Ruling

Resolution Statement – 29364-20 Ireland v express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      8th April 2021

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement – 29364-20 Ireland v express.co.uk

Summary of Complaint

1. Rebecca Ireland complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that express.co.uk breached Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “How Brexit helped Britain approve coronavirus vaccine - Thank God we're leaving!”, published on 2 December 2020.

2. The article, which only appeared online, focused on the approval of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It reported on comments by Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, who said the “quick” approval of the vaccination was “only possible due to Britain's momentous Brexit decision.” It went on to say that Mr Rees-Mogg’s “sentiment was echoed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who said "because of Brexit" the vaccine had under[gone] "all the same safety checks and the same processes" but "not at the pace of the Europeans who are moving a little bit more slowly.””

3. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1. The headline of the article said, without qualification or attribution, that “Brexit helped Britain approve” the vaccine, and the article itself did not contradict this claim. The complainant said that this was inaccurate as the vaccination had been approved prior to the UK leaving the European Union, and within the EU’s existing regulatory framework.

4. The publication said it accepted that the headline was misleading, as it did not attribute the headline claim to Mr Rees-Mogg. One week after the article’s original publication, it amended the headline to make clear that the claim was the opinion of Mr Rees-Mogg; the updated headline read “Rees-Mogg says coronavirus vaccine victory is due to quitting EU.” The publication also added the following footnote clarification to the bottom of the article:

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article was headlined: 'How Brexit helped Britain approve coronavirus vaccine - Thank God we're leaving!' The headline has since been amended to make clear that these were in fact the views of Jacob Rees-Mogg. We are happy to clarify these were comments from Jacob Rees-Mogg.    

5. The complainant said that, while she appreciated the steps that the publication had taken to address her concerns, the action offered by the publication was not sufficient to resolve her complaint. She said that the position of the clarification, at the bottom of the article, was not sufficiently prominent, and also asked that the clarification be reworded to make clear that it was inaccurate to state that “Brexit helped Britain approve [the] coronavirus vaccine.”

6. The publication amended the article to move the clarification to the top of the article, directly beneath the headline. It declined to amend the wording of the clarification, as it considered it sufficient to correct the disputed point of accuracy identified by the complainant, and that it had been published with due promptness and prominence.

7. The complainant said that she still did not consider the action taken by the publication to be sufficient to address her concerns and wished for IPSO to investigate the matter.

Relevant Code Provisions

8. 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

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

10. The publication removed the article from its website. It also published the following wording as a standalone online correction, under the headline “Brexit coronavirus vaccine article - A Correction”:

“Our article 'How Brexit helped Britain approve coronavirus vaccine - Thank God we're leaving!' reported the comments of Jacob Rees-Mogg and Matt Hancock that Brexit helped us get the vaccine more quickly. However, it has subsequently been pointed out by the chief executive of the MHRA, that Matt Hancock was wrong to say that the UK could approve the vaccine early because it was no longer subject to EU rules. The MHRA's decision was taken in accordance with the relevant EU legislation, which allows member states to grant temporary authorisation for a medicinal product in response to the spread of infectious diseases. This legislation still applies to the UK until the end of the transition period. Any EU member state could have used the same provision of the legislation to approve the vaccine. We are happy to clarify that they decided not to for political and technical reasons, not legal ones.”

11. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to her satisfaction.

12. 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: 03/12/2020

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 18/03/2021