Jackie Kelly and the Sunday Independent
Published 13/03/2011 | 05:00
THE Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint by Ms Jackie Kelly that references to her in an article in the Sunday Independent of October 24, 2010, were in breach of Principles 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines.
Two other complaints about alleged breaches of the Code were not upheld.
Ms Kelly complained that a reference to her membership of the governing body of DIT in a story headed 'Union bosses getting slices of the pie', and in which a subsidiary headline promised to "reveal the union fat cats who have landed plum jobs", was not true and was inaccurate as she was not and never had been a paid employee of a trade union, and because her engagement with DIT was unremunerated. She also maintained under Principle 4 that the publication had not taken reasonable care in checking these facts before publication.
The newspaper replied that it had treated the complainant's original letter of complaint as a letter for publication and had published an amended version of it without further reference to her in the belief that this would resolve the matter. It rejected her contention that this was unsatisfactory, primarily on the grounds that she had not specifically stated that her letter was not for publication, and declined to make any further offer to resolve the matter.
The edited version of Ms Kelly's letter of complaint that was published specifically excluded her request for a written apology and retraction and her references to the Principles of the Code of Practice she felt had been breached. Publication of the letter was insufficient to excuse the newspaper's subsequent failure to re-engage meaningfully with the complainant when she explained that her letter was not for publication, but that it was a formal letter of complaint. It also failed to acknowledge, accept responsibility for, correct on its own authority, or apologise for the distorted impression of the complainant created by the article and in particular by the headline material. It is also clear, under Principle 4, that if reasonable care had been taken in checking the facts in relation to the complainant before publication, her good name would have been afforded the degree of protection envisaged by this Principle. In these circumstances, the complaints under Principles 1 and 4 are upheld.
In general, publications should bear in mind that common-sense suggests that letters of complaint from people mentioned in their columns which specifically allege breaches of the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Magazines should be regarded as letters of complaint, and dealt with as such, rather than as letters for publication, unless the contrary is specifically indicated by the writer.
On February 14, 2011, the newspaper appealed the decision of the Press Ombudsman to the Press Council of Ireland.
At its meeting on March 4, 2011 the Council gave careful consideration to the application to appeal from the Sunday Independent but decided that the submission did not provide adequate grounds either in relation to new evidence or to any error in procedure or in the application of the principles of the code to warrant a full consideration of the appeal.
The decision of the Press Ombudsman is therefore upheld.
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