Ruling

Resolution Statement 13064-21 Miller v Telegraph.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      3rd March 2022

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 13064-21 Miller v Telegraph.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Calum Miller complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Telegraph.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Thousands of women dying 'like chickens' as efforts to change Malawi’s strict abortion laws stall”, published on 19th February 2021.

2. The online article reported on back street abortions in Malawi, claiming that “[r]oughly 12,000 women die from back street abortions each year in Malawi, yet continuing efforts to relax strict laws face heavy opposition”. It went on to state that “[r]ecent research from the Malawi College of Medicine estimates that more than 141,000 back street and unsafe abortions occur annually, including 12,000 related deaths”.

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 as it claimed that 12,000 women die from backstreet abortions each year in Malawi; he considered there was no basis for this claim and believed the true number was considerably lower. The complainant said that the research from the Malawi College of Medicine, that he presumed the newspaper was relying on, made no claim that 12,000 women die from backstreet abortions annually.

4. The publication said that the figures the article reported on came from a joint report between the Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Malawi College of Medicine and the U.S. based Guttmacher Institute, and a press conference given by the Ministry of Health and the Parliamentary Committee on Health, which it was entitled to report on.

Relevant Code 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.

Mediated Outcome

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

6. During IPSO’s investigation the publication offered to remove the online article from its website and to publish a standalone clarification on its website:

On 19th February 2021 we published an article which reported that "Roughly 12,000 women die from back street abortions each year in Malawi....'

The article referenced data produced in a  joint report between the Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Malawi College of Medicine and the U.S. based Guttmacher Institute.

That report presented research which estimated that more than 141,000 back street and unsafe abortions occur annually in Malawi.

Following on from this research, the Ministry of Health and the Parliamentary Committee on Health held a press conference in which the report's finding were relied on and in which they stated that 12,000 women die from back street abortions annually.

However, a closer examination of the joint report, which is publicly available, shows that this estimate of 12,000 women dying from backstreet abortions annually is unsupported by the data contained in the report.  In fact the number of deaths from back street abortion in Malawi is likely to be far lower. For example, a report published by the World Bank Group in conjunction with the WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA, and the United Nations Population Division in 2019 estimated 2,100 maternal deaths in total in Malawi each year, and only a small proportion of these are attributable to unsafe abortion. An analysis of the varying data by Dr Calum Miller can be found in this published report https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8507663/. We are happy to draw these issues and the wider debate to our readers' attention.

7. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction

8. 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: 13/12/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 01/02/2022