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Weekly apologies to florist over Taleban claim

A weekly newspaper apologised to a local florist after claiming that he had once used his linguistic skills to listen-in to conversations involving the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

Former RAF sergeant Steve Bevan was featured in the Epsom Guardian after taking over Flowerwise Florist shop in the town earlier this year.

In its story, the paper claimed that while serving in Afghanistan, he had listened-in to radio communications by the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

The newspaper apologised for the claim after Mr Bevan complained to the Press Complaints Commission under Clause 1 of the Editor’s Code of Practice, which covers accuracy.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the publication of a correction in the newspaper.

It read: “Our article of 7 February, which reported that former RAF sergeant Steve Bevan had taken over Flowerwise Florist in Epsom, claimed that ‘Mr Bevan who speaks Arabic and Pashto – a language spoken both in Afghanistan and Pakistan – used to fly in a high-tech Nimrod over Afghanistan listening in on the radio communications of al-Quaeda and the Taliban.’

“Mr Bevan has asked us to make clear that he flew over Afghanistan on one occasion in 2001, prior to his completing language courses.

“He has never said that his language skills were used to “listen to the Taleban or al-Quaeda”. We are happy to clarify the position and apologise for any confusion caused.”

Other recent PCC cases involving regional newspapers include:

Curry v The Herald, Glasgow

Mr Joe Curry complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the newspaper’s reference to Glasgow as Scotland’s biggest airport was inaccurate.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the following correction:  “We referred in an article on July 10 to Glasgow being Scotland’s biggest airport. Edinburgh Airport is, in fact, the biggest in Scotland.”

Stevenson v Bristol Observer

Mrs Caroline Stevenson complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) over a story headlined “Wind farm plan” which had in fact been about plans for a solar panel park.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following a correction on the front page of the next edition:  “In last week’s issue we incorrectly described plans for a 90-acre solar park in Dundry – by Green Energy UK Direct – as a wind farm. We apologise for this error.”

A woman v Manchester Evening News

A woman complained under Clause 9 (Reporting of Crime) that the newspaper had identified her.  She was further concerned that the newspaper had published information which was both inaccurate, in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), and intrusive in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy).

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper obscured the photograph of the complainant on its online article so she could no longer be associated with the crime being reported on.

Taghipour v Harrow Times

Dr Jahangir Taghipour complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) over articles reporting on court proceedings in which he faced allegations of sexual assault. The complainant, who was subsequently acquitted of all charges, expressed concern that the reports contained inaccurate information and remained online.

While the newspaper did not accept any breach of Code, the matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated an addition to the online articles, making clear that the complainant had subsequently been acquitted and including a link to the report detailing the not guilty verdict in the case.

Mills v Cambridge News

Mr James Mills complained under Clause 1 (Accuracy) that the newspaper had published a misleading image. It had reported that it had the “first pictures” of an incident in which a man had driven his mobility scooter on an A-road. In fact, the image was of a similar incident which had taken place four years previously.

The complaint was resolved when the newspaper removed the image from the online article and appended the following note:

“The photo was obtained by us in good faith. We are grateful to readers for bringing its origin to our attention and have removed it. We are looking at our procedures for checking submitted pictures. Rachel Extance, digital editor”.

Cullen v Great Yarmouth Mercury

Ms Donna Cullen complained under Clause 5 (Intrusion into grief or shock) over an article which reported on inquest proceedings. The complainant was concerned that the newspaper had published a report in the printed edition of the newspaper despite providing an assurance to the deceased’s family that it would not do so.

While the newspaper did not accept that its article breached the Code and noted that it had apologised privately for its error, the matter was resolved when the PCC negotiated a further private letter of apology to the complainant and a donation to charity.