Ruling

Resolution Statement 02187-17 Farquhar v express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      20th July 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 02187-17 Farquhar v express.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Stuart Farquhar complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) in an article headlined “Schoolchildren BANNED from singing Silent Night over fears it will OFFEND other religions”, published on 27 December 2017.

2. The article reported that schoolchildren in a town in Italy had been “banned” from signing the hymm Silent Night at their Christmas Concert. The article reported the comments of the culture commissioner of the town, who had said:: "Even if the state and the school claim to be secular, we would like to have ‘Christmas Concerts’ and not ‘Winter Recitals’ where children can feel free to sing Holy Night without thinking that this offends or excludes pupils who belong to other cultures or other religions or who declare to be atheists.”

3. The complainant said that the children had not been banned from singing the hymn: the headteacher of the school had subsequently clarified that the decision not to sign the carol was due to the need to harmonize and co-ordinate the children’s singing, with the orchestra.

4. The newspaper said that the article had followed reports in the Italian media, regarding the school children not being allowed to sing the hymn, and accurately reflected the opinion of the culture commissioner of the town. It noted that the headteacher had not yet made the statement, at the time the article was published.

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.

Mediated outcome

6. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

7. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the newspaper offered to make several amendments to the article.

8. It offered to amend the headline to “Headteacher rubbishes claims that school children stopped from signing Holy Night” and to amend the stand first to “The headteacher of a school in Bresciano has denied that school children were banned from singing a popular Christmas carol or that they hummed the tune instead”.

9. It offered to add the following wording to the body of the article:

The headteacher of the school, Mariaelisa Bonaglia, explained to an Italian newspaper "The choices of texts, songs and melodies have responded to the need to harmonize requirements stage, coordination of the various classes among themselves and with the orchestra. In the show there were numerous religious references including the construction of the crib, traditional songs typical of the Christmas period, nursery rhymes and prayers of Saint Lucia.

10. It also offered to delete the line: “over fear the performance could  offend other religions”, and replace it with the following wording:

It was claimed Children in Flero, Italy, did not sing the lyrics of Holy Night due to fears the preference could offend other religions.

11. The publication also offered to amend the captions on the pictures contained in the article to the following wording:

Head teacher denied school children banned from singing Holy Night

12. The publication also offered to publish a correction on the article, as well as separately on the publication’s homepage:

Correction – School Children were not banned from singing Silent Night

On 12 December 2016 we published an article headlined “School children BANNED from singing Silent Night over fears it will OFFEND other religions.” The original version of this article was based on reports published by Italian media organisations, Giornale di Brescia, La Republica, Libero Quotidian, Courier della Sera and II Giorno, that a Local Councillor believed school children in Bresciano, northern Italy, were prevented from singing the hymm Holy Night, at a school concert, to avoid causing religious offence. The Councillor’s comments were made in reaction to the concert, and represented her opinion. The head teacher of the school has subsequently clarified, 'The choices of texts, songs and melodies have responded to the need to harmonize requirements stage, coordination of the various classes among themselves and with the orchestra. In the show there were numerous religious references including the construction of the crib, traditional songs typical of the Christmas period, nursery rhymes and prayers of Saint Lucia.”

13. The complainant said that this resolved the matter to his satisfaction.

14. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 22/03/2017
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 20/07/2017