IPSO, the sham regulator operated by the big newspaper corporations since 2014, has never enjoyed much credibility. After all, it was set up in defiance of the reforming recommendations of the Leveson Report by press bosses openly determined to keep their freedom to lie and bully, and ever since then their papers have been breaching its code of practice with impunity almost every day.
Recent events, however, have been exposing IPSO’s failures in the starkest possible fashion.
There is no excuse for IPSO’s failure to tackle this. Press thuggery at times of great grief is nothing new: it happened after the Shoreham air disaster in 2015, it loomed large in evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in 2011-12 and it has been a serious problem going back to Hillsborough in 1989 and beyond.
IPSO’s code contains clauses that ought to deter these things, but the problem is that the code is not enforced in any meaningful way. Journalists who bully and lie to bereaved families know that while IPSO is around they will face no consequences, and sadly history shows that the Kerslake demand for change will produce nothing more than palliative words.
The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has vividly exposed IPSO’s abject failure to tackle the plague of hate speech and discrimination directed at Muslims in the national press. The chair, Yvette Cooper, revealed that although the organisation received 8,148 complaints of discrimination in one year, it upheld only one.
When IPSO’s chair, Sir Alan Moses, was challenged on the point he was reduced – revealingly – to blaming shortcomings in the code, which is written for him by a committee dominated by working editors.
Editors and senior executives of IPSO papers responsible for relentless abuse of British Muslims have since appeared before the committee, most of them adamantly and preposterously denying that any problem of Islamophobia existed in the press at all.
When it emerged that IPSO had ordered the Times to publish a correction in relation to last year’s series of ‘Muslim fostering’ articles the news at first brought relief to some observers – but then came a familiar disappointment.
Though the offending four articles had all appeared prominently on the front page, the correction was tucked away on page 2, with just a tiny reference to it at the bottom of the front page.