PCC: FT's reference to Stelios as Greek was not racist

Easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has failed in a bid to argue via the Press Complaints Commission that a Financial Times article about him was racist.

But the PCC did rule that the article contained a ‘significant error’and said that the FT‘s published apology was sufficient remedy.

The May 2011 Lombard column stated: ‘Stelios’s disgruntlement with EasyJet’s ‘absurd’ failure to pay a dividend for 11 years is curious, given that he was the chairman until 2009.”

The FT’s correction stated: ‘On May 11, I wrongly stated that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou had remained chairman of EasyJet until 2009. In fact, he stepped down in 2002. His criticism of the lack of dividends from the company should be seen in that context. EasyJet has never paid a dividend, so my reference to ‘resumed’ payments scheduled for next year was, strictly, inaccurate. Apologies.”

The headline for the piece had made reference to a “Greek chorus” and the article referred to Stelios as a ‘greek entrepreneur”.

Stelios said that to refer to him as Greek was inaccurate, as he was a British citizen by birth and held dual UK and Cypriot nationality. He also argued that the article had referred to his race prejudicially in breach of Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code because it was irrelevant to the story and that the FT had sought to portray him as an ‘untrustworthy foreigner”.

He did however accept that he had referred to himself as Greek for ‘convenience”.

The PCC noted that Selios was born in Greece and that this was ‘part of is public persona”. It said: ‘Such brief references to a public figure’s background, in a descriptive article about him, were not irrelevant.”

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