The Express website breached accuracy rules by wrongly reporting pro-Scottish independence and pro-union activists had “clashed” at a march earlier this year, the UK’s largest press regulator has ruled.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation received 225 complaints about the Express.co.uk article, which said there was a “clash” between the opposing groups in both its headline and standfirst.
The article, which was published in May and removed from the website after complaints were sent in, was headlined: “Scottish nationalists clash with pro-union activists at independence march in Glasgow.”
The introduction to the article claimed: “Thousands of Scottish independence activists clashed with pro-union campaigners.”
Complainants said it was inaccurate to use the word “clash” as it suggested there had been physical violence between the two sets of demonstrators despite nothing in the body of the article supporting that claim.
They also noted that no police statement had been released suggesting there were any altercations at the march.
IPSO said many of the 225 who complained about the accuracy of the Express.co.uk story had attended the demonstration.
The Express accepted its use of the word “clash” was a significant inaccuracy, adding that it had removed the story from its website in response to complaints.
According to the IPSO ruling, the website “accepted that there was no suggestion that any form of violent confrontation took place during the SNP demonstration, and said that it was unable to explain why it had used this word”.
“The publication suggested that there may have been a clash of ideas amongst the two groups, however it accepted that this distinction was not adequately explained in the article,” the IPSO ruling went on.
The Express also offered to publish a correction on its website and re-upload the article without the word “clash” and with an amendment admitting it was inaccurate to use the term.
IPSO ruled the Express had “failed to care over the accuracy of the article”, adding that the headline was not supported by the text of the story.
The regulator said the use of the word “clash” had “given a significantly inaccurate impression that an altercation or disturbance had taken place between the two groups”.
The article was therefore found in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
IPSO did not find the website in breach of Clause 1 (ii) rules that demand news outlets promptly correct significant inaccuracies with “due prominence” and an apology where appropriate.
It also rejected complaints about a caption which said many of the demonstrators “carried a mixture of Scottish and EU flags” under a picture showing several Union Jacks and one Saltire flag featuring the stars of the European Union.
IPSO said: “The caption subject to complaint did not claim that the photograph itself depicted a ‘mixture of Scottish and EU flags’.
“Further, it was not disputed that these flags were present at the march.”
A correction published at the bottom of the republished Express.co.uk admits “there were no reports of any clashes between the demonstrators”.
“It was inaccurate for the headline and introduction to make that claim.”