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Newspaper failed to take care over accuracy, rules IPSO

IPSO_logo_newA man who claimed a weekly newspaper erroneously implied he was in the mafia has had his complaint to the press regulator upheld on other grounds.

David Hanks complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Ayrshire Post breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined ‘Tied up in a Thai racket’.

The article reported that the complainant, along with co-defendant Alexander Matusov, was currently in custody and due to stand trial in Thailand on charges of racketeering.

It also reported that two years ago, a court had heard that the complainant had been a “henchman” for Drew Noyes, who had been accused of running a “protection racket” and had subsequently been jailed, and was said to have organised a meeting between “Noyes and a businessman he tried to blackmail”.

Mr Hanks said that the article included a number of inaccuracies, saying he had never been in custody and his co-defendant was Alexander Komandorskiy, rather than Alexander Matusov as reported.

He further claimed this inaccuracy erroneously implied that he had a connection to the mafia, adding there had been no reference in the Noyes case to any mafia.

While the complaint was ongoing, Mr Hanks was cleared of all charges.

The Echo said that, at the time of publication, it believed the article to be accurate and did not consider that the erroneous reference to the complainant’s being held in custody and the inaccuracy regarding the name of his co-defendant represented significant inaccuracies in circumstances where the complainant had been charged with a serious crime.

Nonetheless, it offered to publish a follow-up story, on page two of a future edition, noting that the complainant had not been remanded in custody, and that all charges against him had subsequently been dismissed. This would also correct the name of his co-defendant.

A reference to the article would be published on the front page of the relevant edition, directing readers to the page of the article. The newspaper provided the complainant and the Committee with a draft wording for this article.

IPSO found the Echo had not been able to demonstrate that it had taken care over the accuracy of its report with regard to the reference to his being in custody and name of the complainant’s co-defendant.

These elements were central claims about the nature and status of the proceedings, and the newspaper could have verified these details.

The article had not made any further alleged link between the complainant and the mafia; there was therefore nothing for the Committee to consider on this point. There was also no breach of Clause 2.

The complaint was upheld under, Clause 1 (i) and IPSO welcomed the Post’s suggestion that it publish a accurate follow-up article.

The full adjudication can be read here.