Friday, 14 December 2018

Independent Press Standards Organization, a Editor's joke – Daily Mail case


My initial complain, sent to IPSO:

Daily Mail” - Headline: "Public fund to find Madeleine McCann could be WIPED OUT if Kate and Gerry are forced to pay £750,000 to detective who claimed they covered up her death in upcoming court case" – Subheading: If they lose court case set to start in a few weeks they will have to pay £750,000” - ("Daily Mail”, September 1"Daily Mail”, September 18th, story by Charlotte Dean).

The text does not support this headline and the subhead as they refer false and misleading information, when it's written that “Figures show that there is £728,508 left in the pot used to fund the search for Madeleine, which is mostly made up of public donations. However it could be completely wiped out if the decision stands to award Amaral £430,000 as well as paying costs on top.” The newspaper does not give a date and does not identify the court that has decided to award Mr. Amaral £430,000 of compensation, to be paid by the McCann couple – for a very simple reason, there is no sentence awarded by any court, in any country, with that decision, as it is public and was, later, confirmed by Mr. Amaral himself. So, this statement is completely false.
The text also has a contradiction, as it refers, first, that “A fund set up to help find Madeleine McCann could be wiped out if her parents lose a court case [filed with the ECHR] which is due to start in the next few weeks”. A few lines after, it refers that the alleged payment only will take place if Mr. Amaral sues the McCann, as he promised, not if the McCann lose the court case with the ECHR: “If they [the McCann couple] lose the case the pair will be forced to pay Gonçalo Amaral £750,000, after he made a bid to sue them for compensation.” However, as it is public, there is no case in court, either in Portugal or in UK, from Mr. Amaral against the McCann, asking for any compensation.
That was made quite clear, a few days later, by Mr. Amaral, on September 21st, 2018, on a online publication, “Madeleine McCann Disappearance Blog”: "The news published by the Daily Mail and other British newspapers about an alleged lawsuit I have brought against the McCann is completely false. I did not file any lawsuit or demand any compensation from the McCann", Gonçalo Amaral told us, today, after questioned about a story published by that tabloid, saying that the McCann may have to pay him 750,000 pounds for compensation because of a complaint filed by him, wiping out the Fund for the search for Maddie.” But the “Daily Mail” never corrected this false information.
As simple search on Google can reveal, the ECHR only accepts cases against State Members that signed the European Convention of Human Rights and accept the authority of the ECHR: “The court hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols.” In this case, the defendant is the Portuguese State and, according to the powers and jurisprudence established, in no case at all it is possible, from a legal point of view – and never happened before - that the ECHR has the power to decide that a plaintiff, if he loses the case, will have to pay a compensation to whoever it would be, much less to a third party, Mr. Gonçalo Amaral, who has no direct relation with the case filled with the ECHR.
The case filled with the ECHR is “Gerry and Kate McCann versus the Portuguese State”, as the McCann spokesman, Mr. Clarence Mitchell, made clear, in a recent public statement, when he confirmed that Gerry and Kate McCann “lodged an appeal application”, with the European Court of Human Rights in July of this year.
About the phrase just under the headline [“If they (the McCann couple) lose court case set to start in a few weeks they will have to pay £750,000”], if the McCann lose the case, they will have only to pay the court expenses, as it happens in any court in any country, including in the UK and, of course, the fees of their private lawyers. This statement, also, is not supported in the text. If the McCann win the case, it will be the Portuguese State who will be sentenced and, quite probably, will have to pay a compensation to the McCann couple. In no case at all it is possible, from a legal point of view – and never happened before - that the ECHR has the power to decide that a plaintiff, if he loses the case, will have to pay a compensation to whoever it would be, much less to a third party.

IPSO Executive's decision:

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “Public fund to find Madeleine McCann could be WIPED OUT if Kate and Gerry are forced to pay £750,000 to detective who claimed they covered up her death in upcoming court case”, published by Mail Online on 18 September 2018.
On receipt of a complaint, IPSO’s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that the issues raised fall within our remit, and represent a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint.
You said that this article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it reported that Mr Amaral could be awarded £430,000 in compensation by the courts if he sues Madeline McCann’s parents. You said that Mr Amaral did not file any lawsuit or make a claim for compensation from the McCann’s, and that legally, the ECHR would have no power to award Mr Amaral compensation in these circumstances.
IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we do need to consider the position of the party most closely involved. In this case, the Executive took the view that the alleged inaccuracy related directly to Mr Amaral, the legal proceedings which he may or may not be subject to, and any compensation that may arise subsequent to the proceedings. In order to investigate your concerns we would need insight from a first party, and did not consider that you would be able to advise upon any legal proceedings related to Mr Amaral. As such, it would not be possible or appropriate to investigate and publicly rule on your complaint without Mr Amaral’s input and consent, and we declined to consider your complaint further.

