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IPSO rejects DUP politician’s complaint over stories about alleged paramilitary

Alex EastonA DUP politician has had his complaint against a Sunday newspaper rejected by the press watchdog.

Alex Easton’s accuracy claim against the Belfast-based Sunday Life over a series of articles it ran has been struck out by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

The articles reported on a public grant that a charity had received for the building of a new sports facility and that a named individual, David ‘Dee’ Stitt, was involved in the charity and that he was alleged to be a former leader of the North Down Ulster Defence Association (UDA), a paramilitary group in Northern Ireland.

They further reported that Mr Easton, who is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, had written Mr Stitt a reference, in support of his application to be a member of a South Eastern Steering Group.

One of the articles quoted the reference, which read that Mr Stitt “would be an outstanding member of the steering group if selected.”

Mr Easton expressed concern that by reporting the word “outstanding” in some of the other articles in isolation, without the context of the sentence from the reference in which it appeared, the articles were misleading in their portrayal of his views on Mr Stitt.

Sunday Life did not accept the complainant’s position that he had said that Mr Stitt would make an “outstanding contribution” to the steering group.

It said that the reference, a copy of which was provided to IPSO, had said that the complainant was a “proactive member” of the community and “his work on the ground means he is well known and highly regarded right across all community sectors”, before going on to say that Mr Stitt would be an “outstanding member” of the group.

The complaint was not upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.

Other recent IPSO cases involving regional newspapers include:

Morrison v Gravesend Messenger

Janine Morrisson complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Gravesend Messenger breached Clause 4 (Intrusion into grief or shock) in an article which reported on fundraising activities which were taking place in memory of her son, Jack.

It reported that Jack’s father had “paid tribute” on a “Just Giving” page, set up in hiss memory, and included his comments.

The complainant was concerned by the inclusion of these comments in the article, which she said had caused distress to Jack’s sister because the inquest into her son’s death had heard that he was estranged from his father, who had been subject to bail conditions for allegedly assaulting Jack in the week preceding his death.

The Messenger said that it had been unaware of the relationship between the complainant’s son and his father, when it had published his comments, which it said had been contained on a public page.

It said that as soon as it had become aware of the situation, it had removed his comments from the online article and, during the course of IPSO’s investigation, offered to publish a 500 word tribute, based on statements from the complainant’s son’s eulogy.

The complaint was resoled, and the full resolution statement can be read here.

Odonnell v Lincolnshire Echo

Miss Odonnell complained that the Lincolnshire Echo breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article eported that a coffee shop in Lincoln was closed for refurbishment, and would be reopening at the start of Easter.

The complainant said that the article contained inaccurate information about her and about comments she had made about the coffee shop.

However, the Echo removed the article before IPSO made an adjudication.

The full resolution statement can be read here.

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