Jo Bird and others wronged by right-wing rag ask IPSO chair to initiate proper standards investigation after repeated breaches
Fifteen victims of the lies and smears of the right-wing Jewish Chronicle have written to the chair of press ‘regulator’ IPSO to demand action against the Jewish Chronicle, after the paper’s smears continued following IPSO’s ‘training’ whitewash of the paper’s ‘litany of lies’ against left-wingers and supporters of Palestinian human rights.
In an open letter, the group outlines the history of the paper’s wrongs and the lack of meaningful action by IPSO, which is run by the papers it is supposed to keep in line:
31 July 2023
Dear Lord Faulks,
We are individuals who have experienced the consequences of bad journalism and bad editorial conduct by the Jewish Chronicle. Each one of us has secured a ruling from IPSO against this publication and/or won libel settlements.
We write to you, once again, to urge IPSO to undertake a standards investigation into this publication. 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.
At that time IPSO had found 33 breaches of the code of conduct by the JC in three years, in which period there had also been four admissions of libel (Appendix 1 contains a table of the most egregious of these breaches). This was in our view a shocking level of non-compliance, equivalent to one breach in every four issues published over the period1, yet the IPSO Board considered two training sessions to be sufficient remedy.
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. These further adjudications are listed in Appendix 2.
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 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. As it is, we feel that IPSO has let us down, and continues to leave itself open to further and justified criticism of inadequacy in the face of overwhelming evidence of journalistic malpractice.
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.
The appendix mentioned in the letter to IPSO details some of the egregious instances of the Jewish Chronicle’s abuses and IPSO’s own rulings against the right-wing rag:
In addition, the paper has been forced to pay out damages and make apologies for a ‘string of false claims‘ and inventions targeted at left-wing figures and supporters of Palestinian human rights, including to Liverpool legend Audrey White and to Black rights activist Marc Wadsworth.
As the letter notes, IPSO was reported to be considering a full standards investigation in 2021, but ultimately decided to whitewash the huge issues with the paper’s conduct by issuing ‘training’, despite the overwhelming evidence of the Chronicle’s obstructiveness and lack of standards, which even IPSO has been forced to criticise. Yet the paper’s wanton breaches of journalistic standards barely even paused for breath after that decision, as the appendix table shows.
IPSO has been criticised by victims of so-called ‘mainstream’ papers – including victims of illegal phone hacking – as a ‘sham’ regulator that exists to create the ‘illusion of reform’. If IPSO wishes to continue to claim regulator status, it’s time for action that doesn’t involve whitewash or carpet edges to sweep these huge wrongs under.
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