In an IPSO ruling published today, the complaints-handler found that a Times article with an invented quotation was nonetheless compliant with the Editors’ Code.
The Times article alleged that, in respect of children seeking to transition gender:
Parents who hesitate over medical intervention are told by some activists: “Better a living daughter than a dead son.”
The Times were unable to provide any evidence that any transgender activist had ever said these words. IPSO appeared to concede that the quote had been made up, but still found that the article did not breach accuracy standards.
Other aspects of the article and the complaint included:
- A misrepresentation of a Parliamentary Select Committee Report, which was not found to be in breach;
- An accusation that transgender activists were alleging that suicidal feelings were “intrinsic” to the trans experience; a claim which, as with the quote, the newspaper was unable to substantiate – yet was not found to be inaccurate by IPSO.
Commenting, the complainant Ms Belcher said,
“The ruling published today from IPSO follows months of exchanges with The Times, during which it became clear that they simply could not evidence the claims behind the article I complained about. My complaint was that the article had misrepresented an MP, a Parliamentary Committee Report and trans people across the country.
“I had little faith in IPSO going into the process, but they outdid themselves here; finding in The Times’ favour on all grounds – including in respect of a quote which I understood all sides conceded was not actually said by anybody.
“This ruling means that no one can now trust any quote in a paper is actually what was said, and those in public life may find words freely attributed to them without regulatory recourse. IPSO has replaced an absolute requirement for accuracy when quoting people with a subjective one of ‘is it close enough’. Anybody in public life ought now to be concerned about the lack of recourse when they are misquoted in the national press.”
Hacked Off Director Kyle Taylor added,
“IPSO’s failure to find a made-up quote in breach of the standards code shows the supposed “standards” code has no real standards at all.
“This is a serious matter for Ms Belcher and transgender people across the country, who were targeted by this article. By failing to protect vulnerable communities and maintain the most basic journalistic principle – accurately representing a story – IPSO is putting free speech at serious risk.
“IPSO’s failure to regulate reinforces that it is neither truly independent nor working. The public deserve better, and IPSO should reform to meet the basic standards of regulatory competence audited by the Press Recognition Panel immediately.”
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