Ruling

00339-19 Wardell v Daily Record

    • Date complaint received

      10th May 2019

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 00339-19 Wardell v Daily Record

Summary of Complaint 

1.    Gareth Wardell complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Record breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Anti-Semite claims hit SNP online”, published on 30 October 2018. 

2.     The article reported that the First Minister had been asked by the Scottish Labour Party and the GMB union to investigate claims that SNP members had promoted a “’vile anti-Semitic blog’” online. It said that a blog “calling GMB union official [name] ‘the Jew’ was shared on SNP social media”. The article said that the blog had now been removed from a number of the party’s local social media outlets, which it named. It quoted the SNP as stating that the blog “should not have been shared by any member”, and arguing that the union official deserved “a full apology from the author”. 

3.    The complainant, who was the author of the blog referred to, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), because his blog had not referred to the union official as “’the Jew’”. The blog was a critique of the motivations of the GMB union, and of the official, in holding a strike in Glasgow, over an issue the complainant considered already resolved. The complainant said that he considered holding the strike to be an authoritarian act; he therefore wanted to compare this to the views Hitler adopted in relation to trade unions. Consequently, under the heading “Hitler’s view”, his blog had described how “fascist ideology hates unions”, and explained how Hitler had attacked the unions and “accused ‘The Jew’ of gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement”. It said that “Hitler wanted a blindly obedient fighting force loyal only to the national leader of government”. In the next paragraph, the blog originally said that “whether or not [the union leader] is intellectually aware of Hitler’s outlook is unknown but she certainly knows how to make the most of it”. This was subsequently amended to read “but she is certainly commendably assiduous in condemning anti-Semitism in the Labour Party”. The complainant said that he was unaware that the union official was Jewish, and that he had been trying to explain that, unlike Hitler, the official was not antisemitic. 

4.    The publication denied any breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy). It said that the complainant’s blog had made reference to “Hitler’s view” that “’The Jew’” had assumed leadership of the trade union movement, and had then immediately speculated about the union official’s awareness of these views. The publication said that the reference to “’The Jew’” could therefore only be in reference to the union official and her religion. It said the complainant had not provided any other convincing explanation for having referenced Hitler’s views of Jews in the trade union movement in an article about the Glasgow strike. It also said that the blog had been widely understood on social media to have referred to the union official as “’The Jew’”, and that she had herself interpreted it in this way. 

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. 

Findings of the Committee 

6.    The focus of the complainant’s blog had been the union official and her trade union, of which the complainant was severely critical. The blog featured a prominent photograph of the union official which was accompanied by the caption "Somehow a wholly unnecessary strike turned into an elevation of [the union official]". In this context, the blog had also referred to “Hitler’s view” of the trade union movement and his repeated attacks against trade unions. The complainant noted that Hitler had accused “’The Jew’” of gradually assuming leadership of the trade union movement. The complainant had then immediately referred to the union official, and speculated as to whether she was aware of Hitler’s views of the unions, stating that she “certainly knows how to make the most of” his outlook; he had subsequently amended the blog to  make reference to the union official being “assiduous in condemning anti-Semitism”

7.    In circumstances where the official was a Jewish trade union leader, and where the complainant had referred to her immediately following the reference to “’The Jew’” assuming leadership of the trade union movement, the Committee considered that the reference could reasonably be understood to have been made, by analogy, about the union official and her “elevation” within the trade union movement. There was therefore no failure to take care over the claim in the article that the blog had “called” the official “’The Jew’”. Given that the complainant's blog could reasonably be interpreted in the way presented in the article, the claim did not give rise to any misleading impression of the blog’s contents that would require correction. There was no breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).  

Conclusions 

8.    The complaint was not upheld. 

Remedial action required 

9.    N/A

Date complaint received: 15/01/2019

Date decision issued: 14/03/2019