The International Forum for Responsible Media Blog

Brexit and the Newspapers, Where was IPSO – Hacked Off

900-no-go-areasMost independent commentators have slammed a number of the big newspapers for misleading the public on the referendum, with the New Statesman going so far as trying to explain ‘how the Brexit campaign lied to us – and got away with it’.

Even some Daily Mail and Sun readers complained that they were misinformed about BREXIT by their own newspapers. But one might wonder: where was the self-described ‘toughest press regulator in the world’? What did the Independent Press Standards Organisation say or do about the numerous false and inaccurate reports published by newspapers during the campaign? Let’s have a look at some of the worst offending articles we saw:

1. Migration ‘has created 900 no go areas in the EU’ – Daily Mail

On 2 April, a Daily Mail headline on page 6 stated: Migration ‘has created 900 no-go areas in EU’ with the sub-headline: Devastating report shows order breaking down – including in London. However, this ‘devastating report’ does not appear to exist. The article admits that, when asked for the source, the Hungarian government spokesperson who made the claim said it came from ‘data publicly available on the internet’. The article  quotes a former UK defence minister as saying that “it is quite wrong for Hungary to make wild and unsubstantiated assertions about ‘no go’ areas in the UK” and also cites un-named critics who branded the claims as “wild” and “unsubstantiated”. Yet the Mail’s article centres on this “devastating report” and the headlines claim there are no-go areas in large font.

The updated Code of Practice, developed by a Committee chaired by the Mail’s own Editor, extends an editor’s duty to be accurate to include not publishing “headlines not supported by the text” so this is a clear breach of clause 1 of the Code.  There has been no correction, apology or retraction. The online version of the article is still available, unamended.

IPSO has done nothing.

tide-of-terror-242x3152. Tide of Terror: Migrant wave is a threat, admits EU border agency – The Sun, Daily Express

On 6 April, The Sun, on page 6, warned of a Tide of Terror: Migrant wave is a threat, admits EU border agency. The story is based on a ‘2016 Risk Analysis’ report from Frontex, the European Agency for the Operational Co-operation at the External borders of the Member States of the EU, dubbed by The Sun the ‘EU border agency’.

The article claims that: The dossier says 1.82 million illegals entered last year, six times the previous record of 2014. In fact, the report makes it clear – in its opening sentence – that in 2015, there were 1.8 million detections of illegal entries associated with an estimated one million individuals. Put simply, there were one million individuals who, between them, attempted at least 1.8 illegal entries.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Sun or Express.

IPSO has done nothing.

migrant-surge-256x3153. Migrants’ surge ‘will raise toll of UK terror cells’

On 6th April the Daily Express printed the claims of UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe who reportedly said: “Now even the EU’s own border security force are speaking up about the disruptive and violent ramifications for the peace of Europe’s towns and cities of Mrs Merkel’s disastrous open door policies.” The Express then claimed that “Frontex echoed the warnings about terrorists smuggling themselves into Europe as refugees.”

In fact, in the 76 page  Frontex report, the 2016 Annual Risk Assessment only two of the 18 references to terrorists suggest  that “irregular migratory flows could be exploited by terrorists.” The report also only uses the word “toll” 5 times, none of which talk about the toll of terrorism as the article so bombastically states; instead it actually is talking about the toll of people who are literally dying trying to enter Europe.

The Express have distorted information from the report, and repeated false claims without investigating them. IPSO has done nothing about it.

Turkish bribe4. £8 is all it costs migrants to bribe Turkish frontier  guards to let them in the  EU – Sunday Express

On 10 April, in a Sunday Express article, on page 4, headlined: £8 is all it costs migrants to bribe Turkish frontier guards to let them in the EU, (and online Slap in the face for EU as corrupt Turkish police let migrants into Europe for £8 bribe), it was claimed that under an EU agreement with Turkey, Turkey would be given free access to Europe, allowing its 77 million citizens to eventually come to the UK. The agreement did not give free access to Europe but merely the prospect of visa-free travel for 90 days every 6 months on business or for tourism purposes, it was not to be used for work or settlement. Crucially, for this article, the agreement actually excluded the UK and Ireland.  The entire population of one country has never emigrated to another as a result of being given access to a free movement area and it is misleading to suggest this would happen.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction. by the Express.

IPSO has done nothing.

brexit-or-d-r-257x3155. Brexit or die and be raped – Daily Star

On 30 April 2016, the Daily Star screamed from the top of page 2: Brexit or die and be raped. This story was about a speech by Nigel Farage who had actually said “We can’t deny what happened in Cologne. …. We face a real genuine threat – I don’t want to scare people, I want to do the opposite and make Britain a safer country …. We do not want the men who  behaved so appallingly in Cologne to have passports that will allow them freely to come to the UK”. Farage never actually said ‘BREXIT or die and be raped’, and did not even use the word “rape.’  Another headline not supported by the text and another breach of clause 1 of the IPSO Editor’s Code.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Star.

IPSO has done nothing.

