Media Monitoring Blog 2015 – By Georgia Tomlinson
In his report, Lord Justice Leveson commented on the importance of accurate reporting on political issues. While newspapers are free to be partisan, and many of them are, he pointed out that in the context of reporting on issues of political interest, the press have a particular responsibility to ensure that the public are accurately informed so that they can engage in the democratic process.
In December 2015 the press continued to misreport and publish misleading headlines about migrant issues and other matters. These are recurring themes that IPSO has consistently failed to deal with.
At the beginning of December the Sun published a double page story with the headline “6 days to terror” which claimed that Emile Ghessen, a freelance journalist, had made it along a refugee trial from Turkey to Paris without going through a single security check. Just two days later the Croatian interior ministry revealed that the reporter’s passport had been checked twice by officials, on entering and leaving the country.
The Sun then withdrew the online article and published this wholly inadequate small correction the following day:
In an article of 5th December, headlined “6 days to terror”, we published the diary of Emile Ghessen, a freelance documentary maker and former Royal Marine, who said that he had smuggled himself from Turkey to Paris without using a passport.
We have since learned that we were misled about his conduct during his journey. Contrary to what we were told, and published, Mr Ghessen used his passport to enter and leave the Croatian city of Zagreb. This has been confirmed by the Croatian authorities. We also now believe that he made use of his passport at the other border points within Europe. His story did not, therefore, demonstrate that the borders of Europe had lax controls.
We apologise for publishing misleading information. We have now changed our policy regarding the use of freelance journalists in stories such as these.
Despite a code requirement that newspapers need to correct distortions and inaccuracies with “due prominence” IPSO did nothing.
A front page super-size headline in the Express, which was also picked up in the Times and the Daily Telegraph was ‘Britain pays EU ‘£1bn a month.’ Buried at the bottom of page 5, the newspaper admits that the figures do not take into account the annual rebate nor the money that the UK receives from other EU schemes. Over the last year, we have highlighted the absurdity of IPSO’s “rulings” that an inaccurate headline is not misleading (or even a significant inaccuracy) if the “overall meaning” of the article is correct. As we’ve said before, IPSO has rejected a number of complaints about super-size misleading headlines that are corrected in small type in the body of the article. It therefore comes as no surprise that ISPO has once again failed to investigate a misleading headline on a political issue of great importance.
Another topical issue to do with the NHS was reported on this month, this time in the Sun. It published this correction:
IN a leader column ‘Doc Their Pay’ about the junior doctors’ dispute, we expressed the opinion that junior doctors were well paid compared to other public sector workers and they ‘boost those salaries by dictating the amount of overtime they work’.
In fact, although they can influence their rotas, they cannot choose what time they work. We also stated that A&E patients are 16 per cent more likely to die on a Sunday than a weekday.
In fact a BMJ paper concluded that patients ‘admitted’ on a weekend were more likely to die within 30 days of admission than those admitted on a weekday.
Again the prominence of the correction was totally inadequate.
In the midst of a ‘migrant crisis’, an NHS doctors’ industrial dispute, and an impending referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, it’s clear that the big newspapers are failing to live up to their responsibility to ensure the public is accurately informed.
IPSO’s continuing refusal to investigate these systemic failings means the big newspapers are not being held to account either.
IPSO’s end of year report? Comment: see me.