(Irish Mail on Sunday image above not related to story below)
(18 Aug 2010)
The Press Ombudsman has decided not to uphold a complaint made by Mr Evert Bopp that an article published in the Irish Mail on Sunday about a charitable organization with which he was associated breached the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals.
Mr Bopp complained that the article breached Principle 1 (Truth and Accuracy), Principle 2 (Distinguishing Fact and Comment), Principle 3 (Fairness and Honesty), Principle 4 (Respect for Rights), Principle 5 (Privacy), Principle 8 (Prejudice) and Principle 9 (Children) of the Code of Practice.
The article was about a charitable organization, Haiti Connect, with which the complainant was involved. The charity raised money in Ireland to install wi-fi networks in Haiti. Mr Bopp was contacted by the newspaper in advance of the article being published, and the material published was based on his response and on material that he had posted on Twitter and Facebook and on his personal blog.
Mr Bopp complained that the article was a misrepresentation of the truth, that it was a sensationalist and misleading story, and that details he supplied to the newspaper in advance of the article being published were ignored. He also complained about a number of particular statements in the article.
In relation to the particular statements complained of, Mr Bopp complained that the article accused him and the other volunteers of using money donated to the charity to stop for a holiday in Florida on their way to Haiti. However, while the article reported on the stop-off in Florida, it did not accuse the organizers of using the charity’s money to make the stop.
Mr Bopp complained that the article stated that the organizers stayed in “luxury accommodation”. The article did not state this, but its description of the accommodation was based on information that Mr Bopp had posted on Twitter.
Mr Bopp complained about references to a number of things that he and his colleagues did during their stay in Haiti, but this material was also based on postings made by Mr Bopp either on Facebook or on Twitter.
Mr Bopp complained about references in the article to a number of judgements made against him, but this information was on the public record, and therefore publicly available.
Mr Bopp complained about the accuracy of comments in the article about a wi-fi contract tender for which he had submitted a proposal, but there was no evidence that the material published was inaccurate.
Mr Bopp complained that it was not made clear in the article that €250,000 was a fundraising target for the full twelve months of the project, and that, while the actual funds raised were only €4,000, this figure was used up to pay for the tickets and insurance for the volunteers and himself, and all the other costs had been paid for out of his personal funds. While it did not mention the fundraising target for the full twelve months, the article correctly quoted Mr Bopp as stating that the organization raised €4,000, and published the fact that he personally had to pay for the trip from his own pocket to cover the expenses, which cost him over €7,000.
Mr Bopp complained about the publication of photographs of himself and volunteers from Haiti Connect. While he stated that he had asked the newspaper to seek written permission from him to use any images provided, the newspaper stated that the images published were taken from either Facebook or Twitter accounts which were on public settings.
Having very carefully considered the general complaint made by Mr Bopp, and his specific complaints about a number of particular statements in the article, there was no evidence to suggest that the article, although it was undeniably unfavourable to the complainant and his organization, was significantly misleading, distorted or inaccurate. The material published was taken, in the main, from information that the complainant voluntarily put into the public domain through Twitter and Facebook, from information that he supplied to the newspaper, and from material that was on the public record. The complaints under Principles 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are therefore not upheld.
No evidence was submitted, and there was no evidence to suggest, that the article breached Principle 8 or Principle 9 of the Code of Practice.