Ruling

01910-22 Abusalama v The Jewish Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      23rd February 2023

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy, 3 Harassment

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 01910-22 Abusalama v The Jewish Chronicle

Summary of Complaint

1. Shahd Abusalama complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), Clause 2 (Privacy) and Clause 3 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the articles headlined "Student who praised terrorists as ‘heroes’ gets academic role at Sheffield Hallam University"; “Lecturer job for anti-Israel activist who praised killers”; "Anger over campus Marxism event with Lowkey and Corbyn"; "Universities accused of using IHRA as ‘tick-box exercise’ while failing to implement its rules"; and "UK taxpayer funds pro-BDS arts company founded by terrorist" published on 4 February, 11 February, 29 April, 6 May and 20 May 2022 respectively.

2. The first article, which was published online only reported that the complainant, “[a] Palestinian student… wrote that ‘Zionist lobbies… buy presidents’ and praised terrorists as a ‘heroes’ ha[d] been cleared of Jew-hate and given a contract by Sheffield Hallam University”. The article stated the complainant was “a former PhD student at the university… [and had] also urged her social media followers to watch a shocking video which claimed the Talmud permits Jews to kill and steal from gentiles”. The article said that she had announced her appointment to the university on Twitter, writing that: “We're celebrating a fantastic victory for Palestine today…. I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism”. The article went on to state that an investigation had been launched by Sheffield Hallam University into Ms Abusalama and that the university had “suspended” her. It also stated that “[i]n 2013, Ms Abusalama appeared at the 46th anniversary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror group”. The article further included Ms Abusalama’s current position, in the form of a Facebook status she had posted, regarding the video that she had previously “urged” her social media followers to watch. She had posted that “[j]ust as I now find it offensive and Islamophobic for racists to pull out a verse from Quran and take it out of context to demonise Muslims, I find this [her original post] also equally offensive. I know now that Zionist founders were secular imperialist, and had nothing to do with Judaism, but in fact used it”. The article concluded with a comment from a Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson, who had said that: “After some specific concerns were raised in relation to an individual’s proposed appointment as an Associate Lecturer, we had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to our attention. An appointment has now been made following the conclusion of a robust HR process”.

3. The second article also reported about the appointment of the complainant at Sheffield Hallam University, stating that “Shahd Abusalama was reappointed last week as an Associate Lecturer by Sheffield Hallam after she was investigated and then cleared over her defence of a “Stop the Palestinian Holocaust” poster. The article went on to state that the complainant had “urged her social media followers to watch a disturbing video which claimed the Talmud permitted Jews to kill and steal from non-Jews – which she later claimed she ‘found offensive’”. The article also referenced the complainant’s father and stated that “[i]n 1972, before she was born [he] was convicted of planting bombs at several sites within Israel… and sentenced to life in prison… [He] was released under the 1985 Jibril agreement, brokered by the Israeli government”. The article was accompanied by a photograph of the complainant dancing, which was captioned: “Victory dance: Abusalama celebrates her employment by Sheffield Hallam”.

4. The article was also published online on 10 February and headlined “Sheffield Hallam is a 'hostile environment' for Jews after activist who praised terrorists hired”. The article also contained the photograph of the complainant.

5. The third article reported on a planned Marxism event at Queen Mary University. It said that the complainant was lined up to speak and described her as “a Palestinian academic at Sheffield Hallam University who has praised Jew-killing terrorists as ‘heroes’ and written that ‘Zionist lobbies… buy presidents’”. A similar version of the article also appeared online on 28 April headlined “Anger over campus Marxism event with Corbyn and Lowkey”.

6. The fourth article also reported on the planned event at Queen Mary University, and stated that the complainant was due to speak at the event. It described her in the same terms as the third article - “a Palestinian academic at Sheffield Hallam University who has praised Jew-killing terrorists as ‘heroes’ and written that ‘Zionist lobbies… buy presidents’” - and went on to name a number of other people due to speak at the event. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format on 5 May, headlined “Universities accused of using IHRA as ‘tick-box exercise’ while failing to implement its rules”.

