Resolution Statement – 27978-20 Katwala v Sunday Times
Summary of Complaint
1. Sunder Katwala complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Sunday Times breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “I’m a natural Covid warden: stifling other people’s pleasure is my idea of fun / Dance your way out of this row, folks”, published on 13 September 2020
2. The complainant was one of a number of individuals who raised concerns about the article; he was selected as IPSO’s lead complainant.
3. The article, an opinion piece, suggested that the level of popular support for Black Lives Matter had been “shrouded these past few months”, with “no opinion polls available” on the matter. The columnist then reported that when he asked a polling organisation why this was the case, the reply was: “Because we were worried we wouldn’t like the results”. Following this, the columnist added that he suspected “the mass of the public” found the Black Lives Matter movement “entirely repellent.”
4. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the same headline.
5. Whilst the complainant accepted that the columnist was entitled to his own opinions, he believed that the article had failed to clearly distinguish between comment, conjecture, and fact in breach of Clause 1 and made three separate inaccurate and misleading assertions. First, that there were “no opinion polls available” to demonstrate public support the Black Lives Matter movement. Second, that public attitudes towards the movement had in some way been “shrouded” and third that the “mass of the public” found the “movement entirely repellent”. A number of opinion polls on this question had in fact been published and were publicly available, some of which found the public to be predominantly supportive of the movement.
6. The publication accepted that the statement in the article that no polls had been published on public attitudes towards the Black Lives Matter movement was significantly inaccurate and required correction, publishing the following, both in print and online, on 20 September 2020:
“The item “Dance your way out this row, folk” (Rod Liddle, Comment, last week) wrongly stated that no opinion polls are available on the level of popular support for the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, a number of polls on this subject have been conducted by agencies including YouGov and Opinium. We apologise for this error.”
7. Whilst the publication accepted that the complainant’s first point of complaint represented an inaccuracy, amending the online article and publishing the above correction, it did not accept that his further concerns raised a breach of the Code. The article was clearly presented as reflecting the columnist’s own perception and interpretation of public support towards the Black Lives Matter.
Relevant Code 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.
8. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
9. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to print the following correction in their Corrections and Clarifications column:
"The item “Dance your way out of this row, folks” (Rod Liddle, Comment, September 13), which mistakenly stated that no opinion polls were available on the level of popular support for the Black Lives Matter movement, was also wrong to imply that information was being withheld from the public. We have been asked to point out that the polls that were conducted found a wide range of views, not supporting the writer’s suspicion that the mass of the public finds the movement repellent. We are happy to make this clear."
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.
Date complaint received: 14/09/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/01/2021Back to ruling listing