OMB. 1908 - Dr William Ralph and Independent.ie

By admin
Thursday, 30th May 2024
Filed under:

The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint by Dr William Ralph against the Irish Independent.

The article, published in January 2024, is headlined “No ‘excess deaths’ here during Covid pandemic, OECD report says, as Health Minister hails high vaccine uptake”.  It is a news report based on what the publication describes as “a report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)” and compares the data it contains with figures from previous reports.  The article includes reactions to the report from the Health Minister and the Chief Medical Officer.

Dr Ralph complains that the article breaches Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment) and Principle 3 (Fair Procedures and Honesty) of the Code of Practice.  He says the article “repeatedly alleges that the OECD wrote a report” showing data that Ireland had no excess deaths between 2020 and 2022.  He says the OECD wrote no such report and that the document to which the article refers states that “OECD Working Papers should not be reported as representing the official views of the OECD or of its member countries.” He says the article “makes no attempt to clarify” the origins of the data presented.     He says he conversed with statisticians from the CSO* and they told him “nobody consulted them”.

The Irish Independent responded that it had noted that the report was published by the OECD and that it was an “OECD Working Paper”.  It said the document “clearly falls within the common understanding of the word ‘report’” and it was in no way misleading to refer to it as such.  The publication said it accepted that the document was not the official view of the OECD but that it was an OECD publication written by authors from within the OECD.  It said the article fairly and accurately summarised the report’s findings on excessive deaths and that it attributed these findings to the report and did not state them as facts.

Decision

The Press Ombudsman finds that the publication is entitled to refer to the document on which the article is based as an OECD report while also identifying it specifically as an OECD working paper.  There is nothing misleading about this.  The Press Ombudsman finds that the article compares the data referred to in the OECD document with data presented in previous reports and also seeks the views of the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical

Officer.  The piece is a news report focused on a recently published document – it does not purport to investigate the data presented. 

The Press Ombudsman has insufficient information with which to assess Dr Ralph’s statement about conversations with CSO statisticians, which remain anecdotal.  She also has insufficient information with which to assess the availability of data to the authors of the working paper.

The Press Ombudsman finds no breach of Principle 1.

The Irish Independent’s article is clearly set out as a news report and not as an opinion piece.  It does not set out to agree or disagree with statements made within the report and when opinions are given by other parties they are presented as such.  There is no breach of Principle 2.

The complainant does not present any specific examples of alleged breaches of Principle 3, and the Press Ombudsman can find no evidence that Principle 3 was breached.

*Central Statistics Office

2 May 2024