IPSO rejects 'No More Page Three' complaint over opinion piece saying campaign wanted to 'ban boobs'

The phrase "ban boobs" would not materially mislead a newspaper's readers about the aims of the campaign to end the publication of Page 3 pictures in The Sun newspaper, the Independent Press Standards Organisation has held.

The decision came as the watchdog rejected a complaint from Brenna Aston that the Belfast Telegraph breached Clause 1 of the Editors' Code of Practice, covering accuracy, in an article headlined "Sisters making a boob by bullying us into equality" published in print and online on 19 December last year.

The article, an opinion piece commenting on modern feminism, referred to the No More Page 3 campaign, and said its supporters wanted to "ban boobs" from The Sun newspaper.

It included a brief section of lyrics from a song it said was released by the campaign, with the writer commenting that such songs were not an effective way to promote feminism.

Aston said the article was inaccurate – No More Page 3 did not want to "ban" page 3, but lobbied for the voluntary removal of the feature.

Also, the song lyrics in the article were not those of the 2014 Christmas campaign song, as stated, but from a different song written in support of the campaign.

The newspaper did not accept that the article was significantly inaccurate and declined to amend it.

The issue of whether No More Page 3 wanted to "ban" the feature was a matter of semantics, it said, adding that the organisation strenuously campaigned for its removal, and that its founder had been quoted as saying "we can't have naked women in a newspaper".

The campaign was clearly calling for an executive decision to remove – that is, ban – pictures of naked women, it said.

The newspaper accepted that the article's author mistakenly quoted lyrics from a 2013, rather than 2014, campaign song, but noted that the songs were highly similar in style, content and purpose.

IPSO's complaints committee said the article, a comment piece addressing what the writer perceived to be failings in the feminist movement, included a brief reference to the aims of No More Page 3, a campaign against publication of photographs of topless models in The Sun newspaper.

The term "ban" was a sensitive one, carrying implications for the suppression of freedom of expression, the committee said.

But it was satisfied that as a passing reference in the context of the comment piece under complaint, the phrase "ban boobs" would not materially mislead readers as to the aims of No More Page 3.

It was unfortunate that the brief section of lyrics included were not those of 2014 song Now's The Time, but came from another song, written in support of the campaign.

But given the context, and the fact that the aims of the two songs were similar, the error did not constitute a significant inaccuracy meriting correction – IPSO said.

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