Appeal to the Complaints Committee:

Appeal from the Executive's decision about my complain, concerning the lack of accuracy of the story published by "Daily Mail”, September 18th, story by Charlotte Dean.
Dear Sir,
The reply that I had, from the Executive's staff (…) argues that I said, in my initial complain, that the “article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it reported that Mr Amaral could be awarded £430,000 in compensation by the courts if he sues Madeline McCann’s parents”, that “Mr Amaral did not file any lawsuit or make a claim for compensation from the McCann’s, and that legally, the ECHR would have no power to award Mr Amaral compensation in these circumstances.”
a) This is not correct. I didn't considered a lack of accuracy the fact that the newspaper “reported that Mr Amaral could be awarded £430,000 in compensation by the courts if he sues Madeline McCann’s parents.” This is not in my initial complain and it's a distortion of what I wrote. I wrote that the newspaper made a mention about the McCann having to pay 430,000 pounds to Mr. Amaral if a court decision to do that “stands” – a false information, as there is no court decision that awards Mr. Amaral any payment from the McCann.
If you review my initial complain, I think it's clear that the first point I mention, about the lack of accuracy of the story, is the fact that the headline of the Daily Mail - "Public fund to find Madeleine McCann could be WIPED OUT if Kate and Gerry are forced to pay £750,000 to detective who claimed they covered up her death in upcoming court case" - is not supported by the text. The same happens with the sub-heading: If they [Kate and Gerry McCann] lose court case set to start in a few weeks they will have to pay £750,000”. There is no mention, in the text, about the legal reasons why, if the McCann lose the case filled with the European Court of Human Rights, “they will have to pay £750,000” to Mr. Amaral.
b) I mentioned another point, as there are, in the text, two different explanations for another kind of reasons the McCann may have to pay a compensation to Mr. Amaral, but they do not relate with the case filled with ECHR, as the headline mentioned, and those explanations refer not only a different amount of money - £430,000, instead of £750,00 – but also mention that the Fund for search of Madeleine McCann “could be completely wiped out if the decision stands to award Amaral £430,000”. There is no decision from any court that awards to Mr. Amaral the payment of £430,000, from the McCann, as it is public knowledge, and the newspapers does not identify any court case that produced that decision. So, my question, here is very simple: how is it possible that a court decision that does not exist could stand and make the McCann pay a certain amount of money to Mr. Amaral? It seems obvious that the journalist had made a confusion with a decision from a Portuguese lower court to award the McCann a compensation of 430,000 pounds, to be payed by Mr. Amaral, decision that was later overruled by the Portuguese Supreme Court.
c) In a clear contradiction with that previous explanation, the newspapers also writes, in the same story, that the alleged payment only will take place if Mr. Amaral sues the McCann, as he promised, not because the McCann lose the court case with the ECHR: “If they [the McCann couple] lose the case the pair will be forced to pay Gonçalo Amaral £750,000, after he made a bid to sue them for compensation.” Again, there is no explanation about the legal reasons why losing a case filled with the ECHR, by the McCann, against the Portuguese State, could force the McCann to pay a compensation to Mr. Amaral – unless if he sues the McCann, as the newspaper writes, which is not what the headline and sub-headline both refer.
So, I think that not only the headline and sub-headline are not supported by the text, but also the story has false information, about a court decision that does not exist but awards Mr. Amaral 430,000 pounds, to be paid by the McCann. Also, the newspapers has two different and contradictory explanations about why the McCann could have to pay a compensation to Mr. Amaral, wiping out the money that still is in the Fund.
All the story is manipulated and some of the information is distorted and false, in order to create the idea that Mr. Amaral will be responsible for the possibility that the Fund to search for Madeleine could be wiped out of money. There is not even a single mention about the powers and jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which I believe would be fundamental to explain to the readers of the Daily Mail why such situation - "Public fund to find Madeleine McCann could be WIPED OUT if Kate and Gerry are forced to pay £750,000 (...)” to Mr. Amaral, if the McCann “lose court case [filled with the ECHR ] set to start in a few weeks”.
The Executive “took the view that the alleged inaccuracy related directly to Mr Amaral, the legal proceedings which he may or may not be subject to, and any compensation that may arise subsequent to the proceedings (…) it would not be possible or appropriate to investigate and publicly rule on your complaint without Mr Amaral’s input and consent, and we declined to consider your complaint further”, refers the decision that was sent to me. This is not acceptable, in my opinion, as the issues of lack of accuracy and false information I raised are not related with any decision that Mr. Amaral may take or not.
Also, the Executive's decision mentions that it does “not consider that you [me, the complainant] would be able to advise upon any legal proceedings related to Mr Amaral.” I can't see any “advise” related to Mr. Amaral in my initial complain. I consider that the Executive's decision, in this subject, making this kind of reference, is doing a clear distortion of the content of my initial complain.

Final decision of the Complaints Committee

The Complaints Committee has considered your complaint, the email of 7 November 2018 from IPSO’s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code, and your email of 7 November and 15 November requesting a review of the Executive’s decision. The Committee agreed the following decision:
The Committee revised the Executive’s decision and agreed that you are a third party to any alleged inaccuracy: you do not appear to have any first-hand knowledge of the facts of the case, and as such it would be inappropriate and impractical for IPSO to undertake any investigation without the consent and involvement of those involved. For this reason, the Committee declined to re-open your complaint.

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