Trudy Baker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Argus, Brighton, had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 4 (Harassment) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in a series of articles.
The paper reported that a children’s charity had cancelled a fundraising event at a greyhound racing stadium after supporters of the campaign group Greyt Exploitations sent employees of the charity “abusive” messages on social media.
Ms Baker, who is the coordinator of Greyt Exploitations, complained that the coverage was significantly misleading. She said that the reports had misrepresented the campaign and the nature of the correspondence sent to the charity.
She had asked supporters to email the chief executive of the charity to politely ask him to cancel the event, and claimed it was inaccurate to report that the charity had received “threats” or a “series of aggressive messages”.
The complainant was particularly concerned that headlines had referred to “threats” and a “reign of hatred”.
While she accepted that the charity’s chief executive had been sent an “extremely distasteful” message, the message had not been threatening and it had been sent by an individual who was not affiliated with Greyt Exploitations.
Among other concerns about accuracy, the complainant also considered that the newspaper’s coverage represented harassment, in breach of Clause 4.
In particular, she raised concerns that she did not believe she had been granted enough time to respond to a request for comment, prior to publication of an article, and that the short time-frame had put her under unnecessary pressure.
The newspaper said that the coverage accurately reported the comments made by the Chief Executive of the charity, including his comments that the campaign had been “intimidating and threatening”.
The Argus said that it was reasonable to describe people who responded to the Facebook campaign and subsequently emailed or contacted the charity via social media as supporters of the complainant’s campaign.
The comment cited in the article was ill-advised, and it was reported that this had been removed from the complainant’s website.
The coverage reported that the complainant had apologised for any offence caused. The exact wording of the comment was not significant in the context of the coverage as a whole.
The Argus further denied harassment, and had offered to publish a letter from the complainant.
The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.