Ruling

12610-22 Bunglawala v The Jewish Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      27th April 2023

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: publication of correction

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 12610-22 Bunglawala v The Jewish Chronicle

 

Summary of Complaint

1. Inayat Bunglawala complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Why don't footballers take the knee for Jews?”, published on 25 November 2022.

2. The article was an opinion piece regarding the Men’s Football World Cup. The writer commended the Iranian football team for refusing to sing their national anthem in solidarity with protestors in Iran. However, the writer went on to state that Iran was “a vicious state with one of the worst human rights records in the world”. The writer criticised the England team for not taking the knee either for Iran’s “treatment of women and girls”. The writer also said she found it “hard to ignore that no football commentator mentioned that the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel and Jews off the face of the Earth.”

3. The article also appeared online on 23 November 2022 in substantially the same format.

4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. He said that, whilst he was aware of statements from Iran's political leaders that looked forward to the dismantling of Israel, he did not think that there were statements from Iranian political leaders that have "repeatedly vowed to wipe...Jews off the face of the earth".

5. The publication initially said that the complaint engaged Clause 1, and amended the online article so that it stated: “the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth”. It also added the following wording to the online article as a footnote:

An earlier version of this article said that the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel and Jews off the face of the Earth, this has been updated.

6. Once IPSO began its investigation, the publication said that the article was not inaccurate. It said, firstly, that Iran’s position was complex and challenging to understand. Moreover, it said that the article was an opinion piece on a specific issue – with Iran’s broader position not being a substantial part of the article.

7. The publication provided multiple articles which it said supported the writer’s claim that “the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel and Jews off the face of the Earth”. It said Iran’s supreme leader promoted “Mahdi-ist ideology”, of which this was a central tenet, and stated that Iran backed Hamas. It provided: an article in its own publication that stated that children in an Iranian school had sung about massacring Jews; an article from another publication headlined “Iran, a Longtime Backer of Hamas, Cheers Attacks on Israel”; an article headlined “Kill all Jews and annihilate Israel!’ Iran’s Ayatollah lays out legal and religious justification for attack”, in which an Iranian website had stated it thought there should be a pre-emptive strike against Israel; articles about Iran calling for an attack of Israel; two articles in which the Supreme leader and President were said to have called for the “destruction of Israel” and describing it as a “cancerous tumour”; an article which said the supreme leader of Iran had supported the supply of weapons to Palestine; and several articles linking Iran to Holocaust denial.

8. Several of these articles reported on threats from Iran to “annihilate” or attack Israel with a pre-emptive strike. The publication also provided a report which said that Jewish people living abroad and in the UK were targeted by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – materials used to “radicalise” them explicitly called for recruits to kill Jews. The publication also supplied an opinion piece and a letter from the American Defence League that stated multiple people’s opinions that Iran’s leaders’ vows of violence against Israel and Zionism was an attempt to disguise anti-Jewish animus; and evidence supplied to a UK select Committee written by the Jewish Leadership Council which stated that the threat to Israel also affected Jewish people globally and in the UK. It also sent two articles about blood libel (superstitious accusations against Jewish people).

9. The complainant said that the evidence provided by the publication did not demonstrate that the Islamic Republic of Iran had called "repeatedly" to "wipe Jews off the face of the earth". He said that there were approximately eight thousand Jews living in Iran currently, and believed that if a vow had been repeatedly made there would be none left.

Relevant Clause Provisions

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.

Findings of the Committee

10. Whilst the article was a comment piece, the Committee considered that the sentence under complaint was a statement of fact. It clearly indicated that Iran had not only stated that Jewish people should be “wipe[d …] off the face of the Earth” but had done so on multiple occasions. the publication therefore had to demonstrate that this was not a significantly inaccurate, misleading or distorted statement.

11. The Committee then considered the information provided by the publication. Much of this supported the first part of the statement, which was not under complaint, that “the Islamic Republic has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel […] off the face of the Earth”. However, it did not support the claim that Iran had repeatedly vowed to wipe all “Jews off the face of the Earth”, outside of its claims which related specifically to Israel. Where this was published as fact, and the and the material provided by the publication fell short of supporting the reported claim that such vows had been made “repeatedly”, it was unable to demonstrate that care had been taken not to publish inaccurate information, and there was a breach of Clause 1(i). The claim was significant – it related to purported death threats made against a large group of people by the State of Iran  and should have been easily verified. On this basis, a correction was required under Clause 1(ii).

12. The publication had amended the online article and added a footnote to it. However, the footnote did not acknowledge that the article had been inaccurate, nor did it put the correct position on record. In addition, no correction had been offered in print. There was, therefore a breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusions

13. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

14. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. In circumstances where the Committee establishes a breach of the Editors’ Code, it can require the publication of a correction and/or an adjudication; the nature, extent and placement of which is determined by IPSO.

15. The Committee considered the nature of the inaccuracy. It formed a single sentence relating to alleged statements made by Iran in the context of a wider piece about what topics footballers considered worthy of protest – it was not the main focus of the article. The publication had published wording online and made amendments to the article, although the Committee had found that this did not constitute a sufficient correction under Clause (ii).

16. Taking into account the nature of the inaccuracy, its prominence in the article, and the action already taken by the publication, the Committee decided that the appropriate remedy was a further correction by the publication. This should acknowledge that the newspaper was unable to demonstrate that Iran had “repeatedly vowed” to wipe all Jewish people from the face of the Earth, and should also put the correct position on record, namely that this “vow” related solely to Israel.

17. The Committee then considered the placement of this correction. As the inaccuracy had appeared on page 8, the print version of the correction should appear on page 8 or further forward. With regards to the online article, as the article had been amended, the correction should be published as a footnote. The wording should be agreed with IPSO in advance and should make clear that it has been published following an upheld ruling by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

 

Date complaint received:  24/11/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  30/03/2023