The UK Express accused a UK doctorate student, James Ellison, of setting fires to the Calais migrant camps in France last year. But, Ellison wasn’t in Calais at the time, he told iMediaEthics. Instead, he was in London, working on his PhD thesis about Calais, he says.
The Calais fires were set in October 2016 as police prepared to shut the camps down and relocate migrants. According to Ellison, while the Express‘ original article alleged he was in Calais at the time of the fires and was involved in starting the fires, “at the time of the article I was in London writing and researching my PhD thesis, which is on the representation of violence and conflict in Calais,” he e-mailed iMediaEthics. iMediaEthics has asked Ellison for evidence. The Calais camp housed migrants from Africa, Syria and Afghanistan
The Express published an apology to Ellison for its Oct. 27, 2016 article and said in an Aug. 4 apology on its website it will pay him “substantial damages and legal costs.” Ellison told iMediaEthics his lawyers began legal action against the Express over the article and demanded the article be unpublished.
Other news outlets like the Sun and the Daily Mail published stories about Ellison and his academic research on the camp. The two outlets reported Ellison is a member of the activist group No Borders and that group was “being investigated by French police” related to the fires. iMediaEthics has contacted Ellison to fact check the claim he is a member, and we have contacted the French police to verify the claim that they had investigated No Borders.
iMediaEthics asked if Ellison had lodged complaints over those reports. “I have not begun legal proceedings against any other news outlet,” he told iMediaEthics by e-mail. “Though I would like an apology and a retraction, I don’t expect this to happen unless I begin legal proceedings.”
Regarding the Express story, Ellison said, “I feel vindicated by the apology but the stress and harm that it has caused me, as a busy PhD student, is something that I didn’t want or need.”
iMediaEthics has written to the Express to ask how the error occurred and if it contacted Ellison before publication.
In an Aug. 4 apology, the Express wrote,
“In our article ‘Tax-payer funded ‘anarchist’ PHD student ‘helped start fires at Calais migrant camp’’ published on 30 October 2016 we said that James Ellison was in Calais on around 27 October and was one of a group of individuals who conspired to commit arson by setting fire to the migrant camps in the Calais jungle.
“This was untrue. Mr Ellison had not been in Calais for several months before the fires. He had nothing at all to do with starting those fires.
“We apologise to Mr Ellison for publishing these serious falsehoods which caused him great distress. We have agreed to pay him substantial damages and legal costs.”