A demand for action to stop a serial-libelling newspaper committing further offences has collapsed after the press regulator IPSO as good as admitted it won’t do its job.
The Jewish Chronicle has been found guilty of libel by the courts four times in the past three years – and was found by IPSO itself to have breached the Editors’ Code on accuracy no fewer than 33 times in the same period.
The Chronicle itself – including its editors and current owners – seems completely unperturbed by this evidence of prolonged wrongdoing.
As a news reporter of more than a quarter of a century’s standing, This Writer finds that amazing. If I had been found to have libelled anybody when I was working for the newspapers, my job would probably have been in danger, along with the paper’s future if the compensation award was large enough.
So I and a group of other JC libel victims led by former Labour councillor Jo Bird felt we had no option other than to appeal to press regulator IPSO for a standards investigation into the paper.
This would have meant that IPSO would consider whether the number and regularity of Editor’s Code breaches meant that the JC‘s editorial standards have fallen to an unacceptable level. If it were to find against the newspaper, then penalties – and measures to improve it – may be demanded.
IPSO’s board apparently discussed the matter and concluded that, because the JC is small and it has a new editor, an investigation would be disproportionate and unnecessary. Additional training will be enough, and the IPSO executive will review progress in six months.
Apparently, being small is now an excuse for bad journalism. I wonder if any of my colleagues in the left-wing social media will be allowed to offer the same excuse, if they are found to breach the law in similar ways.
As for the change of editor – how is this a guarantee of improvement? We know nothing about the newbie, who could be just as bad as Stephen Pollard’s record shows him to have been.
And of course all IPSO publishers are supposed to deliver training regularly to their staff as a matter of routine.
We are left with just one conclusion: that as a regulator of the UK press, IPSO is a sham.
As a member of the group that took action against the JC, I said today: “IPSO has refused to take meaningful action in the case of a member that repeatedly defies its authority, and it is clear that it will never do so. This sends the message to IPSO members that no behaviour by them could ever be bad enough to prompt even a formal investigation, let alone disciplinary action.
“We had pointed out to Lord Faulks that IPSO’s own conduct should also be subject to investigation. IPSO’s complaints committee publicly reported the Jewish Chronicle to IPSO’s standards department for ‘unacceptable ’conduct in November 2019, yet the paper’s spree of libels and code breaches was allowed to continue. This matter has been ignored.
“The price for this regulatory failure is felt by the public – both by those who are libelled and misrepresented and by readers who are fed falsehoods without consequence. That IPSO provided its response to us only after five months had elapsed underlines this disregard for the public. That it chose to do so at the height of the Christmas season smacks of the worst kind of news manipulation.
“The moral is clear: IPSO is nothing like a real regulator. It is a sham, a toothless organisation that always puts the interests of the press before those of ordinary people. If you have been abused in the papers, don’t count on IPSO to put it right.”
To this, I would add that it is clear the only way to gain proper redress against an IPSO-regulated newspaper that libels you is to take it to court and win a large amount of money in damages.
Yes, it is expensive. But my own experience in crowdfunding shows that members of the public are entirely willing to support their colleagues who have been wronged by people and organisations in positions of power and influence.
It can be done. And in the case of rags like the Jewish Chronicle, it should be – not just for the sake of those it has wronged, but for the sake of the facts.
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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