Much of the coverage by the right-leaning press, of what Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may or may not have done four years ago when he visited Tunis to attend a memorial to those killed in an internationally condemned Israeli air strike in 1985, has verged on the incendiary. Many claims have been made that the papers concerned have no chance whatever of standing up. So yesterday came the inevitable complaint.
As the Guardian has reported, “The Labour party has formally complained to the press regulator Ipso about the coverage by several British newspapers of Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to lay a wreath at a cemetery in Tunisia … The story resurfaced last Saturday when the Daily Mail ran a front page that featured pictures of Corbyn at the graveyard holding a wreath”. And there was more.
“Labour said subsequent reporting of the incident across the media had seriously misrepresented the event, misidentified those buried in the cemetery and underplayed the role of mainstream Palestinian leaders conducting the ceremony … The complaint focuses on incidents where newspapers have specifically stated in news stories that the event was commemorating members of the Black September terrorist group or those who carried out the 1972 Munich massacre”. What is IPSO doing about it?
“The press regulator has acknowledged the complaint and said it will consider taking the case further, raising the prospect that it could attempt to rule on the definitive chain of events surrounding Corbyn’s visit to the cemetery”. That should not be too difficult, as the BBC has helpfully produced an explainer on what is now known as Wreathgate.
So what comes next? “Newspapers named in the Ipso complaint have been informed. There will be an internal complaints process at each one, and they could offer to publish corrections to resolve the dispute … If Labour rejects any of the potential mediation offers, a full inquiry could take place. Ipso could have to rule on the accuracy of each contentious piece and whether it breaks its code on accuracy”.
This puts IPSO on the spot at a very difficult time. With press campaigners continuing to point out that the press non-regulator is not fit for purpose, and Labour still committed to Part 2 of the Leveson Inquiry, IPSO copping out on this one will only fuel calls for effective and independent press regulation. Many of the press claims aren’t just “inaccurate” - they are flagrant lies, and potentially actionably so.
Meanwhile, the story has also been taken up by i News, the Independent, and Sky News. But otherwise there has been silence. Why that should be may be deduced by considering this excerpt from the Guardian article: “In its complaint, the [Labour] party said the Sun, the Times, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Express and Metro had misrepresented the event, which the Labour leader attended in 2014”.
Guess who isn’t reporting the complaint this morning? Also, it’s no coincidence that the papers that did report Labour’s IPSO complaint are … not regulated by IPSO.
Labour has passed IPSO a live grenade of a complaint. And this press poodle is more than capable of pulling the pin out.
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