Ruling

Resolution Statement – 19552-23 Vince v thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      17th August 2023

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 19552-23 Vince v thesun.co.uk


Summary of Complaint

1. Dale Vince complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “ECO STOOGE Sir Keir Starmer held secret talks with Just Stop Oil donor days before revealing plan to bin new oil licences”, published on 31 May 2023.

2. The article – which appeared online only – reported that the leader of the Labour Party "held secret talks" with the complainant "days before revealing his plan to bin new oil and gas licences". It stated that the complainant had “told the BBC he spoke to Sir Keir ‘on the phone’, but they did not discuss Just Stop Oil", and included the concerns raised by the Chair of the Conservative Party: "The plot thickens on Just Stop Oil’s links to Labour, and to Sir Keir Starmer personally. Sir Keir must come clean over his secret meetings and whether he finally agreed to back them after huge cash donations.”

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate and misleading, in breach of Clause 1. He denied that the meeting was “secret”. He said that discussions between himself and Sir Keir were widely known. In fact, he had referenced the meeting on national radio on 30 May 2023, the day prior to the publication of the article. He said that the term “secret” suggested that something clandestine, illicit or inappropriate had taken place, which he denied.

4. The complainant had contacted the newspaper the day after the article’s publication to express his concern that it was inaccurate; he requested that the term “secret” be removed in all instances and a correction published.

5. The publication did not accept a breach of the Code. It did not consider the article was inaccurate or misleading to describe the meeting as "secret" where the Labour Party had refused to disclose the details of what was discussed with the complainant - who was a major donor to the party. The publication said that the content of the discussions were not publicly known and there were serious public interest concerns regarding a major Labour donor having access to the Labour leader and formation of its policy. The publication further commented that the article made clear the meeting was mentioned by the complainant on the radio, so readers could not have inferred that the meeting itself was "secret".

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.

Mediated Outcome

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

7. During IPSO’s investigation, the complainant said that the removal of the term “secret” from the headline and text of the online article as well its URL would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.

8. On 28 July, the publication confirmed that – in a gesture of goodwill – it had removed all instances of the disputed term from the article.

9. 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:  19/06/2023

Date complaint concluded by IPSO:  07/08/2023