The new British press watchdog set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal involving newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch has given the management of The Irish News fourteen days to resolve a complaint from myself that the paper breached its Editor’s Code of Practice in its coverage of the subpoena served against the former Loyalist activist Winston ‘Winky’ Rea.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has written to The Irish News informing the newspaper that if it fails to resolve the matter to my satisfaction the IPSO can then formally consider the complaint. The IPSO can then choose to impose sanctions against The Irish News, if necessary.
The complaint arose out of a front page story written by Allison Morris claiming that ‘Winky’ Rea had told interviewers from the Boston College oral history project that he had been involved in planning the murder of Loyalist dissident, Frankie Curry and that this was one reason that PSNI detectives were seeking access to the tapes.
The Allison Morris story appeared two days before a court hearing in Belfast at which lawyers for Rea were planning to argue that the PSNI had no evidential basis for the subpoena. The Irish News’ story was picked up by at least one Sunday tabloid, The Sunday World thereby enhancing the possibility that the judge involved in the hearing could be influenced in his deliberations.
A complaint lodged with the IPSO against The Sunday World was turned down on the grounds that the newspaper is not a member of the regulatory system covered by the watchdog.
A complaint about Allison Morris’ Irish News’ article was made on two grounds. One was that the story was inaccurate and that if Morris had contacted myself, the former director of the project, she would have been told that there was no basis for her article. Morris failed to make any contact even though she has my email details.
The second ground concerned the failure of The Irish News to publish a letter from myself pointing out Morris’ failings.
The offending Irish News article is reproduced below along with my letter of complaint to the paper’s editor, Noel Doran.