The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) is facing renewed attacks from campaigners who have labelled it a “sham body” which is “controlled by the newspapers” it regulates.
In a letter to the Guardian organised by campaign group Hacked Off, 11 people including a blind transgender woman who was allegedly victimised by the Sun and a woman wrongly accused of not washing for 20 years claimed Ipso had failed to address their complaints appropriately or follow its own rules.
“We all hoped for fair treatment but in every case – even where a complaint was upheld – Ipso was either biased in favour of the newspaper or failed to follow due process,” says the letter. “There is no appeal against Ipso’s decisions, and not even an independent review of their complaints process.”
“We have no confidence in this sham body, which is controlled by the newspapers which have appointed their own ‘industry representatives’ to sit in judgment on their compliance with their own ‘editors’ code’.”
Though a number of the signatories to the letter had their complaints upheld, they say Ipso failed to force appropriate responses such as prominent corrections.
Ipso was founded on 8 September last year following the Leveson inquiry into the press spurred by the revelations of phone hacking at the News of the World. In total, 1,503 print publications and 1,165 online publication across 85 publishers have signed up to Ipso, including Sun and Times publisher News UK, the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Trinity Mirror. However, the Guardian, Independent and Financial Times have not joined.
The letter continues: “The victims of continuing abuse by newspapers, and the people of this country, deserve better. Our experience is yet more reason why the Leveson reforms should be implemented in full.”
As part of a campaign timed to coincide with the one year anniversary of Ipso’s founding, Hacked Off is also launching a cinema ad saying the regulator lacks independence.
An Ipso spokesperson said its investigation process was “robust and fair”.
The spokesperson added: “A number of the signatories of the letter did in fact have their complaints upheld and adjudications / corrections published. Where this was not the case, it was generally because the complaints were made on behalf of a third party and therefore fell outside of Ipso’s clearly defined remit or were thoroughly investigated and found not to breach the Editor’s Code.”
Since launching Ipso has received complaints about more than 2,000 articles. However, almost 800 of those have fallen outside its remit because they appeared in publications who have not joined the regulator. Of the more than 200 complaints Ipso has ruled on, just 48 have been upheld and more than 160 have been dismissed.
Ipso has said it will not seek recognition under a royal charter, which was set up by the government in 2013 following the Leveson inquiry into the press. On Saturday, Hacked Off released a YouGov poll claiming 66% of the population have little or no confidence in a regulator that does not follow Leveson’s recommendations.
A rival regulator, Impress, is expected to seek recognition later this year. If it is successful, it will trigger rules that mean publishers who are not signed up could face “exemplary” damages in libel cases.