The Sun’s deliberate failure to allow Unite a defence following the paper’s recent attack on the union, and an opportunity to correct inaccuracies, has earned it a referral to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).
In its letter of complaint to the regulator, Unite highlighted a series of breaches to the code of conduct for editors within the article entitled ‘Unite and take over’, which The Sun published on 5th November.
The claims were further repeated in its editorial and on the Twitter feeds of the paper’s political team.
The union says that against the backdrop of an increasingly bitter pre-election period, it has no choice but to engage IPSO, urging it to act now to ensure newspapers operate within the code at all times.
Despite 28 mentions of Unite in the article, plus editorial and social media commentary, The Sun made no attempt whatsoever to seek a response to its allegations about the union. Unite also claims the report is littered with misleading facts and inaccuracies.
When approached by Unite for an opportunity to correct the errors, The Sun failed to respond to the requests for a right of reply.
Commenting, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Such are the lengths that The Sun will go to smear Unite that it denies the union even a basic defence. In so doing, this paper once again abuses its position in public life.
“The Sun ignored the code of conduct governing our press because the rules would have impeded this latest slur on a union representing hundreds of thousands of decent working people. It did so in a single-minded effort to undermine the elected leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband.
“As the general election draws closer, we know it will not be a fair fight such is the wealth amassed by one party and with the vast majority of the popular media in the pocket of the Conservative party.
“Against this backdrop, The Sun’s utter lack of respect for the regulator, and of the rules of accuracy and balance in our media, has serious, dangerous consequences for our democracy.
“We therefore urge the regulator to take steps now to prevent politically-motivated attacks, such as that on Unite, as we go into the bitter pre-election period.”
In its letter to the chair of IPSO, Unite states its belief that the paper violated clause 1 of the code of conduct for editors, saying:
“At no point prior to publication were we contacted about this article nor did the newspaper seek our comment despite the fact that Unite and the general secretary are mentioned a total of 28 times and that the lead editorial item of the paper questions the supposed inappropriate behaviour of the union.”
On being refused a right to reply, the complaint said: “We sought a remedy to our concerns on the morning of publication, setting out our concerns about the factual failures in the piece and questioning why we had not been approached for a comment that made serious allegations against the union; however, the paper refused to accept that we had a right to reply.
“The refusal of The Sun to either amend their inaccurate copy or supply the union with a right to reply is in clear breach of clause 1 section of the code of conduct.”