MPs urge press watchdog to fast-track InFacts complaints

by Luke Lythgoe | 27.05.2016

Eleven MPs have written a letter to the press watchdog urging it to rule on complaints by InFacts about inaccurate Brexit stories before voters go to the polls. The politicians have asked Sir Alan Moses, chair of the Independent Press Complaints Organisation (IPSO), to “fast-track your investigation into these particular complaints given the importance that the people are not misled when they vote on the 23rd June”.

On 19 May, InFacts lodged 11 separate complaints with IPSO relating to inaccurate articles in The Telegraph, The Mail Online and The Express. The stories cover migration, terrorism, crime and control of our borders. In some cases, more than one paper made similar errors. We believe each story contravenes the IPSO Editors’ Code of Practice, which states: “The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.”

IPSO was established in the wake of the Leveson inquiry to “uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK”. It took two and a half months to rule that The Sun’s headline claiming “Queen backs Brexit” wasseriously misleading”. If this timescale applied to InFacts’ complaints, any ruling would occur after the referendum.

Below is a copy of the letter MPs have written to IPSO.

MPs letter to IPSO chairman Sir Alan Moses

The 11 signatories are:

The Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Soames MP – former shadow secretary for defence, Conservative

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP – former minister for immigration, Conservative

The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP – former secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, Conservative

Victoria Prentis MP – Conservative

The Rt Hon Sir Edward Garnier QC MP – former solicitor general for England and Wales, Conservative

The Rt Hon Tom Brake MP – former deputy leader of the House of Commons, Liberal Democrats

Dr Peter Kyle MP – Labour

The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP – chair of intelligence and security committee, former attorney general, Conservative

Chuka Umunna MP – former shadow secretary for business, innovation and skills, Labour

Stephen Kinnock MP – Labour

Emma Reynolds MP – former shadow secretary for communities and local government, Labour

Other inaccurate stories

7 Mail - crime stats - Copy

InFacts has had some success getting publications to correct articles. The Daily Mail promptly corrected an article inaccurately suggesting 700 EU migrants were convicted of crimes each week. Although this story was in our original dossier, we did not report The Mail to IPSO because it was in dialogue with us at the time. We have encouraged The Telegraph and Express, which published similar stories about crime convictions, to correct their articles. We did complain to IPSO about these stories because neither paper dealt satisfactorily with our complaints.

Screenshot of Express article

After being contacted by InFacts on May 26, The Express updated an article suggesting the EU had dropped commitments to allow Britain to abolish the so-called “tampon tax” on sanitary products. It changed its headline from “Osborne HUMILIATED by Brussels: EU ‘drops’ agreement to exempt UK from tampon tax” to “EU denies MP’s claims it has ‘dropped’ Osborne’s agreement to exempt UK from tampon tax”.

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    InFacts continues to contact newspapers about new errors in their Brexit coverage and is prepared to make further complaints to IPSO if the papers do not respond satisfactorily.

    Edited by Hugo Dixon

    Tags: , , , Categories: Articles

    One Response to “MPs urge press watchdog to fast-track InFacts complaints”

    • The MPs are right – this is a crucial issue. As much as anything else, it is a test of IPSO itself.

      Voters are forever complaining that they are not given the true facts. Arguably, IPSO have a duty to help support a fair basis of fact for voters in the EU Referendum.