1662/2023 - Mr Herman Kelly and Extra.ie
The Press Ombudsman has decided that while a statement contained in two articles published by Extra.ie presented a breach of Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy) of the Press Council’s Code of Practice, she found that the publication took sufficient remedial action to remedy the breach.
The articles concern a march which took place the day after attackers damaged tents pitched by homeless asylum seekers in Dublin's city centre. Both articles claimed that "far right demonstrators and members of the Irish Freedom Party marched to the International Protection Office on Mount Street, where nearly 100 new arrivals are sleeping in more than 40 tents".
Mr Hermann Kelly said the claim that the Irish Freedom Party, of which he is the president, took part in the march was "completely untrue". He said a press release he issued “to various media outlets” before Extra.ie published the articles had received coverage including publication in the online edition of a national newspaper. The press release stated that on the afternoon in question the Irish Freedom Party had held a rally at Dublin's Custom House. It said the party did not hold a march and nor did any of its members participate in one. Mr Kelly asked Extra.ie to retract the statement and to apologise.
The editor of Extra.ie amended the article, changing the complained of phrase to "While it has been claimed that members of the Irish Freedom Party took part in the march, they have denied this”. The editor notified Mr Kelly. Mr Kelly rejected the change and demanded that the publication should state that members of the party "did not march" and that it should apologise for "misleading the public". He said this was required under the Press Council's Code of Practice.
Responding to the formal complaint, the editor of Extra.ie said the publication stood over the articles, that they raised issues of "considerable public interest" and that there had been no breach of the Code of Practice. He said the publication had relied on information from a trusted confidential source in making its claim, that it believed the information to be true and had published it in good faith. However, on receipt of Mr Kelly's denial, it had amended the article and believed this was "appropriate and sufficient”.
The Press Ombudsman finds that Extra.ie published as a fact a claim that the Irish Freedom Party had taken part in the march at a time when the party's denial that it had done so was in the public domain. Regardless of whether or not the publication itself received the press release issued by the party, its contents were reported in at least one national publication the day before Extra.ie published its articles. While it was not obliged to abandon its belief that members of the party had taken part in the march, the claim that the party disputed this was significant. In the interests of accuracy Extra.ie should have checked it out and included the information in its reports. This was a breach of Principle 1 which states that "in reporting news and information, the press shall strive at all times for truth and accuracy".
After Mr Kelly complained to the editor about the claim that his party had taken part in the march, the publication took prompt action to amend the online article to include his denial that this had happened. The Press Ombudsman finds that this was necessary and proportionate given the breach of Principle 1. She does not believe that the publication was required to include Mr Kelly's suggested wording to the effect that the Irish Freedom Party "did not march". Nor does the Code of Practice require an apology in all instances. She therefore finds that the editor took sufficient remedial action to resolve Mr Kelly's complaint.
13 July 2023