Ruling

00306-16 Portes v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      29th April 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of correction

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00306-16 Portes v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Jonathan Portes complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Europe’s leaders have no plan to cut immigration”, published on 18 January 2016.

2. The article was an opinion piece in which the author expressed his view that Britain should leave the European Union. The article referred extensively to the “new migrant disaster”, and suggested that as long as Britain remained in the EU, it would have no control of immigration. The author supported his view by referring to a “revelation” at the weekend that “at least 20,000 Indians have been allowed to settle in Britain by using Portuguese passports since their homeland of Goa was once a colony of Portugal”, and said that this figure was “just part of an annual tidal wave of 228,000 non-EU migrants who use European passports to gain access to Britain”.

3. The print and online versions of the article were identical. 

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate to report that 228,000 EU citizens born outside of the EU gained access to Britain on an annual basis; he said that the total number of non-EU migrants coming to Britain annually, the vast majority of whom do not have EU passports, was only about 300,000.

5. The newspaper accepted that the 228,000 figure was inaccurate in that it should have referred to the total number of EU citizens born outside of the EU who were living in Britain. It said that that figure had been taken from a report in another newspaper which had referred to Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures, and had been misread. The newspaper said that it was common practice for columnists to use statistics from other publications in their pieces. It denied that the inaccuracy rendered the article significantly misleading. Nonetheless, it corrected the online article and added the following footnote:

This article was amended on 4 March 2016. It previously stated that the “annual tidal wave of non EU migrants who use European passports to gain access to Britain” was 228,000. This number is the total known number of non-EU migrants that entered with European passports not the annual figure.

6. The complainant accepted that the figure of 228,000 was an accurate figure for the total number of EU citizens born outside the EU living in Britain. However, he said that the inaccuracy was significantly misleading, the online correction was unclear and believed that a correction should also be published in print. He also criticised the newspaper for copying figures from other publications. 

Relevant Code Provisions

7. 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.

Findings of the Committee

8. The article was a polemic which expressed the view that Britain should leave the EU. This view was supported by several arguments based around the issue of immigration. The newspaper had explained that the figure for EU citizens born outside the EU had been misread from an article in another newspaper as an annual, rather than total, number. This figure was used to illustrate the author’s assertion that Britain would have no control of immigration while it remained in the EU. In this context, it was a compelling statistic which added credence to the author’s point in respect of immigration, as well as to the strength of his overall argument that Britain should leave the EU. The error which led to the statistic being incorrectly reported represented a failure to take care not to publish misleading information in breach of Clause 1(i), and was significantly misleading such as to warrant correction under Clause 1(ii).

9. The newspaper had removed the inaccuracy from the online article, and published a footnote explaining that the article had been amended. The wording of this footnote recognised the inaccuracy; there was no breach of Clause 1(ii) in relation to the online article. However, the newspaper had failed to correct the inaccuracy in print, and this represented a further breach of the Code.

Conclusions

10. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

11 In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is determined by IPSO. The newspaper had published a correction online, which met the requirements of Clause 1(ii); however, it had not corrected the inaccuracy in print, and had failed to comply with its obligations under this Clause. In this case, the Committee required the newspaper to publish a correction in its established Amplifications and Clarifications column which mirrors the text of the correction already published online; it should also explain that that the correction is being published following a ruling by IPSO.

Date complaint received: 19/01/2016
Date decision issued: 19/04/2016