The Belfast Telegraph reported a woman’s claims her “obsessed former boyfriend” had harassed her, threatened to shoot her, and stalked her, causing her to get a restraining order against him.
But the Telegraph didn’t contact the former boyfriend, who denies all the claims, and didn’t even get a copy of the alleged restraining order before publication for evidence or fact checking. As it turns out, there was no restraining order issued against him. While the man wasn’t named in the Telegraph story, he said readers would know who he was because the woman was named and photographed.
As such, the man, who remains anonymous, complained to the UK press regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, over the Telegraph‘s story. IPSO noted it only investigated the newspaper’s reporting practices and not whether the woman’s claims about the man were accurate.
The newspaper didn’t have “sufficient justification” to not contact the man or get his side of the story and denials, IPSO ruled. “The complainant had not been given the opportunity to deny the allegations which had been made against him, or have his denial recorded in the article,” according to IPSO. “The newspaper had made no attempt to contact him for comment, nor had it sought to obtain corroborating evidence to support the woman’s serious claims.” Because the Telegraph only told the woman’s side of the story and not his denials, IPSO found the newspaper misled readers who would think the woman’s side was “undisputed fact.”
While the Telegraph reported the woman got a restraining order against the man, IPSO found out that the newspaper never asked for that document; IPSO learned there was no restraining order. In fact, it was an order the man signed voluntarily, which noted he didn’t admit to any of her claims and that no judge had ruled on the woman’s claims.
The article’s link goes to an error page and there is no Google cache left. iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph to ask why it didn’t contact the man for fact checking or a response, why it didn’t see the order before reporting on it, and for confirmation it unpublished the article.
The Telegraph published IPSO’s ruling against it. IPSO also flagged that the Telegraph never responded to the man’s direct complaints and also was delayed in responding to IPSO’s investigation. “Given the newspaper’s failure to correspond directly with the complainant and the delays to the process, the newspaper’s conduct during IPSO’s investigation was unacceptable,” IPSO added.
iMediaEthics has written to the Telegraph to ask why it didn’t contact the man for fact checking and a response to the woman’s claims, why it didn’t get a copy of the court order before publication, and if it will be publishing any corrections for the story.