7. The fifth article reported on the funding of a number of arts companies. It reported that the British Council was giving funding to “dance troupe Hawiyya, which recently took part in a protest against ‘apartheid’ outside the Israeli embassy in London. It was co-founded by Shahd Abusalama, a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam university who described a Palestinian terrorist as a ‘beautiful fighter’”.

8. Prior to the articles being published – between 18 January and 15 February 2022 - the publication wrote to the complainant on four occasions setting out that it was due to report about her and offering her an opportunity to comment. The publication had said in these emails, among other points, that it was due to write that the complainant had been appointed and reinstated at Sheffield Hallam university; that she had shared a video on social media named “truth about Zionist JEWS Talmud”; that she had shared an image of six prisoners – including a former member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and described them as “heroes”; that she had appeared at an anniversary event for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine terror group; and that she had said on Twitter that she was “demanding [Sheffield Hallam University] drop the ongoing investigation against” her. The complainant said that she did not respond on any occasion.

9. The complainant said that the first article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 to state that she had written “that ‘Zionist lobbies… buy presidents’ and praised terrorists as a ‘heroes’”. She said that she had not praised terrorists as “heroes”, that the tweet in which she had allegedly made such comments had been deleted, and that this should have been reflected in the article. The complainant said that the third and fourth articles were similarly inaccurate to claim that she “praised Jew-killing terrorists as ‘heroes’”. She also said that the fifth article was inaccurate to state that she had “described a Palestinian terrorist as a ‘beautiful fighter’”, as this associated her with terrorism.

10. The complainant said that the first article was also inaccurate to state that she was “a former PhD student at the university [who] also urged her social media followers to watch a shocking video which claimed the Talmud permits Jews to kill and steal from gentiles”. The complainant said that she was a current, not former, PhD student at the university. She also said that the social media post which referred to the video was posted in 2012, and that she had since apologised for it. The second article also referenced the video mentioned in the social media posts; the complainant considered that both articles suggested that her social media post had been posted more recently than 2012, which was inaccurate. The complainant noted that the first article said that she had subsequently reflected on this social media post and written on Facebook in 2019: “‘Just as I now find it offensive and Islamophobic for racists to pull out a verse from Quran and take it out of context to demonise Muslims, I find this [her original post] also equally offensive. ‘I know now that Zionist founders were secular imperialist, and had nothing to do with Judaism, but in fact used it’”. However, she said this information had only been included towards the end of the article, which she considered to be misleading as readers may not get to this part of the article, or that they might miss it, as it was only a small part of the whole article.

11. Similarly, the complainant said that it was also misleading for the first article to only state near the end that a University spokesperson had said: “After some specific concerns were raised in relation to an individual’s proposed appointment as an Associate Lecturer, we had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to our attention. An appointment has now been made following the conclusion of a robust HR process”. She considered the fact of her appointment at the university despite the complaints made about her should have appeared earlier in the article.

12. The complainant said that the first, second and fourth articles were further inaccurate in relation to the description of the actions of the university. The first and fourth articles said that the university had “suspended” the complainant, and the second article said that she had been “reappointed last week as an Associate Lecturer by Sheffield Hallam after she was investigated and then cleared over her defence of a ‘Stop the Palestinian Holocaust’ poster”. The first article also said that the complainant had “been cleared of Jew-hate and given a contract by Sheffield Hallam University”. The complainant said that the articles were inaccurate as it was not her, but her classes which had been suspended for a week. She added that this had been due to an administrative error. She further said that she was not “reappointed as an Associate Lecturer” as she had never been removed and that the university offered compensation for the teaching sessions missed. She also added that the university had decided not to investigate the matter, and therefore she had not been “investigated and then cleared” or “cleared of ‘Jew-hate’”; she said that she was not accused or investigated of “Jew-hate”.

13. In addition, the complainant said that the first article inaccurately described the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) as a “terror group” when they were not designated as such. The complainant said that the PFLP were not a terrorist organisation and stating this while linking her to the group and her attendance at its anniversary was misleading.

14. The complainant said that the online headline of the second article was in breach of Clause 1 as she considered it failed to distinguish clearly between conjecture, comment and fact. She said that the headline was presented as fact when it was actually the opinion of one individual.

