Ruling

Resolution Statement 14368-16 Versi v Express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      30th March 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Complaint 14368-16 Versi v Express.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Voters in areas with high Muslim populations ‘must show passports’ amid voter fraud fears”, published on 27 December 2016.

2. The complainant said that the newspaper had inaccurately reported that the government had proposed that people living in areas with high Muslim populations should be required to show identification when voting “amid fears of election fraud”. He said the report to which the article had referred had identified 18 areas that were at risk of electoral fraud; it had made no reference to areas with high Muslim populations.

3. The newspaper said that the government report, which was published in response to a review of electoral fraud carried out by Sir Eric Pickles, had stated that the “offence of undue influence should retain a reference to spiritual/religious influence”. While it had not made reference to a specific religious group, it had referred to the events which had taken place in Tower Hamlets and which had been highlighted in Sir Eric’s review. The newspaper also considered that the 18 areas, which the government had chosen to trial, did have high Muslim populations. Nevertheless, as a potential way to resolve the matter, the newspaper offered to publish the following clarification:

We have been asked to clarify that the areas the government has chosen to trial the scheme were identified by the Electoral Commission as the 18 local authority areas that it considered to be most at risk of allegations of electoral fraud, such as Tower Hamlets, Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Luton and Birmingham. However, following the trial, the scheme is then due to be rolled out nationally.

Relevant Code provisions

4. 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.

Mediated outcome

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

6. The newspaper offered to change the headline to read "voters in 'vulnerable' areas may have to show passports, government proposes". It also offered to publish the following clarification:

We have been asked to clarify that the areas the government has chosen to trial the scheme were identified by the Electoral Commission as the 18 local authority areas that it considered to be most at risk of allegations of electoral fraud. To clarify, the government did not specifically identify the size of the Muslim population as part of its rationale nor did it imply that it was targeting Muslims. However, the vast majority of the areas listed in the proposed trial by the government, have a sizeable Muslim population.

7. The complainant accepted the newspaper’s offer as a resolution to his complaint.

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: 27/12/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/03/2017