Today, IMPRESS, the independent press regulator, published its adjudication on a complaint made by Ilford North MP Wes Streeting against The Skwawkbox blog concerning a blog published on that site earlier this year. The full adjudication can be read here: www.impress.press/downloads/file/impress-wes-streeting-and-the-skwawkbox-final-complaint-adjudication.pdf
IMPRESS concluded that: ‘The Publisher’s allegations meant that the Complainant’s reputation was potentially at stake’ and that ‘in order to take all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy, the Publisher should have offered the Complainant a reasonable opportunity to respond to the facts alleged; these facts remain in dispute and what actually happened has not been authoritatively determined.’
In upholding the complaint under 1.1 of the IMPRESS Code of Standards, ‘The Committee did not consider that contacting a party via email, after 9pm without specifying a deadline for response and then publishing less than 4 hours later, amounted to a reasonable attempt. The Committee noted it would be good journalistic practice to state the time by when a party should respond to requests for comment and to provide sufficient detail about any allegations to which a response is sought.’
‘For these reasons, the Committee found that the Publisher had not taken all reasonable steps to ensure accuracy and had breached Clause 1.1 of the IMPRESS Standards Code.’
As to the accuracy of the article, IMPRESS said it ‘was not in a position to test the veracity of the evidence provided by the Publisher, and so it was unable to conclusively determine the accuracy of the factual statements published.’
Responding to the adjudication, Wes Streeting MP said:
“I welcome this adjudication from IMPRESS, the independent press regulator, following my complaint about The Skwawkbox. Through its actions, The Skwawkbox has shown that it is not a credible source of news, but since it masquerades as such it is right that it is held to the same standards expected of more serious publications.
“I have always strongly refuted the claims made in their blog and I do not believe that The Skwawkbox ever intended to produce an accurate version of events. If they had, they would have put those allegations to me in full and they would have given me an adequate opportunity to reply. They didn’t.
“Sending an email to my office late at night and publishing a piece just four hours later, supposedly based entirely on anonymous sources, does not constitute responsible journalism and does a serious disservice to its readers.”