Resolution statement – 20834-17 Błażejak v The Daily Telegraph
Statement of Complaint
1. Marek Błażejak 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 “Action demand over racist sign”, published on 28 November 2017.
2. The article reported that an individual had placed a banner outside his guesthouse in Poland which said “Entry forbidden to Jews, Commies and all thieves and traitors of Poland”, and reported that the incident had occurred amid rising concern over the strength of the far-Right in Poland. It was claimed that the Polish authorities had “made no move” against the individual in relation to the banner, despite it appearing to break anti-hate crime and discrimination laws, and the article included a comment made by the World Jewish Congress that it “would have expected the authorities to act forcefully and swiftly to put a stop to such activity”. The article also reported that the individual had previously been convicted of inciting racial hatred after burning a Jewish effigy at a far-Right demonstration.
3. The article was published online in substantively the same format, headlined “Polish authorities urged to act after far-right activist bans Jews from his guesthouse”. The online article included a comment made by an anti-racism group that there appeared to be an “inability or unwillingness” on the part of the Polish authorities to deal with racist incidents. The online article also reported that Poland’s ruling party had been accused of “fostering a climate of xenophobia”.
4. The complainant said that the article gave the misleading impression that the Polish government is indifferent towards anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia. He expressed concern that the article was imbalanced, and that it did not reflect the official policy of the Polish government regarding anti-Semitism. The complainant also said that it was inaccurate to report that the Polish authorities had “made no move” against the individual. He said that the individual was arrested prior to the publication of the article, albeit in relation to a different crime; that the Polish police had claimed that the banner was removed at this time; and that the Polish regional prosecutor was “considering” bringing charges against the individual in respect of the banner. The complainant provided a copy of an email from a spokesperson for the Polish police, and Polish news articles, which he said demonstrated his position.
5. The newspaper did not accept that there had been a breach of Clause 1. It said that it was fair and accurate to report on “rising concern” about the far-Right in Poland, and that such concerns were well-known and publicly documented. The newspaper also said that it was entitled to report on the World Jewish Congress’ criticisms of the Polish government, that the individual had faced no criminal charges despite the banner appearing to be in breach of anti-discrimination laws. It said that the individual was not arrested in connection to the banner, and that the regional prosecutor had confirmed to it that no charges had yet been brought against the individual, in respect of the banner. The newspaper said that therefore, it was not inaccurate to report that the authorities had “made no move” against him.
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.
7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
8. During IPSO’s investigation, the newspaper offered to amend the online article to highlight that the banner had been removed, and that the Polish regional prosecutor was considering bringing charges against the individual, in connection with the banner.
9. The newspaper also offered to publish the following clarification in the Corrections and Clarifications column on page 2 of the newspaper, and as a footnote to the amended online article:
A 28 Nov article stated that no action had been taken by Polish authorities against Piotr Rybak for hanging an anti-Semitic banner outside his guesthouse near Wroclaw. In fact, although no charges have been brought against Mr Rybak for displaying the banner, police removed it shortly before our article was published. We are sorry for any confusion”.
10. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
11. 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.
complaint received: 14/11/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/01/2018
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