Ruling

06740-17 Palestinian Return Centre v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      7th September 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge

Decision of the Complaints Committee 06740-17 Palestinian Return Centre v Mail Online

Summary of Complaint

1. Palestinian Return Centre complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined: “Pictured: The moment Met police armed with machine guns throw Jewish audience members out of pro-Palestinian Labour event at Parliament”, published on 28 April 2017.

2. The article reported on a pro-Palestinian event titled “The Question of Jerusalem: Occupation, Discrimination and Displacement” that took place at Parliament. The article stated that speeches were given by a number of speakers, including Kamal Hawwash, who the article referred to as the “main speaker.” The article stated that during the question and answer session, Jewish activists had strongly challenged the speakers and were removed from the event by armed members of the Metropolitan Police, as the host had accused the activists of being “disruptive.” The article also included footage from the event and contained quotations from the exchange between the activists and speakers, which was based on mobile phone recordings taken at the event.

3. The complainant said that the headline of the article was misleading, as it referred to the individuals removed from the event as “Jewish” rather than pro-Israeli. The complainant said that this implied that the activists had been removed for being Jewish, which was not the case. The complainant also said it was inaccurate to refer to Kamal Hawwash as the “main speaker,” as he was one of three speakers on the panel.

4. The complainant was also concerned that the publication had used clandestine devices and engaged in subterfuge. The complainant said that photography was not permitted in parliament buildings, and consent had to be sought prior to the publication of photographs taken at a parliamentary event. The complainant also said that the use of a recording device was clandestine and unauthorised.

5. The publication did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that the individuals referred to in the headline had confirmed to the publication that they were Jewish, and did not accept it was misleading to refer to them in this way. The publication also said it was not significantly inaccurate to refer to one of three panel members as the “main speaker.” The publication said that the article made clear that there were a number of speakers on the panel. However, as a goodwill gesture, the publication removed the references to a “main speaker” from the article.

6. The publication said that the host had given permission for photographs to be taken, and no hidden camera was used. It maintained that the recording device was in clear view, and no attempt was made to hide the device. The publication also stated that any alleged breach of parliamentary estate rules would be a matter for investigation by the Serjeant at Arms, not IPSO.

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. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

Clause 10 (Clandestine devices and subterfuge)

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.

Findings of the Committee

8. The headline referred to the individuals removed from the event as Jewish, based on information they had provided to the publication. Where the article made clear that they had been accused of being “disruptive”, and did not suggest they were removed for being Jewish, the headline of the article was not misleading. The Committee also noted that in the context of the event, the reference to the audience member’s religion was relevant. Where the article had made clear that there were several speakers at the event, it was not significant to refer to a panel member as the “main speaker.” There was no breach of Clause 1.

9. The complaint said that the publication of photographs and the use of a recording device was in breach of parliamentary rules and therefore a breach of Clause 10. However, there was no basis to suggest that a hidden camera or clandestine listening device had been used. The photographs and recording device had simply recorded a public event: no further information had been obtained by the use of these devices, other than what those attending the event, would have already been privy to. As such, the terms of Clause 10 were not engaged.

Conclusion

10. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial action required

11. N/A

Date complaint received: 05/05/2017
Date decision issued: 22/08/2017