Press regulator urged to act after continued failings in Jewish Chronicle reports

The press regulator has been – again – asked to launch a standards investigation over continued “serious and systemic” editorial problems causing “egregious” malpractice at the Jewish Chronicle.

IPSO has been contacted by 15 victims of inaccurate reporting by the newspaper – including This Writer – after eight further breaches of the editors’ code of conduct were made by the Jewish Chronicle following the regulator’s decision not to launch a standards investigation over an initial 33 such breaches and four admissions of libel.

In our letter, which is also signed by such famously-wronged individuals as Jo Bird, Audrey White and Marc Wadsworth, we say: “This was in our view a shocking level of non-compliance, equivalent to one breach in every four issues published over the period, yet the IPSO Board considered two training sessions to be sufficient remedy. For context, this would be the equivalent of a daily newspaper breaching the Code 91 times in one year.

“We found the decision of the IPSO board not to order such an investigation in December 2021 disappointing and based on spurious reasoning.

“Your letter of 23 December 2021 explained that your refusal was in part because of a ‘change of ownership’ in 2020, and ‘new editorial leadership’ in 2021. As you are no doubt aware, that change of ownership appears to have been driven by financial losses largely occasioned by libel payouts resulting from poor journalism. The change of editor in fact took place when its editor of 13 years resigned only 72 hours before IPSO’s meeting to discuss this issue on 14 December 2021.

“We read in the recent review of IPSO by Sir Bill Jeffrey that, in February of this year, IPSO declared that ‘sufficient improvements had occurred in both complaints handling and editorial standards to allow the cessation of active monitoring of standards’ at the Jewish Chronicle. This conclusion is surprising to us given that, between December 2021 and the publication of that report, IPSO had upheld three further complaints against the Jewish Chronicle and
the paper had also (to our knowledge) been obliged to take down one further article.

“Only two months after the IPSO board decided to take no further action against the Jewish Chronicle, and three weeks before the publication of Sir Bill Jeffrey’s report, yet another complaint against that publication was upheld, involving three separate breaches of the code of conduct and a finding that it had behaved unacceptably.

“To quote paragraph 19 of that adjudication: ‘The committee expressed significant concerns about the newspaper’s conduct prior to the publication and the absence of a published apology as part of the remedial action which had been taken. The committee considered that the publication’s conduct was unacceptable, and their concerns were drawn to the attention of IPSO’s standards department.’”

We wrote: “We hope that IPSO will now recognise that the mere provision of training failed to resolve the serious and systemic journalistic and editorial problems at the Jewish Chronicle. Sir Bill Jeffrey wrote that an IPSO standards investigation is only likely to happen if malpractice is egregious and comes out of the blue or if ‘IPSO conclude that their engagement is getting nowhere and a stronger response is needed’. It is surely obvious now that IPSO is getting nowhere with the Jewish Chronicle and that a stronger response is needed.

“The Jewish Chronicle shows no signs whatsoever of improvement. Every one of the post-2021 adjudications includes reference to one or more of ‘significant inaccuracy’, ‘significantly misleading’ reporting, and ‘unacceptable’ conduct. If this continuing record of journalistic failure and malpractice does not amount to a ‘serious and systemic’ breach of IPSO’s code of conduct, we would welcome your comments and clear explanation of what exactly would be required to amount to such a breach.

“We urge you to recommend a standards investigation to your board, and to do so urgently – in weeks rather than months – before more bad journalism is published, more falsehoods are disseminated among readers and more harm is done to innocent people.”

My upheld complaint that the Jewish Chronicle had falsely stated that I had made “antisemitic” comments is the first item on the list of that organisation’s breaches.

A series of articles against Audrey White had falsely alleged that she had lied in order to be readmitted to the Labour Party when Jeremy Corbyn became leader, after having been expelled in the 1980s (all untrue); that she had received multiple warnings about bullying other party members (she had not); that she had falsely claimed to have complained to the police about a Labour councillor and a disabled pensioner (it was not a false claim); and that she had been a member of the Socialist Party (she had not).

The newspaper had to publish an apology to Marc Wadsworth after, in its own words, “We reported that Marc Wadsworth had spoken at the launch event for the ‘Labour in Exile Network’ (LIEN), a group that aimed to discover the addresses of Jewish Labour activists to “take care” of them, and that he was thereby complicit in a conspiracy to intimidate, threaten or harass Jewish activists into silence. We also suggested that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that such activities were criminal.” None of this was true.

It also had to publish a correction after stating that Jo Bird’s Labour membership had been suspended for a third time.

The letter has been sent to Lord Faulks, IPSO’s current chairman, and we await his response.

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