15. The complainant said that the photograph of her dancing which was included in the second article presented a breach of Clause 1. She said that a different article in the same publication also showed people dancing and described the individuals as refugees. The complainant said she too was a refugee but was not described as such in the second article and believed it to be inaccurate as a result. She also considered that the photograph of her attempted to connect her to Nazism because the position of her arm in the photograph appeared similar to that of a Nazi salute; whereas she was not performing that gesture.

16. Further, the complainant said that the second article inaccurately claimed that “[i]n 1972, before she was born, Ms Abusalama’s father… was convicted of planting bombs at several sites within Israel… and sentenced to life in prison… [He] was released under the 1985 Jibril agreement, brokered by the Israeli government”. The complainant said that her father had been kidnapped a month after she was born, as opposed to being arrested before she was born. She further said that the article omitted to mention that an Israeli military court sentenced him, and that he was considered to be a political prisoner and had pleaded not guilty to the crimes.

17. The complainant said that the fourth article was also in breach of Clause 1 as it omitted to mention certain individuals who were due to speak at the planned event at Queen Mary University. She said the article named a rapper and herself, but omitted to mention a Jewish Israeli historian, who also attended the festival. She said that this omission inaccurately suggested that she was antisemitic.

18. The complainant also said that the first and second articles were a breach of Clause 2. She said that the publication had trawled through her social media accounts as far back as 2011 and had contacted her employer, which she considered intruded into her privacy.

19. In addition, the complainant said that publishing a number of articles about her over the space of a few months and emailing her for comment four times in the space of five weeks amounted to harassment in breach of Clause 3.

20. The publication did not accept a breach of the Editors’ Code. In relation to whether the complainant had praised terrorists as “heroes”, the publication said that this was in relation to a Facebook post as opposed to a tweet, which it provided. The post had contained pictures of six individuals and the complainant had said in this post that she was “praying that their invisible hats lead the 6 heroes to safety, and forever dignity and freedom!”. The publication said that the first article had made clear what it was referring to when it stated that “[i]n a Facebook post last year, Ms Abusalama shared an image of the six prisoners who escaped from an Israeli jail and described them as “heroes”. One was a former commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who was charged with carrying out at least two shooting attacks on civilian buses in the West Bank in 2019”. The publication said that al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was designated as a terror group by the European Union and a number of other countries, and therefore it had sufficient basis to claim that the complainant praised terrorists as “heroes”. Additionally, the publication said that the article included other examples of the complainant praising terrorists as she described a Red Army terrorist as a “freedom fighter” who had worked with the PFLP and an individual who had been convicted of transporting suicide bombers as “legendary”. In relation to the fifth article, the publication said that it had written to the complainant on 15 February saying that she had met the individual it described as a Palestinian terrorist and that she had called her “beautiful”, but it had not received a response.

21. In relation to the complainant’s concerns that the first article had claimed she had been “cleared of ‘Jew-hate’”, the publication said that in a post on Twitter, the complainant had said: “I have been wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism, brought under the unfit-for-purpose IHRA definition.” The publication also said that a spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam university told another newspaper that “[we] formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism in February 2021. The University’s student conduct team is looking into these social media posts.” The publication considered therefore both the university and the complainant herself had said that she had been investigated over claims of antisemitism.

22. The publication accepted that the complainant was still a PhD student at the time of publication. It noted that the complainant had however submitted her PhD which she had tweeted about; it did not consider this amounted to a significant inaccuracy given that the complainant had completed her studies. In direct correspondence with the complainant, the publication offered to correct the inaccuracy and during IPSO’s investigation it proposed to remove the word “former” and to publish the following wording as a footnote on the online article:

“This story earlier described Ms Abusalama as a former PhD student which was incorrect at the time of publication. We have amended this accordingly”.

23. In relation to the video referenced in the first two articles, the publication said that the tweet in which the complainant urged people to watch the video was included within the first two articles, and it could be seen that this tweet was posted in 2012. It also said that the first article made clear that “[i]n 2012… [t]he same year, she shared a video on social media named ‘truth about Zionist JEWS Talmud’”; the publication said that the article clearly explained the post was made in 2012. The publication also said that the first article included the complainant’s acknowledgement that she now finds the video “offensive” and rejected its arguments. In relation to the placement of the complainant’s reflections on the previous post in the first article, the publication said that it was at the editorial discretion of the newspaper to order the article in any way it wished. The publication also noted that the second article quoted the complainant as saying she now found the video “offensive”, making clear that she no longer held this view.

