The article reported that the complainant had been accused by the South African authorities of “spreading racial hatred” and her passport had been confiscated. It said that the complainant had had a “dramatic week” as she had collapsed in the street, and had taken ketamine to treat a shoulder dislocation. The article was promoted online with the headline “Katie Hopkins banned from leaving South Africa after taking ketamine”.
The complainant said that the headline used to promote the article online was inaccurate: she had not been banned from leaving South Africa because she had taken ketamine. In fact, she had been stopped from leaving the country for spreading racial hatred. The inaccuracy was significant because it suggested that she had been stopped by the authorities for taking a drug which is often misused for illegal purposes in the UK. She noted that the article to which the headline linked stated the correct position; however, she considered that most people would not have clicked through to that article, and would have been left with a significantly misleading impression of the reasons for her detention.
The newspaper did not consider that the headline used to promote the article online represented a significant inaccuracy. It said that the temporary ban had been imposed after the complainant had taken ketamine, and the main article headline and content had clearly reported this.
In light of the concerns raised, however, the newspaper amended the headline to read “Katie Hopkins banned from leaving South Africa for ‘spreading racial hatred’, and it added the following subheading beneath the headline to the actual article:
A previous version of this article suggested that Katie Hopkins was stopped from leaving South Africa because of the consumption of Ketamine. We are happy to clarify that Ms Hopkins was detained for spreading racial hatred, which took place after the Ketamine incident.
The complainant did not accept the amendments as a resolution to her complaint. She considered that it would not correct the misleading impression given to the millions of people who had been misinformed by the original headline.
Findings of the Committee
The complainant had been detained in South Africa for spreading racial hatred, not for taking ketamine. The Committee did not accept that the word “after” in the promotional headline made clear that it was referring to the chronology of events, rather than to causality. While the article itself stated the correct position, the promotional headline had given the significantly misleading impression that the reason for the detention had been the consumption of ketamine. This headline was not supported by the text. This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i).
On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper had amended the inaccurate headline so that it made clear that the complainant had been detained for spreading racial hatred. During IPSO’s investigation, it also published a corrective note at the top of the article itself, which identified the inaccuracy and made clear the reasons for the complainant’s detention. This was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii).
The complaint was upheld.
Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required. The newspaper had corrected the inaccuracy and had published a corrective note at the top of the article, which made clear the true position regarding the complainant’s detention in South Africa. No further action was required.
The publication subsequently complained to the Independent Complaints Reviewer about the process followed by IPSO in handling this complaint. The Independent Complaints Reviewer decided that the process was not flawed and did not uphold the request for review.