Clauses Noted: 1, 12
Publication: Evening Standard
Mr Roy Bishko, Chairman of Tie Rack, complained that a piece headlined "Silken tongued, but tied up on the rack" in the Evening Standard on 3 June 1997 contained a number of alleged inaccuracies in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy), confused comment, conjecture and fact in breach of Clause 3 (Comment, conjecture and fact) and included details of his religion in breach of Clause 15 (Discrimination) of the Code of Practice.
The piece was a profile of the complainant based on the named writer's interview with him which the Commission understood had been edited for publication.
The complainant said the piece painted a distorted picture of him. He said he was not "silken tongued" or "on the rack". The gift he had made the reporter of two ties was not a "bribe" He also objected that the piece contained a reference to his religion which was not relevant to the story, in breach of Clause 15.
The newspaper believed it was legitimate to point out the complainant's background as a Jewish South African, as biographical details of successful entrepreneurs were relevant and interesting to readers. The piece made clear this was something the complainant and the writer had discussed openly. The reference to the "bribe" was a tongue-in-cheek joke which was in line with the tenor of the whole piece. Phrases "silken tongued" and "on the rack" were intended as puns. The piece was also flattering about the success of the complainant's company. They apologised if the piece had upset the complainant.
The Commission noted that the piece was clearly presented as a profile of the complainant, written from the named writer's point of view in a humorous manner. It also noted that the newspaper had apologised to the complainant for any upset to him. It did not consider that readers would take the reference to a bribe literally although it recognised that some people would question the tastefulness of the piece as a whole. The complaints under Clauses 1 and 3 were rejected.
The Commission disagreed that the complainant's religion had any relevance to this short piece. In the particular context of the reference to "bribe" and "silken tongued", no matter how tongue-in-cheek these were intended to be, the description of the complainant's religion could be construed as pejorative.
The complaint under Clause 15 was upheld.
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