A disabled politician branded the new press regulator “ineffective”, “self-serving” and a “sham” this week as it celebrated its first year.
Emily Brothers (pictured) played a key role in a protest outside the offices of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), organised by the pressure group HackedOff.
She was one of 15 “victims of press abuse” who sent an open letter to IPSO, describing it as a “cosmetically altered version of the discredited PCC [Press Complaints Commission]”.
They said that IPSO was – in each of their cases – “either biased in favour of the newspaper or failed to follow due process”, and had refused to provide a right of appeal or to take “effective steps to change newspaper conduct”.
Brothers and the other signatories of the letter added: “We have no confidence in this sham body, which is controlled by the newspapers that have appointed their own ‘industry representatives’ to sit in judgment on their compliance with their own ‘editors’ code’.”
IPSO was set up by large newspaper groups in the wake of the Leveson Report into press standards.
HackedOff says IPSO was set up by the groups – which do not include the Guardian, the Independent or the Financial Times – to avoid implementing Lord Leveson’s recommendations.
It says that IPSO was “based at the same offices as the PCC, with the same staff, the same founding directors, and the same company number”, while its appointment process was “controlled by the industry who wielded a veto over any members”.
In May, IPSO told the Sun newspaper that it was guilty of “discriminatory” and “unacceptable” behaviour when it printed a column mocking Brothers’ disabled, transgender status.
She is believed to have been the first blind woman to stand for parliament and also the first candidate with a trans-sexual history to stand for Labour in a parliamentary election, when she fought the Sutton and Cheam seat in May.
Although the tabloid was forced to publish the IPSO adjudication in full, it was not ordered to apologise to her.
Brothers said: “It is extraordinary that the press think they can get away with changing the name of the PCC to IPSO in the Yellow Pages and carrying on just as they have before.
“The experiences of people like me, attacked in the press in a way that was offensive to everybody with a disability and transgender background, with IPSO totally unwilling and unable to provide meaningful remedy, shows just how ineffective and self-serving the sham new regulator IPSO really is.
“Victims like myself and other members of the public cannot possibly have any confidence in IPSO or any regulator until it meets Leveson’s very simple tests for independence and effectiveness.”
Another of those who sent the letter was Linda Pearson, a grandmother from Yorkshire, who was appalled by the way IPSO treated her complaint about an article in the Daily Star.
She had described on a hospital website how weight-loss surgery had transformed her life, after not being able to get in and out of the bath for 20 years because of her weight.
But the newspaper twisted this into a headline that called her a “Grubby gran” who “hadn’t washed for 20 years”.
When she complained, the newspaper simply amended its story and published a correction and apology “where no one would notice it”.
HackedOff also mentioned IPSO’s failure to take action over reports – including in the Daily Mail – that the BBC wanted to recruit a disabled weather presenter, when in fact it had just set up a free short training course in weather presenting for disabled people.
It also pointed to IPSO’s failure to act over a story in the Mirror that said young women were being denied IVF treatment “so equality targets on disabled and gay couples can be met”.
In fact, entitlement to IVF had been restricted, not denied, and the focus was on helping older women, with no targets for gay or disabled people.