Resolution Statement – 28683-20 Extinction Rebellion v Mail Online
Summary of Complaint
1. Extinction Rebellion complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Anger as Extinction Rebellion activists turn up at Sir David Attenborough's home for climate change stunt while the 94-year-old shields inside from coronavirus”, published on 26 October 2020.
2. The online article reported that members of Extinction Rebellion delivered a letter and an olive tree to the home of Sir David Attenborough. The article then went on to provide a brief summary of the group’s recent protests and the reaction of political and policing leaders to these events, stating that Extinction Rebellion activists were “blasted by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson for ‘attacking free speech’ after they chained themselves to the gates of Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire.” It then reported that a “total of 20 activists have each been fined £10,000 for their involvement” in this protest.
3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) as Extinction Rebellion activists did not chain themselves to the gates of Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, but rather to a bamboo structure in front of these gates in order to block access. The complainant said that this inaccuracy was significant, as the former offence could potentially lead to a charge of aggravated trespass whilst the latter a charge of obstructing the highway – “a far lesser offence”. The complainant also disputed that 20 activists had been fined £10,000 each for their involvement in this protest by the Metropolitan Police Service.
4. The publication did not accept that the article breached the Code, as it did not consider that the alleged inaccuracies were significantly inaccurate or misleading. It maintained that whether the activists were chained to a bamboo structure in front of the Newprinters gates, rather than to the gates themselves, did not alter the fact that both acts shared the same sentiment and achieved the same outcome: the blockading of the printing press and the disruption to the supply of newspapers. In regard to the second point, the publication said that this was based on a press release issued by the Metropolitan Police Service and was published in good faith.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to amend the online article and to publish the following, in the form of a separate online article, clarifying these changes:
“In an article published on October 26 we reported that a protest by Extinction Rebellion at Broxbourne involved activists chaining themselves to the gates of Newsprinters in order to prevent access to the presses, and resulted in 20 people being issued fines of £10,000. The article has since been amended to clarify that the protestors had in fact chained themselves to structures in the road outside the printers and, while no fines were issued by police, arrests made on the day resulted in criminal charges being brought against 51 people. We are happy to set the record straight.”
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to their satisfaction.
9. 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: 26/10/2020
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 02/12/2020Back to ruling listing