Press Ombudsman upholds complaint from Mr Jim Corr about the Sunday World
The Press Ombudsman has upheld a complaint made by Mr Jim Corr that the Sunday World breached Principle 4 (Respect for Rights) of the Code of Practice of the Press Council of Ireland.
On 18 November 2018 the Sunday World published an article under the headline “No regret as Corr backs anti-vaxx Cllr”. The article stated that a Councillor who had expressed her concerns about a link between autism and vaccines told the Sunday World that Mr Jim Corr had “called her to offer support”.
Mr Corr claimed that the article breached Principle 4 of the Code of Practice which requires the press to take reasonable care in checking facts before publication. He stated that the claim in the article that he had offered to support the Councillor was an “untrue statement” and that the newspaper was obliged to contact him or his representatives in advance of publication.
The newspaper stood over what it had reported and in response to the claim that it should have contacted Mr Corr to check its facts before publication stated that it was the newspaper’s belief that this wasn’t necessary as the Sunday World was “merely reporting on a claim “ by the Councillor. The editor went on to offer to publish a clarification on Mr Corr’s behalf stating that he never spoke to the Councillor, “if that is his position”.
Mr Corr rejected the offer by the editor. As the complaint could not be resolved by conciliation it was forwarded to the Press Ombudsman for consideration.
I am upholding this complaint as, in my opinion, it was necessary for the newspaper to seek from Mr Corr in advance of publication confirmation that he had contacted the Councillor to offer her support. The newspaper’s argument that it had only reported the claim made by the Councillor and had not claimed that this was true is an inadequate response. When a claim is made about a controversial matter it behoves a newspaper to seek verification that something that is claimed to have happened has actually happened.
Other parts of the complaint were not upheld.
Mr Corr complained that Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) and Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) had been breached.
This complaint is not about whatever views Mr Corr holds or doesn’t hold about vaccinations. It is about the accuracy of what was reported in the article. Mr Corr claims that the article was inaccurate when it stated that he had called the Councillor to “offer support after heavy criticism over her sharing posts linking autism and vaccines”. The newspaper defended the article as an accurate account of what had happened. I have insufficient evidence available to me to make a decision on this part of the complaint.
I can find no examples in the article published on 18 November where the newspaper failed to distinguish between fact and comment. The article contained background information which was presented as fact and not as comment.
8 May 2019