Ruling

03361-16 The British National Party v The Mail on Sunday

    • Date complaint received

      29th September 2016

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03361-16 The British National Party v The Mail on Sunday 

Summary of complaint 

1.    The British National Party (BNP) complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail on Sunday breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Far right in plot to hijack Brexit”, published on 5 June 2016. The article was also published online on 4 June 2016with the headline “The neo-Nazi with a swastika on her breast…and Vote Leave badge on her vest: From Holocaust deniers to EDL fascists posing at the Kray twins’ grave, the violent thugs and racists hijacking the Brexit campaign.” 

2.    The article reported that “dozens of far-Right extremists with racist views” were campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union (EU). It said that the Leave campaign had been “infiltrated” by these people. 

3.    The complainant said that some of the people named in the article had been inaccurately identified as being current BNP members, when in fact they were former members. The complainant said that one of them had never been a member of the Party at all; he had been a member of the National Front at the same time as Nick Griffin. The complainant was also concerned that the article had inaccurately suggested that Nick Griffin was the current leader of the BNP. The complainant was concerned that the article reflected badly on the Party. 

4.    The newspaper did not believe that the article was significantly inaccurate, as it made clear that the individuals concerned were former, not current, members of the BNP in the opening sentences of the article. It was unnecessary to repeat that they were former members with every subsequent reference. The article had accurately reported that individuals with extreme right-wing views were attaching themselves to the Leave campaign. 

5.    In response to the complaint, the newspaper made some minor amendments to the online version of the article to further emphasise that some of the people identified were former - not current - members of the BNP, and it appended the following footnote: 

Since publication, the British National Party has asked to point out that the individuals mentioned in connection with the BNP are no longer members and their views are not those of the BNP. Graham Williamson was a member of the National Front, not the BNP. 

6.    The complainant said that the newspaper should publish an apology on its front page, with the same prominence as the original article.

Relevant Code provisions 

7.    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.

Findings of the Committee 

8.    The introduction to the article had stated that former members of the BNP (as well as other parties) were campaigning for the Leave campaign. The story being reported was that people with extreme right-wing views were campaigning on behalf of the Leave campaign, and it was in that context that some people had been identified as being members (or former members) of the BNP. The purpose was to demonstrate that their views were extreme and, in this context, whether some of the individuals were current or former members of the BNP was not central to the story. Similarly, if one of the individuals had been a member of the National Front rather than the BNP, this was not a significant inaccuracy in circumstances where both were nationalist political parties, and this individual’s specific political affiliation was not central to the piece. Not reiterating that people were former members of the BNP each time it referred to them did not render the article significantly inaccurate or misleading. 

9.    It was clear from the article that Mr Griffin had been leader of the Party when he appeared in court in 2006; the article did not state that Mr Griffin was the current leader of the BNP. The Committee concluded that the references identified by the complainant did not require correction under the Code.

Conclusions 

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

N/A

Date complaint received: 07/06/2016

Date decision issued: 31/08/2016