Ruling

01396-17 Versi v Express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      15th June 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 01396-17 Versi v Express.co.uk 

Summary of Complaint 

1.    Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “‘They grabbed me everywhere’ More than 900 migrants carried out Germany NYE sex attacks”, published on 8 February 2017.

2.    The article said that “according to a report” that there had been a mass sex attack carried out by 900 drunk refugees on New Year’s Eve in Frankfurt. It said that “according to local media” dozens of men assaulted multiple women in one incident in the Fressgass area of the city, and that other incidents occurred in pubs. It quoted one woman saying that the refugees “grabbed me under the skirt, between my legs, my breasts, everywhere”. It said that it had taken over a month for many of the victims to come forward and talk about the incident. It reported that police had said that no official complaints had been made, but that the descriptions of the sex attacks were “worrying”. 

3.    The complainant said that the publication had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article. He said that the event never happened, and the article was clearly inaccurate. He said that while the publication had changed the article and published an updated story and footnote, the correction was not appropriate as it did not acknowledge the error, was not prompt, did not have due prominence and did not include an apology. 

4.    The publication said that the article was a breaking news story, which referenced the original story published by Bild, and was accurate at the point of publication. It said that following a report that the detail contained in the original Bild article was inaccurate, it amended the copy and published a footnote to the article which said: 

The article was originally published on February 7, 2017. It was updated on February 14, 2017 to reflect the apology by Bild. 

Further, on receipt of the complaint, it published an expanded correction, and similarly-worded stand-alone correction, which stated: 

This article was originally published on 07 February 2017 and headlined "'They grabbed me everywhere' More than 900 migrants carried out Germany NYE sex attacks". The story was first published by the leading German publication Bild. Our original article repeated the allegation that '900 drunk refugees' had sexually harassed women who had attended a New Years' Eve event in Frankfurt.  The Bild article quoted a number of named sources who claimed to have either suffered during the attack or witnessed the events.  After the German Police in Frankfurt denied that any such incident occurred, Bild apologised for their inaccurate report. Our version of the story was based upon Bild's original report and therefore our article was also inaccurate.  This article was amended on 14 February 2017 to reflect the apology by Bild. 

5.    The complainant said that it was the responsibility of a publisher to take care not to publish inaccurate information. It said that if the publication was publishing solely what Bild was saying, then entire article should make this clear. He also said that he considered that as well as correcting the error and acknowledging that an error was made, a publication should also apologise to readers for making the error.

Relevant Code Provisions 

6.    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. 

Findings of the Committee 

7.    The article relied upon local media reports in Germany from Bild and other news organisations of what was alleged to have occurred in Frankfurt on New Years’ Eve. The Committee considered that in relying on local media reports of an incident that took place in another country, and in attributing the claims to “reports” and “local media”, there was no failure on the publication’s part to take care not to publish inaccurate information in breach of Clause 1(i). 

8.    However, it subsequently transpired that the claim that 900 migrants carried out a sex attack in Frankfurt was untrue, which represented a significant inaccuracy that required correction under the terms of Clause 1(ii). 

9.    Once the publication became aware that the story was inaccurate, it amended the article to make clear that police had denied that the sex attacks had taken place, and that the editor of Bild had apologised for the report. It also published a footnote to the article which said that the article had been amended to reflect the apology from Bild. Further, on receipt of the complaint, the publication had published an expanded footnote which made clear that the original article was inaccurate, and explained why this was the case; it also published a stand-alone correction in the same terms. The Committee considered that these actions addressed the inaccuracies in the original article, and were offered promptly and in a sufficiently prominent position, so as to meet the requirements of Clause 1(ii). 

10. In circumstances where the publication had taken care over the accuracy of the article, and no one individual was affected by the inaccuracies published, the Committee did not consider that an apology was required.   

Conclusions 

The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required 

N/A

Date complaint received: 15/02/2017

Date decision issued: 24/05/2017