24. In regard to the actions of the university, the publication said that the complainant had tweeted that her “teaching was suspended” and referred to the “news of [her] teaching suspension and the cancellation of classes ‘until further notice’”. It said it was reasonable to argue that if one’s teaching is suspended, then they have been suspended. The publication also did not consider that stating that the complainant had been “reappointed… after she was investigated and then cleared” was inaccurate given that the complainant had acknowledged that she had been suspended from teaching. It said that while she may not have been removed from her role, it was still reasonable to state that she had been reinstated in the position given that her teaching had been suspended. In relation to whether she had been “investigated” by the university, the publication noted the comment given by the spokesperson for Sheffield Hallam University: “[t]he University’s student conduct team is looking into these social media posts”. It said that it was reasonable to describe “looking into” as “investigating”. The publication also said that it had written to the University of Sheffield Hallam’s press office and said that it would report that its investigation into the complainant had been dropped and that she had been reinstated. It provided the press office’s response who said that: “After some specific concerns were raised in relation to an individual’s proposed appointment as an Associate Lecturer, we had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to our attention. An appointment has now been made following the conclusion of a robust HR process.”

25. The publication said that the PFLP were responsible for a number of terror attacks, providing a list of such attacks. It further said that the group was designated as a terror group by the European Union, Canada, Japan, and the United States.

26. The complainant added that the former commander of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades was not a member of any groups designated as terrorists in the UK, and it noted that the publication’s position related to one individual and therefore she had not praised multiple “terrorists” as “heroes”. The complainant further said that PFLP is not a designated terrorist group in the UK, where the article was written.

27. The publication said that the phrase “hostile environment” was in inverted commas in the online headline of the second article and that it was clear from this that an opinion was being quoted, rather than it being a statement of fact. It said that the article also made clear that the student who had given the quote was the Sheffield Jewish Society President, and therefore the elected representative of Jewish students in Sheffield. The article said that the President had told the newspaper that the university was “now a hostile environment for Jews”.

28. In relation to the photograph of the complainant dancing and her perceived contrast within this article to the other article she provided, the publication said that the difference between the articles was that the Ukrainian refugees were performing and raising money for a humanitarian appeal, whereas the complainant had praised terrorists and had been accused by Jewish students of making Sheffield a “hostile environment” for Jews. In relation to the gesture the publication said that the article made no reference to Nazism and the caption of the picture clearly identified that the complainant was dancing in the photograph. It also said that the complainant’s status as a refugee was not relevant to the reporting.

29. The publication said that the second article reported the facts about the complainant’s father accurately and that it was not necessary to include discussion on the difference between civilian and military courts. It said that it accurately reported that her father had been convicted and that many individuals plead innocence, but this was not relevant to the story. In relation to the date of the arrest, the publication said that the arrest and conviction discussed in the article did take place in 1972 before the complainant was born, and the article made clear the year it was referring to.

30. Regarding the complainant’s concerns that the Jewish Israeli historian who was due to speak at the planned event at Queen Mary University had been omitted from the fourth article, the publication said that it did not mention this individual, nor the 27 other individuals who were due to speak. It said that it mentioned four individuals who were due to speak at the event, two of whom were Muslim and two were not. It said that the common factor between these four individuals was that they had all made offensive statements that members of the Jewish community found concerning.

31. The publication did not consider there had been a breach of Clause 2 or 3. In relation to Clause 2, it said that looking at the complainant’s social media and contacting the university indicated thoroughness. The publication said that there was no evidence of harassment within the terms of Clause 3, and the emails related directly to the number of articles.

Relevant Code Provisions

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.

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for their private and family life, home, physical and mental health, and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. In considering an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information and the extent to which the material complained about is already in the public domain or will become so.

