Ruling

13067-21 O Reilly v dailystar.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      23rd June 2022

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee – 13067-21 O Reilly v dailystar.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. AJ O Reilly complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that dailystar.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Violent jackals set to invade UK as experts warn of 'fastest expansion ever witnessed'”, published on 12th December 2021.

2. The sub-headline of the online article reported that “[s]cientists have warned that jackals are coming to Britain in huge numbers after rapidly expanding across Europe - and experts say the beasts will howl and hunt all through the night”. It stated that the jackals were “travelling across Europe towards the UK”, after being spotted in Italy, France, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. The article was accompanied by a number of photos of animals, captioned: “[t]he mammals have exploited the declines of wolves”; “[t]he hunters are already in Italy, France, Germany and much of Europe”; and “[t]he animal may not cause too much disruption, more-balanced boffins argue”.

3. The complainant said that the headline was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 to state that jackals were “set to invade UK as experts warn of 'fastest expansion ever witnessed’” as no experts had said that jackals were near to or set to come to the UK. The complainant also said that the article was inaccurate as the photographs included in the article depicted foxes, rather than jackals.

4. The publication accepted that the original version of the article may have implied that scientists had specifically warned that jackals were due to invade the UK, whereas they had warned that this was the “largest range expansion for a mammal that we have ever witnessed". Within three days of being made aware of the complaint, the publication amended the article to make clear that jackals “could” be set to invade the UK and that they “may” be coming to Britain. The publication also accepted that the article had originally included photographs of foxes, rather than jackals; an error it said it was extremely regretful of. At the same time as amending the text of the article, it also removed the photographs of foxes and replaced them with photographs of jackals. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication further offered to publish a footnote correction stating:

A previous version of this article stated as fact that 'scientists warned that jackals are coming to the UK', and included images of foxes instead of jackals. The article has since been amended to depict jackals correctly, and to make clear that scientists had not specified that jackals would head to Britain, but that there is a possibility due to the 'fastest expansion ever witnessed'. We are happy to clarify this.

5. The complainant said that the amendments and proposed correction did not resolve his complaint. He said that the article remained inaccurate, in particular the sub-headline which now stated “[s]cientists have warned that jackals may be coming to Britain in huge numbers after rapidly expanding across Europe - and experts say the beasts will howl and hunt all through the night”; he said that no scientists had mentioned jackals in relation to Britain and that the publication had not clarified how these land mammals were going to travel from mainland Europe to Great Britain.

6. Toward the end of IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish the proposed correction at the top of the article.

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.

Findings of the Committee

7. The newspaper had accepted that the original version of the article may have implied that scientists had specifically warned that jackals were set to invade the UK, which was not the case. The publication had provided no evidence to support its claim that jackals were “set to invade UK” or that scientists had warned this. It had been unable to substantiate either the claim in the headline or the sub-headline and this amounted to a failure to take care over the accuracy of the claims. It was the Committee’s view that the publication should have been able to verify the information before publishing it, and the newspaper had, therefore, not taken care not to publish inaccurate information, and there was a breach of Clause 1(i).

8. The publication had also accepted that the article had inaccurately used photographs of foxes, rather than jackals. There was no dispute that the original pictures were inaccurate, and this amounted to a further failure to take care by the publication. There was a further breach of Clause 1(i).

9. The inaccuracy regarding the claim that jackals were set to invade the UK appeared in the headline, and as such it constituted a significant inaccuracy and therefore required correction under Clause 1(ii). Further, the article had included three photographs of foxes, rather than jackals, which in the context of an article which reported solely on jackals, the Committee considered was significant. A correction was also required under the terms of Clause 1(ii).

10. The Committee turned to the question of whether the action undertaken by the publication was sufficient to avoid a further breach of Clause 1 (ii). Within three days of receiving the complaint, the publication had amended the article to make clear that jackals “could” be set to invade the UK and that they “may” be coming to Britain, and it also replaced the photographs of foxes with ones of jackals. During IPSO’s investigation, the publication offered to publish a footnote correction which acknowledged the inaccuracies and put the correct position on record. Toward the end of IPSO’s investigation, the publication further offered to publish this correction in a more prominent position below the headline. The Committee expressed concerns that the publication’s offer of correction had developed throughout the process, rather than an immediate offer to publish a correction of due prominence. However, where the article had been amended within three days of receipt of the complaint, and where a duly prominent correction was offered during IPSO’s process, on balance, the Committee found that the correction had been offered with due prominence and promptness, and there was no breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusion(s)

11. The complaint was partially upheld under Clause 1(i).

Remedial Action Required

12. The correction which was offered clearly put the correct position on record, and was offered promptly and with due prominence, and should now be published.


Date complaint received: 13/12/2021

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 31/05/2022