Decision of the Complaints Committee – 28402-20 Jamalli v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of Complaint
1. Ilkin Jamalli complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Banned cluster bombs dropped by Azerbaijan / Banned cluster bombs strike Armenian neighbourhoods”, published on 6 October 2020.
2. The article also appeared online in substantially the same form, under the headline “Azerbaijan dropping cluster bombs on civilian areas in war with Armenia.”
3. The article reported that Azerbaijan had dropped cluster munitions “in the breakaway republic of Nagorno- Karabakh.” The headline of the article said that the bombs had been dropped in “Armenian neighbourhoods”, while the article went on to explain that Nagorno-Karabakh “is still recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan.
4. The complainant said that the article breached of Clause 1, as the headline of the article had the potential to mislead readers into believing that cluster bombs had been dropped in Armenia, rather than in internationally-recognised Azerbaijani territory with a majority Armenian population. He also said that the article was inaccurate in referring to the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh as a “breakaway republic”, as it was internationally recognised as being part of Azerbaijan.
5. The publication said it did not accept that the Code had been breached. It said that the munitions had been used in areas with a majority Armenian population, and that any ambiguity caused by the use of “Armenian neighbourhoods” was sufficiently clarified by the article, which made clear that the munitions had been dropped in Nagorno-Karabakh and that the territory was “still recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan”, as reported by the article. It also said that Nagorno-Karabakh has, since 1994, been mostly governed by separatist, self-declared republic, run by ethnic Armenians and backed by the Armenian government - hence the terminology of breakaway republic. As such, where the article made clear that the territory was still internationally considered to be part of Azerbaijan, it did not accept that the use of the term “breakaway republic” represented inaccurate information under the terms of Clause 1.
6. The complainant said that it was not the prerogative of the publication to decide what could and could not be deemed a “breakaway republic”, and reiterated that Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan.
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.
Findings of the Committee
7. The Committee considered that, taken in conjunction with the article, the headline was not misleading in the manner suggested by the complainant. While there might be some ambiguity around the phrase “Armenian neighbourhoods”, the article clarified in the first few lines precisely where the bombing had occurred: in “the breakaway republic of Nagorno-Karabakh” and not in Armenia. Given the ethnicity of the majority in the neighbourhoods was Armenian, it was not inaccurate to refer to the areas as “Armenian neighbourhoods”. As such, any uncertainty arising from the headline would have been limited and clarified by reading the first few lines of the article. The Committee found no breach of Clause 1 on this point.
8. The Committee recognised that there was an ongoing dispute over the territory and sovereignty of Nagorno-Karabakh, and acknowledged the difficulties in reporting on the status of the region. Nevertheless, it did not consider that the article had been inaccurate in describing the territory as a “breakaway republic”, where it was made clear within the article on what terms it was doing so – saying that it “broke away from Azerbaijan after a bloody civil war in the early Nineties that saw 30,000 people killed” before making clear that “[t]he territory is still recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan.” The Committee also noted that it did not appear to be in dispute that the territory was primarily governed by a self-declared republic. For these reasons, the Committee found that the use of the term “breakaway republic” was not inaccurate, misleading, nor distorted, and that there was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 06/10/20
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/02/2021Back to ruling listing