Ruling

03064-16 InFacts v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      22nd September 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03064-16 InFacts v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. InFacts complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “NOW EU WANTS ASYLUM CONTROL”, published in print and online on 8 March 2016.

2. The article discussed the European Commission’s proposals for reform to the Common European Asylum System which included a proposal to replace the Dublin Regulation with a quota system. It reported that the policy could impose quotas of asylum seekers on EU Member States. The front page subheadline of the print article reported “madness as Brussels plots to tell us who can come and stay in our country”. The introductory line of the article said that “Brussels chiefs last night unveiled plans to end Britain’s control over asylum seekers”. The article made reference to David Cameron “who vowed that Britain will opt out of the proposal” and “insisted that there was ‘no prospect’ of the UK Government agreeing to take part”. The article went on to include comments from a number of individuals who expressed doubt about whether the UK would be able to opt out of the proposed reforms.

3. The article appeared online in substantively the same form apart from the headline which read “Now EU wants asylum control: Madness as Brussels plots to tell us who can come and stay”. The subheadline of the online article was the same as the introductory line of the print version of the article.  The complainant said that the UK has the option to opt out of the European Commission’s proposals for reform to the Common European Asylum System, therefore it was inaccurate for the newspaper to report that the proposals represented a plan to “end Britain’s control over asylum seekers” or that it was a “plot” to tell the UK “who can come and stay”.  While the complainant did not dispute that it was likely that the EU would want the UK to join, it was clear as a matter of government policy that the UK was always going to opt out.    The complainant noted that the article reported that David Cameron had “vowed” that the UK would opt out of the proposals, but said that this was immediately followed by comments from individuals casting doubt that the opt-out would hold, which did little to correct the inaccuracies in the headline and introduction of the article.

4. The newspaper denied that the headline was inaccurate or misleading. It said that the introduction of the article referred to the “plans” Brussels has with regard to centralising the asylum policy of EU Member States. The article made clear the government’s position that the UK would opt out of the proposed reforms. Nevertheless, it amended the subheadline of the online article to “Brussels chiefs last night unveiled plan to centralise control of asylum claims”, and added the following footnote:

This article was amended on 20 June 2016 it previously said that Brussels chiefs wanted to end Britain's control over asylum seekers. As the article makes clear the UK has an opt out and we would like to clarify that the UK would not be forced to join any new system.

Relevant Code Provisions

5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

(i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

(ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Regulator, prominence should be agreed with the Regulator in advance.

Findings of the Committee

6. It was not in dispute that the European Commission had put forward plans for reform of the Common European Asylum System. Nor was it in dispute that while the UK could opt out of these plans, it was likely that the EU would want the UK to join. As a member of the EU, there was a possibility that the UK could be subject to these new proposals. It was therefore not misleading for the article to suggest that the proposals could affect the UK’s asylum policy.  The article made clear that the UK had an opt-out from the proposal; at the time of publication, however, the UK had not exercised its opt-out. In these circumstances, it was not misleading to report speculation as to the effectiveness of the opt-out.  There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i). The Committee noted that the newspaper had amended the subheadline of the online article. However, the same sentence had appeared as the introductory sentence of the print article, and the Committee did not identify a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion which would require correction under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1.

Conclusions

7. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

N/A

Date complaints received: 19/05/2016
Date decision issued: 05/09/2016