The Daily Telegraph
26 June 2020
Five months after the Centre for Media Monitoring launched a complaint against The Daily Telegraph’s inaccurate headline, which claimed that Pakistan was responsible for ‘half’ of Britain’s imported Covid-19 cases, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has found the claims to be “misleading” and in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the IPSO Editors Code.
The Centre for Media Monitoring also argued that the article was racist by singling out Pakistanis and blaming Pakistanis for importing the virus, which in reality, only referred 30 cases in the short period between 4 and 26 June. However IPSO made no ruling on our allegation of racism against the newspaper as it “fell outside the parameters of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code.”
The publication initially did not accept that it had breached the Code, stating that readers would understand the context from the article body, which mentioned the limited time frame. But, following our complaint, IPSO stated that this still breached Clause 1 (Accuracy), which explicitly requires that headline statements should be supported by the text in the article. Faced with mounting pressure, The Daily Telegraph changed their headline 3 days into IPSO’s investigation and included a footnote at the end of the amended article, stating:
“CORRECTION: This article is based on PHE data relating to individuals who have travelled to the UK from Pakistan between June 4 and the article’s publication date: it does not cover the entire period of the pandemic, as readers may have inferred from its original headline and text wording, now amended.”
The publication also offered to publish a correction in print on page 2, in its regular “Corrections and Clarifications” column.
A tweet using the same wording as the printed headline was also ruled as “misleading” by IPSO, and The Daily Telegraph’s offered to tweet a link to the amended article underneath the initial misleading tweet stating “CORRECTION: Article amended with explanatory footnote”. However, the initial tweet was still misleading and a simple correction tweet did not meet the requirements of due prominence. 36 days into IPSO’s investigation, the reluctant publication finally offered to also publish a new tweet linking to the amended online article with the wording: “CORRECTION: Article amended with explanatory footnote”.
The Centre for Media Monitoring recognise the positive outcome of our complaint in ensuring that news is accurately reported. However, we believe that The Daily Telegraph’s correction hasn’t gone far enough to make clear that the figures came from the period 4 to 26 June rather than June as a whole, that the 30 cases imported were comparatively little to the total UK cases during this period (40,000 cases per day), and the majority of imported cases over the course of this pandemic came from countries other than Pakistan. Despite the Telegraph running the misleading story as the *top story on its front page*, press regulator IPSO failed to accept our request for the correction to have similar prominence (front-page correction). It is unclear what was the basis for this disappointing rejection.
Furthermore, we also think that The Daily Telegraph should apologise for the racism in the original article, and that the correction should be explicitly highlighted at the top of the article, rather than hidden as a footnote at the end.
Read IPSO’s full ruling here: https://www.ipso.co.uk/rulings-and-resolution-statements/ruling/?id=10911-20
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