6. 20,000 migrants ready to sneak into Britain – Daily Express

On 3 June, the Daily Express’ front page claimed that An army of 20,000 migrants had spread across the northern coast of France waiting to slip into Britain on the northern coast of France. The claims were repeated inside on pages 4 and 5. This is an unsubstantiated claim based on a French official saying ‘the majority’ want to come to Britain, as mentioned in the article.

Another headline not supported by the text and another breach of clause 1 of IPSO’s Editor’s Code.  There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Express.

IPSO has done nothing.

proof-245x3157. Proof we can’t stop migrants: Five million new EU citizens have been given right to enter Britain

On 14 June, the Daily Express claimed in a front page splash that in 2014 nearly 900,000 “migrants” have been given new EU passports. Whilst it is true that since 2009 there have been 5 million more people granted EU citizenship of a member state, that number has actually fallen, as explained here, from 981,000 in 2013 to 890,000 in 2014. Of these just 14% were given UK passports. More than 10% of the 2014 total were already EU citizens so they have not been given any new right to enter Britain. The proportion of the numbers from previous years who were already EU members was not given. For example, EU citizens by definition are not migrants: French babies have the “right to enter Britain” as new EU citizens, just as British families can take new born children with them when go to work in the EU. Basically – this headline is misleading and the article fails to clarify how this is ‘Proof we can’t stop migrants.’

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Express.

IPSO has done nothing.

kettles-251x3158. Vote Brexit before they ban kettles and toasters

On 12 May, the Daily Star claimed on page 4 that day to day devices we rely on like mobile phones could also face the chop- along with patio jet-washers. In fact, according to FullFact the EU was never considering a ‘ban’ on these products – but that only the most energy efficient ones could be sold, so that such devices are more durable and so that fewer need to be manufactured.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Star. The online version of the article is still available, unamended.

IPSO has done nothing.

swindle-239x3159. Great Migrant Swindle – The Sun

On 13 May, in a front-page article the Sun claimed that 800,000 migrants arrived in the UK from the EU last year, a number that it claims is actually three times the official statistic of 265,000.

However at the bottom of page 5, where the article continues, it becomes clear that the Sun includes ‘short term migrants’ in its calculation (some of whom are only may only be in the UK for a matter of weeks). It misleads the reader by suggesting that this is a ‘true figure’ which it has ‘revealed’. It says: The true figure was released as the Office for National Statistics admitted 535,000 “short term” migrants were ignored because they planned to stay less than a year.

The fact-based campaign to remain in the EU – InFacts – highlighted how two other newspapers also added short term migration to long term migration to claim that they had ‘discovered’ the ‘true’ numbers: the Daily Express claimed they were 1.5 million Hidden Migrants and the Daily Telegraph said 2.4 million The real number of EU migrants we now know came to Britain.

It is misleading to re-define what is being transparently measured by official statistics and then purport to provide “true figures” and thus claim that there is a cover-up. Indeed unless there is evidence that 100% of all EU tourists and business visitors have overstayed their visas and have become near permanent residents, it is grossly misleading to add 5 years-worth of short-term visitors up and then include them all in a figure of overall migration over 5 years.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Sun, Express or Telegraph.

IPSO has done nothing.

jobless-230x31510. Record number of Jobless EU Migrants in Britain

On 27th May, the Daily Mail used the same ONS statistics as above to talk about the record numbers of EU nationals coming to Britain: 270,000 EU nationals arrived last year along with 77,000 who arrived without a job.  The report describes the change in the estimate of migration for EU citizens as ‘not statistically significant’ – a phrase which is even quoted in the article.  The front page splash ignores the context of a large overall growth in the number of EU migrants in employment and the fact that HMRC have said that EU immigrants contributed more than 5 times in tax than they received in benefits. It also  ignores the fact that foreign nationals are responsible for over half the growth in employment in the UK.

There has been no correction, apology or retraction by the Mail.

IPSO has done nothing.

So what happened about these stories? We haven’t found any apologies, corrections or clarifications. And many of the articles are still available on-line.

Despite the claims that it is the “toughest regulator in the world” and, despite the obvious importance of factually accurate reporting in a crucial referendum campaign: IPSO appears to have taken no action in any of these cases.  Just as with IPSO’s predecessor the PCC, the papers continue to mislead and breach their own code with impunity because the regulator takes no proactive action. More and more articles of their ilk continue to be produced, with no recourse taken.

By its inaction, IPSO has let the public down and is failing to uphold a free and  accountable press.

This post originally appeared on the Hacked Off blog and is reproduced with permission and thanks


  1. Imran Ali

    Tactical manuevering of the Media –

  2. Vicky Seddon

    Haven’t mentioned how BBC gave credibility to the incredible – people and ideas, and didn’t flush out the lies properly and vociferously. Why on earth did they give Farage so much coverage – and Alan Johnson hardly any? They were just looking for populist stories instead of informing people about Europe and our relation to it

Leave a Reply

© 2023 Inforrm's Blog

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: