Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland ++353 (0)1 677 0253 info@ipsc.ie www.ipsc.ie

Thursday 8th November 2012

To whom it concerns, The Ireland‐Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) wish to appeal the decision of the Press Ombudsman in the case ‘Ireland‐Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Irish Times’, communicated to us on Wednesday 24 October. Our appeal is based on the following grounds: Ground 1. Error in procedure: Failure to address the main substance of the complaint The Ombudsman was asked effectively to adjudicate upon the accuracy of a number of stories, under Principle 1. The Ombudsman has not actually done so. To take the first and most important example: the Irish Times published on its front page on May 4, 2012, a story headlined “Dervish pull out of Israel tour after social media ‘venom’”. The introductory paragraph stated: “TRADITIONAL GROUP Dervish have pulled out of a concert tour of Israel citing an ‘avalanche of negativity’ and ‘venom’ directed towards them on social media websites.” As our complaint has shown, these are demonstrably false statements, not only because (as Mr Kevin O’Sullivan, the Irish Times editor, effectively acknowledges) there was no “venom” directed at Dervish by pro‐Palestinian boycott supporters, but because Dervish never said there was venom directed at them by pro‐Palestinian boycott supporters, nor did they say that they had cancelled their tour “after” or as a result of such venom. This basic falsehood, based on inaccurate reporting of Dervish’s statements, was repeated in several more of the complained‐of stories, even after it had been brought to the newspaper’s attention. Despite rejecting our complaint, the Ombudsman has not shown nor even endeavoured to show that these statements were true and accurate. Instead, in his decision he has referred only in passing to “third party statements which are accurately reported”, as though that accuracy were accepted by both sides rather than being a key substantive issue raised by the complaint. Ground 2. Error in procedure: Failure to address individual articles In the IPSC’s initial communication with the Office of the Press Ombudsman, we were instructed that the Ombudsman could only decide on individual articles and not on the entirety of the coverage taken as a whole. This specific instruction was made during a phone call on the morning of Thursday 23rd August 2012 between the IPSC and the Press Ombudsman’s Office. As a result our complaint was prepared in this way, necessitating close and careful textual analysis and repetition. However, the Ombudsman in his decision Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland Phone: ++353 (0)1 677 0253 Email: info@ipsc.ie Website: www.ipsc.ie

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland ++353 (0)1 677 0253 info@ipsc.ie www.ipsc.ie

appears to have been constrained by no such requirement, since he mentions no individual articles and indeed has issued a ruling without any specific references to articles at all. Thousands of words of specific complained‐of coverage, thousands of words of complaint, and thousands of words of reply from the Irish Times are dealt with in a few hundred words of generalisation. Either the Ombudsman is in error in not addressing the complaints individually, or his office was in error in its instruction to us. Either way, there has clearly been a procedural error. Ground 3. Error in procedure: Misleading summary of the case The Press Ombudsman has a special responsibility to be accurate and fair in his public summary of the complaint and its outcome. When the Ombudsman writes: “The Irish Times acknowledged, and offered to correct, a number of statements which it accepted had been inaccurate,” he gives a misleading impression of that offer. The “number” of statements that the newspaper was willing to correct was two, and they were, by any measure, trivial and tangential, at best, to the main issues of the complaint, as Mr O’Sullivan’s letter makes clear: “In summary, I genuinely find that the complaints from the IPSC are of little or no substance.” The Ombudsman also writes: “Such disagreements and arguments... are an inevitable accompaniment of highly‐charged newspaper‐based debates.” This gives the misleading impression that there was an ongoing debate about this story in the newspaper, when it is our submission, and is palpably the case, that the Irish Times kept such debate from its pages for some weeks. Ground 4. Error in application of the Code of Practice: Principle 1 Notwithstanding our contention (summarised above in Ground 1) that much of this coverage contained inaccurate reporting of third‐party statements, we also submit that accurate reporting of untrue third‐party statements ‐‐ as for example in the May 15th article “Novelist condemns ‘intimidation’ by group promoting boycott of Israel” ‐‐ is not in fact afforded complete protection under Principle 1, as the Ombudsman’s decision implies. Section 1.2 of the Code of Practice states: “When a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report or picture has been published, it shall be corrected promptly and with due prominence.” This section offers no exemption whatsoever for “misleading statements” that are made by third parties and quoted in the newspaper. Since Mr O’Sullivan of the Irish Times makes no defence with regard to the IPSC contention that statements from Mr Gerard Donovan and (as reported) Dervish were in themselves misleading, and since that fact was brought promptly to the attention of the newspaper, the Ombudsman can have no grounds under Section 1.2 for refusing to insist that they be corrected. Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland Phone: ++353 (0)1 677 0253 Email: info@ipsc.ie Website: www.ipsc.ie

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland ++353 (0)1 677 0253 info@ipsc.ie www.ipsc.ie

Ground 5. Error in application of the Code of Practice: Principle 3.1 The Ombudsman writes: “The complaints under Principle 3 were not upheld because there was no evidence that the newspaper had obtained or published the material complained of by misrepresentation, harassment or subterfuge, as would be required to support a complaint under this Principle.” Thus he maintains that the key principle of fairness and honesty refers only to the named misbehaviours in the obtaining or publishing of material. However, nothing in the Code of Practice’s presentation or punctuation of Section 3.1 (which does not specify any such behaviours) indicates that it is any way dependent on sections 3.2 and 3.3 (which do) for its application. Indeed it would be a shocking limit on this important principle, with potentially enormous and unforeseeable implications for the future of the media and democratic debate in Ireland, if this were to be the case. We thank you in advance for your consideration and trust that you have access to the full documentation that the IPSC presented in support of its complaint, including both the initial submission and our reply to Mr O’Sullivan’s rejection of its substance. Regards,

Martin O’Quigley IPSC Chairperson

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Unit 5, 64 Dame Street, Dublin 2, Ireland Phone: ++353 (0)1 677 0253 Email: info@ipsc.ie Website: www.ipsc.ie