The Times has been censured by the press regulator over an “inaccurate” story claiming the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly operated as a “personal fiefdom”.
It is the fourth time the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has upheld a complaint against The Times since it was launched in September 2014.
The complaint was brought on behalf of OSCE PA secretary general Spencer Oliver over the 1 June 2015 story headlined: “Fifa isn’t the only fiefdom to cast its shadow”.
The column by Matt Ridley noted that Oliver has been in the job for 22 years, made reference to “the limos and tax-free, Danish-diplomatic status that go with the job” and said that “he seems intent on influencing the choice of his successor”.
The introduction to the piece said that a number of “supranational quangos… become the personal fiefdoms of their presidents or directors-general, and to sink into lethargy or corruption, followed by brazen defiance when challenged”.
The Times said the evidence for the piece came from a confidential source, which it was obliged to protect under Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code.
The IPSO adjudication, published on page 14 of The Times today, said The Times had “relied on this source without taking additional steps to investigate or corroborate the information on which the article’s characterisation was based”.
IPSO said it was inaccurate to say Oliver had access to limos in his role and “the reference to his tax free status misleadingly suggested he paid no tax when in fact he paid full taxes in the US”.
IPSO said: “The length of Mr Oliver’s tenure and his ability to ‘fend off challenges’ were not sufficient alone to justify the very serious allegation that the OSCE PA, under Mr Oliver’s leadership, had ‘sunk’ into ‘lethargy or corruption’.”
The complaint under clause one (accuracy) was upheld. IPSO also found The Times failed to offer Oliver a sufficient correction or clarification.