UPDATE (5.25pm 27/09/17): The Canary has updated its article to include a claim that the BBC did not respond to a request for comment before the article was published. In a clarification posted at the bottom of the article, The Canary says: “This article was updated at 4.50pm on Wednesday 27 September after the BBC informed us that Kuenssberg would not be speaking at the CSJ event, and the CSJ confirmed this. This article did not state that Kuenssberg would be speaking at the event, merely that she had been invited and if she were to accept that it would raise concerns about the impartiality of the BBC.”
The BBC has said political editor Laura Kuenssberg is not speaking at the Conservative Party conference next week after left-leaning news website The Canary said she was listed as a speaker.
The article, headlined: “We need to talk about Laura Kuenssberg. She’s listed as a speaker at the Tory Party conference”, was published today.
In it The Canary said: “BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg is listed as an ‘invited speaker’ at the Conservative Party conference. And the news raises questions about the impartiality of the journalist and her organisation. Again.”
The article includes a flyer for a conference fringe event hosted by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a think tank established by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith MP, which lists Kuenssberg as an invited speaker.
In response to the article being posted on Twitter, the account for the BBC News press team responded: “@bbclaurak is not speaking at this @csjthinktank event. At Labour & Conservative conferences to report impartially for @BBCNews.”
Buzzfeed UK’s political editor Jim Waterson tweeted: “It took me two mins to call the event organiser and find out this is bollocks. She’s not speaking at Tory conference. Already going viral regardless.”
Another Twitter user, Arieh Kovler, said: “It’s completely standard to invite people and then list them as (invited) on party conference fringe ads. Standard, misleading and annoying.”
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband hit out at The Canary article in a tweet that referenced Jeremy Corbyn’s party conference speech today in which he said abuse would not be tolerated
Said Miliband: “Its clear she isn’t speaking. Jeremy said today we don’t tolerate abuse. Can you now withdraw/delete/correct.”
In a comment piece, Newstatesman deputy editor Helen Lewis said The Canary was “running a sexist hate campaign against Laura Kuenssberg for clicks”.
Press Gazette has left queries with the CSJ and The Canary but has yet to hear back from either.
The Canary joined alternative press regulator Impress in August. If it is found to have breached the regulator’s standards code it could be forced to publish a correction.
Impress told Press Gazette it had received 21 complaints about The Canary article so far. Complaints can be escalated to Impress, if unresolved by the publisher, after 21 working days.
In fact the paper had gone to print before the tragedy, which happened late in the evening, and it did run with news of the Manchester atrocity in the second edition of the paper.
Kuenssberg has been in the news this week after it was reported that she had been assigned a bodyguard to cover the Labour Party conference following online threats.
The BBC’s political editor has received online abuse, particularly from supporters of Corbyn’s Labour, over claims her reporting is biased.
Although the complaint was upheld on accuracy grounds, the Trust found no evidence of bias.