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IPSO finds against The Sun on discriminatory Rod Liddle column

In a decision published today, IPSO upheld a complaint that the Rod Liddle column published by The Sun on Dec 11th 2014 in relation to Emily Brothers was in breach of the Editors’ Code.

This is the first complaint IPSO has considered from a representative group. Under new rules, IPSO may consider such a complaint ‘where an alleged breach of the Editors' Code is significant and there is substantial public interest in the Regulator considering the complaint from a representative group affected by the alleged breach’.

Trans Media Watch, acting with the consent of Ms Brothers, had complained to IPSO that the newspaper had breached Clause 12 (Discrimination) and Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the column on Dec 11th 2014 and in a further column on Jan 15th 2015. The IPSO Complaints Committee found that the initial article was discriminatory and therefore unacceptable under the terms of the code. It did not uphold further complaints under Clause 12 and Clause 3 on the second column.

The Committee required the newspaper to publish the ruling upholding the complaint in full on the same page as the column, which it did in today’s edition (Thursday 28th May) and online.

Matt Tee, Chief Executive of IPSO said: “The Editors’ Code is clear that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

After a lengthy investigation, our Complaints Committee ruled that the column belittled Ms Brothers, her gender identity and her disability, mocking her for no other reason than these perceived ‘differences’. Regardless of the columnist’s intentions, this was not a matter of taste but was discriminatory and unacceptable under the Code. Humour, even in bad taste, is acceptable but discrimination directed at an individual is not.”

Matt Tee added: “It is important that IPSO, when dealing with complaints that have generated significant public or group interest, lays out a clear account of our process and findings. We hope this will be useful not only to complainants, but also for journalists and editors seeking guidance on the Editors’ Code.”