Ruling

03058-16 InFacts v The Daily Telegraph

    • Date complaint received

      11th August 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03058-16 InFacts v The Daily Telegraph

Summary of Complaint

1. InFacts complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Open borders allow Isil sleeper cells into Europe and UK capable of carrying out Paris-style attacks, warns US spy chief”, published on 27 April 2016. The article was also published online with the headline “Open borders allow Isil sleeper cells into Europe and UK capable of carrying out Paris-style attacks, warns US intelligence chief”.

2. The first sentence of the article reported that James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, had warned that “open borders across Europe have allowed Isil to plant sleeper cells in the UK”. The article went on to quote Mr Clapper saying that: “There’s a fundamental conflict – on the one hand there is the European Union’s incentives and drives to promote openness and free movement of people and goods and privacy, which is in some ways in conflict with the responsibility each country has as a nation state to protect the security of its border and its people”. It also reported that when Mr Clapper was asked whether so-called Islamic State (IS) had sleeper cells similar to the ones which carried out terror attacks in Brussels and Paris in countries like England, Germany and Italy, he responded by saying, “yes, they do. This is obviously a concern of ours and our European allies. We continue to see evidence of plotting on the part of Isil in the countries you name”. The article also reported that Mr Clapper had said that IS had “taken advantage, to some extent, of the migrant crisis in Europe”.

3. The first sentence of the online article was “open borders across Europe have allowed Isil to plant sleeper cells across the continent and in the UK, poised to launch Paris or Brussels-style massacres, America’s intelligence chief has warned”. The online article was otherwise substantially similar to the print version of the article.

4. The complainant said that Mr Clapper did not draw any link between open borders and there being IS sleeper cells in the UK. Rather, Mr Clapper said that IS sleeper cells had been set up in the UK, Italy and Germany, and in response to a separate question, had said that IS had taken advantage of the migrant crisis and the EU’s open borders. The complainant said that Mr Clapper did not explicitly link the two answers, and that the article’s headline and first sentence were misleading. In addition, the complainant said that the UK was not part of the Schengen area, and that it was therefore not possible for “open borders” to allow IS to enter Britain.

5. The newspaper said that Mr Clapper confirmed that IS had clandestine cells in Germany, England and Italy, and stated that IS had taken advantage of the migrant crisis in Europe without confining this reference to those countries in the Schengen area. It was reasonable to conclude that, if there are no border checks in mainland Europe, there is an increased risk of IS infiltrating the UK border. The newspaper said that while Mr Clapper did not specifically link his two responses, it was legitimate for the newspaper to do so, and that the headline and first sentence of the article were a fair and accurate summary of conclusions which could be reasonably drawn from Mr Clapper’s statements.

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.

Findings of the Committee

7. It was not in dispute that Mr Clapper had said that IS had sleeper cells in the UK. Nor was it in dispute that when he was asked to expand on this, Mr Clapper said that there was a conflict in Europe between the free movement of people and goods, and the responsibilities each nation state has to protect the security of its borders and people. Through these comments, Mr Clapper had identified that open borders formed part of the context which had allowed IS to operate in Europe. In circumstances where he had confirmed that IS had placed sleeper cells in the UK, and in circumstances where the article directly quoted the relevant passages from Mr Clapper’s answers, the article’s claim that he had warned that open borders allowed IS sleeper cells into the UK was not a significantly misleading summary of his comments, such as to raise a breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

8. The complaint was not upheld.

Date complaint received:19/05/2016
Date decision issued: 22/07/2016