further correspondence, the newspaper offered to publish the following correction as a standalone item on its website, with a link saying: “Rothschild’s control of central banks: A correction”, published on its websites Travel section landing page for 24 hours:
This article [HYPERLINKED] of 26 September published in Telegraph Travel originally stated that only Cuba, North Korea and Iran do not have a central bank owned or controlled by the Rothschild family. We accept that this is an anti-Semitic trope, although it was not included by the writer with anti-Semitic intent. We obviously accept that it was inaccurate and offensive, however, and we are very sorry that it found its way into our output. It has been redacted from the article.
The complainant said that the apology was satisfactory, so far as it went, but that it was also seeking a review of the editorial processes leading to publication of the inaccuracy, and publication of an article by an academic on the operation of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
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 newspaper accepted that the inaccuracy arose from carelessness. It had been unable to say from which website or websites the claim had been taken from, and where the claim was on its face, highly implausible, the Committee considered that to take no further steps to verify the claim represented a failure to take care not to publish inaccurate information and a breach of Clause 1 (i).
8. The Committee recognised the complainant’s concern that the claim about the Rothschild family’s control of central banks was an antisemitic conspiracy theory, and welcomed the newspaper’s acceptance that it was a significant inaccuracy, requiring correction under Clause 1 (ii).
9. The complainant first requested publication of an apology in its complaint to IPSO. The newspaper offered to publish a correction as a footnote to the article two days after the IPSO complaint was referred, and made its further offer of a standalone apology in further correspondence. Given the nature of the correspondence between the parties, the newspaper’s offer of a correction in response to the complaint was sufficiently prompt. The wording of the correction set out clearly what had been inaccurate in the article, and the Committee welcomed the inclusion of an apology. The complainant did not express concern about the proposed prominence of the correction, and the Committee considered that the newspaper’s proposal with regard to prominence was sufficient. The inaccurate claim was removed from the article on the day of publication, and both the newspaper and the journalist wrote to apologise to the complainant on the same day. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).
10. The complaint was upheld.
Remedial action required
11. Having upheld a breach of Clause 1 (i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee took into account the fact that both the newspaper and journalist wrote to the complainant to apologise on the same day the complaint was received, and the article was amended. It considered that the breach of Clause 1 had been appropriately remedied by amendment of the online article, and the newspaper’s offer to publish an apology, linked to the article via a footnote on the article. In light of the Committee’s decision, they should now be published.
Date complaint received: 21/12/2017
Date decision issued: 10/04/2018
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