More than 300 people complained to the UK press regulator after the Daily Star called the person who killed Parliament member Jo Cox a “Brexit nut.” That is, the person was in favor of Brexit, the term for Britain to leave the European Union (which Britain voted to do earlier this year). Jo Cox , who was pro-Remain in the EU, was killed in June after a man stabbed and shot her. Thomas Mair has been arrested and charged with her murder. His trial — for charges of murder in Cox’s case and grievous bodily harm for a bystander — is set to begin in November and will be treated as a terrorism trial, according to the Guardian.
Despite the numerous complaints, the regulator, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, ruled it was OK for the Daily Star to characterize Cox’s attacker as pro-Brexit.
The Star‘s June 17 headline was “Labour MP dead after attack by Brexit Nut.”
“Complainants said that the headline of the article was inaccurate because there was no information to suggest that the alleged attacker was a Brexit supporter, and that the attack was ‘Brexit-motivated’,” IPSO reported.
The Star argued it was fair to report the killer was pro-Brexit because witnesses heard him say “Britain first,” and Cox was pro-EU. “The newspaper believed that the attack was politically motivated and wanted to convey the alleged attacker’s ideology on the front page,” IPSO said.
IPSO noted it wasn’t agreeing that the attacker was in fact “Brexit-motivated,” but did believe that the paper did have evidence for its claim so the characterization was OK. The headline was obviously opinion, so that was fair too.
“The Committee wished to make clear that it was not making an assessment on whether Ms Cox’s alleged attacker was in fact ‘Brexit-motivated’; rather it had to decide whether the newspaper had provided a sufficient basis to characterise him in this way,” IPSO ruled. “Overall, it believed that the newspaper had provided a sufficient basis for the characterisation of the alleged attacker as a Brexit supporter considering what was known about the incident, and the political backdrop, at the time of publication; this basis was made clear in the front-page article.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Daily Star and Mair’s attorney for comment.