Ruling

00675-17 Robertson v The Herald

    • Date complaint received

      29th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee 00675-17 Robertson v The Herald

Summary of Complaint

1. Colin Robertson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, that The Herald breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Exposed racist vlogger flees home and faces police probe”, published on 15 January 2017.

2. The article reported that the identity of the complainant, an online blogger who had published videos on his YouTube channel, “Millennial Woes”, had been revealed by an online blog, after he had addressed a conference at the National Policy Institute in Washington DC. It reported that footage from the event had appeared to show delegates giving “Nazi salutes” and shouting “Heil Trump”.

3. The article reported that “last week the wider world met Colin Robertson the Scot, who through his alter-ego Millennial Woes, has for the last three years been broadcasting white nationalist videos from his dad’s semi-detached in Linlithgow. It said that “his attempts to keep his real name, his real life private, was dashed, after left-leaning blog ‘A Thousand Flowers’, revealed all”. The article quoted from the blog, “we have no regrets about exposing Colin Robertson and what he stands for. He is a leading propagandist of the extreme right who has spent three years spreading his vile views with little consequence.”

4. The article reported that, “now Police Scotland are set to get involved after Robertson’s supporters on the far right started a campaign targeting the journalists and campaigners responsible for naming the neo-Nazi”.

5. The article referred to one of the videos which the complainant had published on his YouTube channel. It said that the complainant had told his viewers, “violence, by which I mean civil war, is inevitable between us native Europeans and the various immigrant groups”.

6. The complainant expressed concern that the article inaccurately described him as a “racist” and a “neo-nazi”. He said that by quoting from the ‘A Thousand Flowers’ blog post, the article had inaccurately referred to him as a “leading propagandist of the extreme right” and an individual who held “vile views”.

7. The complainant said that by reporting that following the publication of the blogpost, “supporters of the far right” had “targeted” journalists and campaigners responsible for naming him, the article had attempted to link their actions with him. The complainant also said that in those circumstances, and where the article had included a quote from his video, the article gave the inaccurate and misleading impression that he advocates violence. He said that the statement referred to in the article, was taken out of context; he said that the video as a whole had offered a speculative prognosis about what he had considered was the most probable outcome of a civilizational conflict brought about by multi-culturalism.

8. The complainant said that a journalist had attended his home to seek comment, without his permission. Whilst he said that the journalists had left when he had asked them to do so, he said he had found the interaction distressing.

9. The complainant accepted that he was a “minor public figure”, given that he had publicly spoken at three “Identitarian” conferences, but said that he was not a prominent individual, and was only known for his YouTube videos. He said that therefore, the newspaper’s actions had been disproportionately intrusive.

10. The newspaper did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the complainant had identified himself as a racist; it provided a link to a previous video, in which the complainant had said: “For your people’s sake be racist”.

11. It said that the complainant had spoken at the US Conference, which it said was a rally of “neo-Nazis”, where delegates had performed Nazi salutes and used Nazi terminology to refer to the press.  The newspaper provided footage from the event, which showed the complainant saying: “two or three years ago, I finally came to understand what is called the Jewish Question. That there are problems with the Jewish people. And that was difficult because I really didn’t want to become an anti-Semite. It’s like the biggest right-wing cliché.”

12. It said that the statement “Violence, by which I mean civil war, is inevitable between us native European and the various immigrant groups”, had an unambiguous and unequivocal meaning, and therefore did not need to have been contextualised.

13. It said that the complainant had posted images of his house on the Millennial Woes’ public Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels, and had broadcast his views without concealing his identity. It said that given the public availability of this information, the identity of the complainant, as well as the location of his home, had been easy to obtain.

14. The newspaper said that a journalist had attended the complainant’s home in order to seek comment from him. It said that when the complainant had opened the door, the journalist had immediately identified himself by name, and as a journalist for the newspaper. It said that when the complainant had made clear that he did not want to talk, the journalist left and had not returned.

Relevant Code Provisions

15. 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.

v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.

Clause 2. *(Privacy)

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Clause 3. *(Harassment)

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii)  Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.

Findings of the Committee

16. In considering this complaint, the Committee’s role was not to reach a judgment on whether the complainant was a “racist” or a “neo-Nazi. Instead, in assessing whether the newspaper had complied with its obligations under Clause 1 (i), the Committee was concerned with whether the newspaper had provided a sufficient basis to support its characterisation of the complainant and his videos in those terms. 

17. The newspaper had provided a number of videos, which featured the complainant, which focused on issues of race, religion and gender, in which the complainant had repeatedly made comments which could reasonably be described as prejudicial and extreme. Indeed, the complainant had – in one video – self-identified as “racist”, as well as an “anti-Semite”.

18. In this context, the Committee was satisfied that the videos relied upon by the newspaper provided a sufficient basis for the manner in which it had characterised the complainant. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and the Committee did not consider that – in all the circumstances – the newspaper’s characterisation had been significantly misleading or inaccurate. There was no breach of Clause 1.

19. The complainant had no expectation of privacy in relation to his identity, in circumstances where he had published videos on a public YouTube account and had spoken publicly at conferences, where he had made no attempt to conceal his identity. There was no breach of Clause 2.

20. The Committee acknowledged that the complainant had objected to the reporter’s visit to his home. It was accepted, however, that the reporter had immediately left, after being asked to do so by the complainant; it did not appear that the journalist had persisted in making enquiries, once being asked to desist. There was no breach of Clause 3.

Conclusion

21. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 14/06/2017

Date decision issued: 13/06/2017