The Independent Press Standards Organisation has been asked to use its powers to launch a standards investigation into the Jewish Chronicle.
The press regulator has never yet instigated a standards investigation, its most serious potential action, since its inception seven years ago.
Nine people who won libel or IPSO complaints against the Jewish Chronicle in the past three years have written to the regulator asking it to consider taking the action to tackle what they allege are “systemic” issues.
Between July 2018 and July 2021 the weekly newspaper paid out and apologised in four libel cases.
Most recently, expelled Labour activist Marc Wadsworth was falsely accused of being involved in a group planning to target Jewish people in the Labour Party. Mrs Justice Collins Rice, who oversaw the public apology, said: “This was a serious mistake for the Jewish Chronicle to have made.”
In the same time period IPSO upheld, at least in part, nine complaints about the Jewish Chronicle relating to Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, to which all IPSO members are signed up.
Of the other complaints IPSO formally investigated in those three years, it chose not to uphold six and its mediation helped to resolve a further two.
Press Gazette understands around 40 complaints did not reach the IPSO investigation stage, for reasons that could include being resolved amicably with the newspaper or because the regulator did not consider there were any potential breaches of the code.
IPSO, which regulates most of the UK’s traditional national and regional newspaper brands, has not yet launched any standards investigations since its creation in 2014 to replace the Press Complaints Commission.
IPSO says this action is reserved for when it has “serious concerns” about the actions or behaviour of a member publisher, including “serious and systemic” breaches of the Editors’ Code.
The most serious penalties within IPSO’s powers include a fine of up to £1m, ordering the payment of reasonable costs for the investigation, and membership termination.
IPSO did carry out training for Jewish Chronicle staff on compliance with the Editors’ Code of Practice last month.
Nine of the legal and IPSO complainants, most of whom are connected to the Labour Party in some way, co-signed a letter to IPSO chairman Lord Faulks, who replaced Sir Alan Moses in January 2020.
They said the upheld rulings of the past three years make it “clear that the paper’s editorial standards are shockingly low and IPSO’s actions to date have made no difference”.
“We have all either seen our complaints to IPSO about the Jewish Chronicle’s bad journalism upheld or secured admissions of libel from the paper. Unless standards there improve there will be more victims, while readers will continue to be misled,” they said in a letter published by Jo Bird, a Labour councillor in Wirral who won a complaint against the paper on a point of accuracy last month.
In June Jewish Chronicle readers’ editor Richard Burton wrote in response to one of the IPSO complaints in question, pointing out that it was only upheld on one accuracy point while several other arguments were dismissed.
The group’s request has been received by IPSO’s standards department, which will decide what action, if any, is proportionate. Short of a full standards investigation this can include further staff training, raising specific concerns, or targeted monitoring.
Any decision to launch a standards investigation would ultimately be a matter for the IPSO board which, led by Lord Faulks, usually meets six times per year.
A spokesperson for the regulator told Press Gazette: “IPSO can undertake a standards investigation where it has serious concerns about the behaviour or actions of one of its regulated publishers.
“These concerns could include serious and systemic breaches of the Editors’ Code; where a publisher’s annual compliance statement raises significant concerns; or in exceptional circumstances, because of substantial legal issues or Editors’ Code compliance issues.
“IPSO actively monitors complaints, compliance with the Editors’ Code and the wider media landscape to ensure publishers uphold the highest possible standards.
“We aim to take action to address issues of concern in a proportionate way, ideally at an early stage. IPSO recently delivered training on Editors’ Code compliance to staff at the Jewish Chronicle, a service which is available to all regulated publishers.
“IPSO’s board makes any decision about whether or not to launch a standards investigation after careful consideration of all available evidence.”
The Jewish Chronicle declined to comment for this story.
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