Ruling

06593-15 Clarke v Daily Express

    • Date complaint received

      4th March 2016

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Decision of the Complaints Committee 06593-15 Clarke v Daily Express

Summary of complaint

1. Paul Clarke complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Daily Express breached Clause 1 and Clause 12 in an article headlined “Children told to cook and clean for migrants” in print, published on 16 October 2015, and headlined “School forces children to cook and clean for asylum seekers for work experience” online, published on 15 October 2015.

2. The article reported that “children as young as 13 have been told to cook and clean for migrants” at an asylum centre for “practical work experience”. It reported that this was part of a school project in a German town, and that it had been the subject of some controversy among the pupils’ parents. It included a quotation from one mother who criticised the project, and said that it amounted to “servitude”. This criticism was set out in the context of a wider discussion about the European Union.

3. The online version of the article was substantively the same; however the headline and sub-headline stated that the school had “force[d]” the children to carry out the work at the asylum centre. It also included the comments of another parent, as well as a number of photographs of refugees in Germany. It included a line which explained that “the school had the idea because some refugees are part of the class”.

4. The complainant said that it was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 for the headlines to suggest that the children had been made to carry out work at the asylum centre. He said that the children involved had come up with the idea of working at the centre themselves, after a pupil who was a refugee had joined a class. The complainant was concerned that the omission of this information rendered the article misleading in breach of Clause 1.

5. He said that the article was misleading to the point of “inspiring racial hatred against refugees”, and was concerned that this breached Clause 12.

6. The newspaper explained that the scheme had been organised by the school, and had attracted some controversy from parents after they had been asked for consent to let their children take part. The focus of both articles had been the reaction of these parents to the scheme, and their view on the matter – including the view of one mother in particular who considered it amounted to servitude – was made clear. Further, the newspaper noted that the ministry of education for the town had said that pupils were “encouraged” to take part. It argued that in these circumstances, it was not significantly misleading for the print article to report that the pupils had been “told” to take part, and this did not suggest that they had been “made” to do so. It took the view, however, that it was inaccurate to report online that the children had been “forced” to take part, and said that both the print and online article, should have made clear that the ministry had also said that the children themselves had thought of the project themselves.

7. It had therefore amended the online article, shortly after becoming aware of the complainant’s concerns and prior to IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, to make clear that the students had been “encouraged” to take part. It also included reference to the ministry’s position that the children had come up with the idea for the project. It addition, it published the following correction online below the article:

Correction

On 25 November 2015 this article was amended. The headline and first line of the article were inaccurate as they claimed that school children were forced to cook and clean for migrants. The article failed to mention that the Kiel Ministry of Education had explained that the project was the children’s idea and the Ministry’s comments have now been added.

8. It also published the following standalone correction separately on the publication’s homepage:

Correction – 25 November 2015

The article was inaccurate in that it claimed that the German children in question had been forced to carry out work for migrants. The Kiel Ministry of Education confirmed that the school had come up with the idea because some migrant children sat in the class. It said that the students themselves thought of the project.

9. Although the newspaper did not consider that the print article was significantly misleading, it offered to publish the following clarification in print in its Amplifications & Clarifications column shortly after IPSO commenced its investigation into the matter:

Clarification

On 15 October 2015 we published an article with the headline “Children told to cook and clean for migrants”. The Kiel Ministry of Education said that the children themselves had come up with the idea because some migrant children sat in their class. It further stated that students had been encouraged to take part.

Relevant Code Provisions

10. 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.

iii) The press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 12 (Discrimination)

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Findings of the Committee

11. The project had been the idea of some of the pupils, and had been organised by the school; parents had been asked for consent to let their children participate in the project. The newspaper had no grounds to report that the children had taken part against their will, and to report that they had been “forced” to take part therefore represented a failure to take care not to publish misleading information. The Committee established that the online article breached Clause 1 (i) on this point.

12. In the context of a project which had taken the form of an organised school activity –and notwithstanding that it had been the idea of some of the pupils – it was not significantly inaccurate to report in the print headline that the children had been “told” to take part; this did not contain the same implication of coercion as did the online headline. Further, it was not significantly misleading in this context to omit reference to the pupils having thought of the project themselves. There was no breach of Clause 1 in respect of the print article.

13. The terms of Clause 12 are designed to protect identified individuals mentioned by the press against discrimination on the basis of their race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any physical or mental illness or disability, and do not apply to groups or categories of people. The complainant’s general concern that the article was discriminatory against refugees did not engage the terms of this Clause.

Conclusions

14. The complaint was upheld in relation to the online article.

Remedial Action Required

15. Having upheld the complaint under Clause 1 (i), the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The Committee has the power to require the publication of a correction and/or adjudication, the nature, extent and placement of which is to be determined by IPSO. It may also inform the publication that further remedial action is required to ensure that the requirements of the Editors’ Code are met.

16. The newspaper had published a correction beneath the online article, and separately in a standalone correction on the homepage, which made clear that the original article had inaccurately reported that the children had been “forced” to carry out the work, and that the ministry of education for the town had said that the children themselves had thought of the idea for the project. The publication of these corrections were appropriate remedial action.

Date complaint received: 18/10/2015
Date decision issued: 04/03/2016