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

32. In relation to the claim made in the first, third and fourth articles that the complainant had praised terrorists as “heroes”, the publication had provided a screenshot from the complainant’s social media where she praised a group of individuals as “heroes”: one of whom was a former commander of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an organisation which was defined as a terrorist group in several countries, including members of the European Union and the United States. Given the classification of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades as a terrorist group by sections of the international community, the publication had taken care over the accuracy of the claim that the complainant had praised a terrorist – namely, a member of the group – as a hero. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that only one of the people praised in the post had been a member of the group, and the complainant’s position that it was, therefore, inaccurate to report that she had praised multiple “terrorists” as “heroes”. The publication noted that the complainant had also praised a number of other individuals who it considered could reasonably be described as terrorists; as explained in the first article she had described a member of the Japanese Red Army, which was responsible for the massacre at Lod Airport in 1971, as a “freedom fighter” and an individual who had been convicted of transporting suicide bombers as “legendary”. Further, the complainant did not dispute that she had described a terrorist as a “beautiful fighter”, as reported in the fifth article. In light of the complainant’s praise of these individuals and their affiliations and/or convictions, the Committee did not consider that to report that she had praised multiple terrorists as heroes amounted to a significant inaccuracy. The complainant was also concerned that the inclusion of her comment in the fifth article connected her with terrorism in some way. However, where the complainant did not dispute that she had described the individual in this way, it was not inaccurate for it to be included in the article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.

33.  The publication accepted that the first article inaccurately described the complainant as a “a former PhD student” as she was still a PhD student at the university at the time the article was published. The Committee noted that the publication offered to amend the article and to correct this inaccuracy, an offer which was made promptly. While the Committee welcomed this offer, it did not consider that whether the complainant had completed her PhD was significant to the overall context of the article, where the complainant had submitted her PhD dissertation at the time the article was published.

34. The complainant had said that the first and second articles were in breach of Clause 1 because she considered they suggested that a social media post she had made in 2012 “urg[ing] her social media followers to watch a shocking video…” had been posted more recently. The tweet in question was included in both articles, and the year it was posted was visible on the screenshot. Further, the first article made clear that the post had been made in 2012 and there was no suggestion they were posted more recently.  In addition, both articles included the complainant’s more recent comments in relation to her previous views. As such, the Committee was satisfied that the articles made clear when the post had been made and as such there was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

35. The complainant had also said that the first article was misleading as the university spokesperson’s quote had been included towards the end of the article; the complainant considered that the fact she had been appointed despite the complaints made about her should have appeared earlier in the article. The Committee noted that the headline of the article made clear the complainant had been appointed in an “academic role” and the fact of her having been “cleared” of complaints was explained in the first paragraph. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

36. The Committee next turned to the complainant’s concerns regarding the first, second and fourth article’s descriptions of the actions of the university. The publication had provided tweets from the complainant’s Twitter account, where she had said that her “teaching was suspended” and referred to the “news of [her] teaching suspension and the cancellation of classes ‘until further notice’”. Where the complainant herself had said that she had been suspended from teaching, it was not inaccurate for the first and fourth articles to have stated that the complainant was “suspended” by the university. There was no material difference between her teaching being suspended and being suspended as a teacher herself. There was no breach of Clause 1.

37. With regard to the complainant’s concerns about the first and second articles stating that she had been “reappointed… after she was investigated and then cleared” and that she had been “cleared of Jew-hate”, the Committee also did not consider it was inaccurate to describe the complainant as having been “reappointed”, where her teaching had been suspended and then reinstated. The publication had provided a quote from the Sheffield Hallam University spokesperson, who said that “[t]he University’s student conduct team is looking into these social media posts” and a further response from the university press office who had said that that it “had a duty to fully consider the matters brought to [its] attention”. It was the Committee’s view that where the university had said that it had looked into the social media posts, it was not inaccurate or misleading to state that the matter had been “investigated”. In relation to the word “cleared”, where the university had considered the posts and decided not to take the matter further, the Committee did not consider stating she had been “cleared” was inaccurate or misleading. In addition, the Committee noted that the complainant had said herself that she had been “wholly exonerated of the false charges of antisemitism”, which it considered could also be characterised as being “cleared of Jew-hate”. While the complainant disagreed that she had been accused of “Jew-hate”, where she referred to being exonerated of false accusations of antisemitism, this characterisation was not inaccurate or misleading. There was no breach of Clause 1 on these points.

