It is extremely important to Correct the Record in the Julian Assange case. The UN Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer in his report says: “there has been a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange”. It is therefore imperative that we do not remain idle when we see in the press and media statements that defame his character since, where people who do not know what has gone on will no longer want to defend him against US extradition.
The Telegraph is a conservative Broadsheet British Newspaper with 360,000 monthly circulation. It has a good complaints system in place, in as much as if you complaint you get an e-mail acknowledgement of your complaint, and writes back to you with the outcome of their investigation of it. It also subscribes to IPSO Editors Code of Practice. On the downside, it does not issue a correction note at the end of the article.
I contacted The Telegraph by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org on he 13th of May and I received an acknowledgement by the editor on the same day. In their article they claimed that Sweden had filed preliminary charges against Julian Assange. I pointed out this was not so, appending the relevant references, primarily, the correction back in 2012 by the Supreme Court stating that no charges had been filed against him. On the same day the article was corrected and I had a reply from the paper letting me know and thanking me for getting in touch. No mention of the correction was made on the online published version of the article and I am not sure if one ever appeared in the printed version. It is worthwhile checking how can we find information about that.
Member of JADC Pete, writes:
“On the 3rd June 2019 it appeared on The Telegraph’s website that
“A court in Sweden has rejected a request for Julian Assange to be detained in absentia, complicating Swedish hopes of extraditing the Wikileaks founder to face trial for rape.”
My complaint was based on the fact that there was no question of extraditing Mr Assange to face trial, because there was neither charge nor case, furthermore the article involves the odd idea that there were people; who had the correspondent’s apparent sympathy: who hoped that rape had been committed, which is a very peculiar quirk for a body of people to share.
The Telegraph rejected this complaint on the grounds that
“The full article makes clear the basis upon which Swedish authorities are attempting to extradite Mr Assange. We see no inaccuracy.”
which didn’t provide an answer, so I took the matter to IPSO who turned it down in the first instance but said I could insist on it going before the Committee.
I took up the offer and included a link to the Supreme Court ruling https://www.supremecourt.uk/news/julian-assange-v-swedish-prosecution-authority.html
But the Complaint was rejected as follows
The Committee noted your position that a Supreme Court judgement had stated that charges against Mr Assange had not yet been brought in relation to the rape allegations. Whilst the Committee noted your position, it also noted that the material you have provided to support your position dates from 2012. The Committee considered that you have not demonstrated any direct knowledge of the current status of the case such as IPSO would require in investigating any complaint on this point. In any event, the Committee noted that the article did not state that any charges had been brought against Mr Assange; it referred to “allegations” and “accusations” of rape. This material you provided did not therefore appear to contradict the article’s claims in the way you suggested.
For these reasons, and the reasons already provided by IPSO’s Executive, the Committee declined to consider your complaint further or to re-open your complaint.
The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns.
I regret that I had not noticed how aged the ruling was as I now realise that for any such complaint to succeed the most recent evidence is needed to fend off obvious attack possibilities. A bad part is that IPSO must have known that there was no change in the status of charges, but the worst part is that despite the fact that the Telegraph clearly stated that extradition avoided was with trial in mind IPSO satisfies itself that contradictory mention of “Allegations” and “Accusations” were all that the Telegraph said, and by implication they do not concede that
“hopes of extraditing the Wikileaks founder to face trial for rape” is not inaccurate.
It is difficult to see IPSO as a Jury rather than an advocate defending the Press without balancing the case.”
The first example illustrates that if the misreporting/defamatory statement is straightforward with a relevant reference the correction is carried out effectively, provided the media organisation has a good complaints system established like The Telegraph clearly does.
The second example illustrates that misreporting/defamation done in a more roundabout way for example writing things based on wrong assumptions which you don’t actually write about, then the misreporting is less easy to correct.
Pete’s efforts above have been commendable. It is extremely useful to see the steps that he took in putting the case forward and the grounds upon which his complaint has been dismissed by IPSO. In particular, IPSO found the resource used too old (2012) requiring the complainant to put forward all necessary information for the committee to make its mind up without making their own independent investigation on the facts of the matter.
But the story does not end there.
The article did say “Mr Assange denies the charges. ” so I have sent another letter, (duly acknowledged) to The Telegraph with a request to amend the word to “allegations”. This time the complaint is very straightforward. Let’s wait and see the reply.