Ruling

Resolution Statement – 07965-19 Rainey and Ewart v Sunday World

    • Date complaint received

      10th December 2020

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 07965-19 Rainey and Ewart v Sunday World

Summary of Complaint

1. Edward Rainey and Edward Ewart complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Sunday World breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'GET OUT OR BE BURNT OUT'”, published on 29 September 2019.

2. The article reported on tensions between the LVF and UVF, and stated that the chief of the LVF and his family had been “approached by the rival UVF and ordered out” by a man the article described as a “UVF drug boss”, “himself a heavy drug user” and “crime chief”. The article said the man and his “sidekick”, who was nicknamed “bully boy”, controlled the heroin drug market, “flooded south Belfast with cocaine and heroine” and that the first man was regarded as one of the city’s main drug dealers”. The article said that the man had “also orchestrated a series of race attacks”.

3. The article also appeared online in substantially the same format under the headline “headline”.

4. The first complainant, the man described as a “drug boss”, said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said that he denied membership of the UVF and noted that he had never been convicted of membership. He also denied that he was a “drugs boss” or that he was a drug user, and denied that he supplied heroin. The complainant said that stating he had “orchestrated race attacks” was inaccurate and also gave the misleading impression that he was racist. He also denied that he had a dispute with any family, as described in the article. The complainant said that these claims had been stated as fact, and not as allegations.

5. The second complainant, the man described as the first complainant’s “sidekick”, also said the article breached Clause 1. He said it was inaccurate to say he controlled the drug market, or was a supplier of heroin, and noted that he had never been convicted of any drug related offence and that he denied any criminal activity. He also stated he had not orchestrated race attacks, and denied any insinuation he was racist. The second complainant also said he was not involved with any dispute with any family, and rejected the nickname “bully boy” as a malicious slur.

6. The complainants also noted that the publication had not attempted to contact them in order to put the allegations to them.  The complainants objected to the assertion they could not be contacted due to their standing. They stated that the Editors Code was to be applied to all persons equally and asserted that there was no provision that permitted displaying the requirements under the code based on the background of any individual. The complainant was also concerned that the use of anonymous sources was not sufficient to demonstrate that care had been taken with regards to the article.

7. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It said that the complainants were longstanding members of the UVF and that they had featured in multiple articles by the publication which had outlined criminal actions to which the complainants had never complained about before. It said the first complainant had been photographed at an event in 2015 as a UVF representative. It said that the first complainant was a drug user. It said that South Belfast UVF had orchestrated a race hate campaign, and therefore it was not inaccurate to report that the first complainant had orchestrated racist attacks. The publication also said it was not misleading to characterise the second complainant as a “Bully boy”. It said that it was unable to reach out to the complainants for comment due to their standing and that they were difficult to reach.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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.

Mediated Outcome

9. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.

10. During IPSO’s investigation the publication and complainants agreed to resolve the complaint if a confidential meeting took place between them to discuss the issues arising from the story, with an IPSO representative present.

11. The meeting took place. Both parties agreed that the Editors Code applied to all persons equally and the publication made a commitment to ensure, in so far as is reasonable in line with the Code, that if there were to be any future allegations printed against the complainants that they would be offered the opportunity to comment via their chosen representative.

12. The complainants said that the holding of the confidential meeting would resolve the matter to their satisfaction. The meeting nevertheless further lead to an agreed resolution to the issues being discussed.

13. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

 

Date complaint received: 11/10/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 30/12/2019