Resolution Statement – 20701-23 Seifalian v The Jewish Chronicle

Decision: Resolved - IPSO mediation

Resolution Statement – 20701-23 Seifalian v The Jewish Chronicle

Summary of Complaint

1. Alexander Seifalian complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “IRGC-linked activist luring UK-based scientists in attempt to boost Iranian military”, published on 17 August 2023.

2. The article, which appeared across page 4 and 5 of the newspaper, and under the banner “Iran’s war on the West”, reported that an “Iranian scientific network” – the International Conference of Research in Europe (ICRE), which it said had “links to Iran’s brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” (IRGC) – was attempting to engage UK-based academics. The article also reported the complainant – who was according to the article, a “University College London Professor” – had been “listed to appear” on the “2023 ICRE conference agenda and now defunct website”.

3. The article went onto to report that, according to the conference website, the complainant was “due to give a talk on graphene nanofibers”, and that, although “documents show his talk was focused on civil applications” of the material, other researchers in the field believe it has “military uses”. The article concluded by noting that the complainant had “been approached for comment”.

4. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format, under the same headline.

5. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. While he accepted that he had been asked to give a presentation at the conference, he did not accept the invitation or ultimately give the presentation. He said he was unaware of the conference’s alleged link to the IRGC, and denied any link between himself and the group. He also stated that he only researched, and lectured, on medical topics and at medical conferences – and that the article damaged his reputation and career.

6. The complainant also said the article was inaccurate to describe him as a “University College London Professor” – he had left the University in 2016.

7. The publication did not accept a breach of Clause 1. It stated that the article did not report that the complainant attended or spoke at the conference – just that he was listed as a speaker. To support its position, the publication provided IPSO with screenshots of the conference’s website, including its homepage and “Keynote Speakers” page. The publication also noted that it had approached the complainant for comment, prior to the article’s publication, on 14 August, and not received a response.

8. While the publication accepted that the article was inaccurate to report that the complainant was a “University College London Professor”, it did not consider that this represented a significant inaccuracy requiring correction - where the complainant’s profile on Research Gate still listed him as a University College London professor and given that he had been employed in this position for 28 years.

9. On 11 September – and upon receipt of the complaint from IPSO – the publication offered, in an attempt to resolve the complaint, to amend the online article to include a statement from complainant. The complainant did not provide a statement, and did not accept this as a satisfactory resolution to his complaint.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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.

Mediated Outcome

10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

11. During IPSO’s investigation, on 26 October, as a gesture of goodwill and in an attempt to resolve the complaint, the publication offered to remove all reference to the complainant from the article.

12. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

13. 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: 05/09/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 31/10/2023

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