38. The publication had provided a list of terror attacks for which the PFLP were responsible and explained that it was designated as a terror group by the European Union, Canada, Japan and the United States. The Committee noted the complainant’s position that the group was not designated a terrorist group in the UK, however where the PFLP was designated as such in a number of countries, it was not inaccurate or misleading to describe them as a terror group in the first article. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

39. The complainant had also said that she considered the online headline of the second article was misleadingly presented as fact, when it was an individual’s opinion. The phrase “hostile environment” was contained in inverted commas within the headline, indicating that this was attributed. Further, the article went on to make clear that the Sheffield Jewish Society President had given the quote and said that the university was “now a hostile environment for Jews”. The Editors’ Code of Practice makes clear the press has the right to publish individuals’ views, as long as it takes care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, and to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact. In this instance, the opinion reported was clearly presented as comment by the use of inverted commas and attributed to the individual responsible for it. Further, the term “hostile environment” itself was clearly an opinion which related to how Jewish students at the university felt, rather than a verifiable fact. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

40. The complainant had said that the photograph of her dancing, which was included in the second article, was a breach of Clause 1 because the article did not describe her as a refugee. Where the article was focused on the complainant’s appointment at the university in the context of her previous comments, it was not necessary to include the fact the complainant was a refugee, and not including this did not make the article inaccurate or misleading. In relation to the complainant’s concern that the photograph could be interpreted as her performing a Nazi salute: the article made no mention or link to Nazism and the photograph was clearly labelled as showing the complainant dancing. The Committee did not consider there was a breach of Clause 1 on these points.

41. The complainant had further said that the second article breached Clause 1 as it omitted contextual information surrounding her father’s conviction. She also said that it inaccurately stated that her father was arrested before she was born. It was the Committee’s view that, where it was not in dispute that her father had been convicted, omitting to mention information about civilian and military courts, and that he had pleaded innocent did not make the article inaccurate or misleading, particularly where it was a passing reference in the article. Further, the Committee noted that the publication had said it was referring to an incident in 1972 when the complainant’s father had been arrested, which was before she was born. It was the Committee’s view that it was not significant whether the complainant had been born, where the arrest itself was not in dispute. There was no breach of Clause 1 on this point.

42. The Committee next turned to the complainant’s concerns that the fourth article’s use of her name while omitting to mention certain other individuals who had attended the event at Queen Mary University, in particular a Jewish Israeli historian, inaccurately suggested that she was antisemitic. The Committee noted that the complainant did not dispute the accuracy of the information included in the article about the event; her concern lay with the omission of the names of individuals who had also spoken at the event. The Committee noted that there was no requirement for the publication to include the names of all the individuals; newspapers have the right to choose which pieces of information they publish, as long as this does not lead to a breach of the Code. It was not inaccurate or misleading for the article not to have included all the names of the speakers, particularly where the article was noting individuals who were due to speak and who it considered had made offensive statements. There was no breach of Clause 1.

43. The complainant had also said that the first two articles had breached Clause 2. The complainant’s social media account was public, and therefore she did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy over the information included in it. In addition, the social media posts were about views that the complainant had chosen to share with a public audience and reporting them did not represent an intrusion into the complainant’s private life. The complainant also complained that it was a breach of her privacy for the publication to have spoken with her employer. The Committee noted the Code does not prevent newspapers from speaking to third parties in relation to stories or approaching people for comment. There was no breach of Clause 2.

44. The complainant considered there had been a breach of Clause 3 as she believed it was harassing for a number of articles to have been published about her within the space of a few months and for the reporter to have emailed her four times in the space of five weeks. The Committee did not consider that five articles published over the period of six weeks represented a pattern of behaviour which could be said to be harassment. Further, four emails to the complainant over a five-week period also did not amount to harassment, particularly where the emails were polite and offering the complainant an opportunity to comment. There was no breach of Clause 3.

Conclusion(s)

45. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

46. N/A


Date complaint received: 20/07/2022

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 06/02/2023