Hillsborough memorial at Anfield
The IPSO letter starts reasonably enough, telling that Kavanagh “is on record as having said that he does not defend the newspaper’s Hillsborough coverage, for which they have repeatedly and rightly apologised … His role in the story, as a Westminster-based journalist remote from the newsroom, was to pass on what a senior Downing Street figure told him after the then Prime Minister’s visit to the stadium which tallied with what the police were telling journalists and news agencies in Sheffield at the same time”.
Then, after softening up its target, the misinformation begins: “You write that Mr Kavanagh accepts that appalling lies were published as headlines as a result of his doing. This is not true - he did not file copy, did not write any part of the story or the headline, and apart from a brief verbal conversation, played no further role”. Joe Anderson did not claim that Kavenagh filed copy or wrote any part of the Sun’s Hillsborough coverage.
He did say that “appalling lies were published as headlines as a result of his doing”. And “his doing” involved passing on what he believed was something that would stand up the Sun’s infamous “THE TRUTH” front page, thereby encouraging then editor Kelvin MacKenzie to go ahead and publish. The result was, indeed, an appalling lie. And it was published as a direct result of Trevor Kavanagh’s “doing”. IPSO busted. And it gets worse.
The IPSO reply continues “Mr Kavanagh is very clear that those who died were completely innocent and it is worth quoting an article he wrote in October 2012 which states that that he believed he had been told the truth and that it was his job as Political Editor to pass on ‘… an apparently copper-bottomed corroboration for a major running story. After all, sources don’t come any higher than a Chief Constable and a Prime Minister’s most trusted colleague. It wasn’t until [the] devastating Hillsborough Independent Report that the REAL truth emerged - the despicable conspiracy at the heart of the South Yorkshire police’”.
No thanks, I don’t want to look over there. There was no need for anyone to have to wait for the Hillsborough Independent Panel - other papers that used the same story in the days after the disaster quickly realised their mistake and withdrew their claims. The Sun, instead, told complainants that, while readers may have disliked what they read, the story was part of an uncomfortable truth, and they would not be apologising.
So when IPSO conclude by saying “I appreciate completely the strongly held views of many people in Liverpool about The Sun’s article and Mr Kavanagh’s acknowledged role in it and our decision is in no way an attempt to ‘airbrush’ his involvement”, that is exactly what they are doing - airbrushing Kavanagh’s involvement in the Sun’s coverage, right down to lying about his actions in order to rebut Joe Anderson’s complaint.
If this is the level of honesty and openness that IPSO displays to free dissenting speech, it hardly engenders confidence in its ability to regulate the press in a way that inspires public support for its efforts. This is a disgraceful evasion, and IPSO must do better.