16th October 2023
Impress statement on misinformation, harassment, and discrimination amid escalating conflict between Hamas and the state of Israel

Impress statement on misinformation, harassment, and discrimination amid escalating conflict between Hamas and the state of Israel.

Amid escalating violence in the Middle East, misinformation is on the rise again. It risks exacerbating cases of harassment and discrimination against both Jewish and Muslim communities, and it is the responsibility of everyone to tackle it.

Unregulated social media platforms, particularly those that have deprioritised tackling misinformation, have undoubtedly played a part, with old videos, computer game footage and doctored content allowed to circulate under the guise of breaking news, often alongside narratives that misrepresent or distort the facts. There is also a great deal of deeply disturbing but genuine material available out there that depicts the violence or the aftereffects of the violence.

It is the duty of news publishers to ensure the highest possible journalistic standards are being upheld across their news platforms, and insofar as is reasonable given how challenging the situation is, to verify material before relying upon it or republishing it.

It is not our place to tell the publications that we regulate what to cover or what partisan opinions they may hold. However, the expression of opinion must observe the requirements of the Code. News content must be obtained without harassment or intruding on grief and cannot lead to discrimination. Publishing a story because it will perform well while neglecting journalistic standards carries serious risk and can have real world consequences for innocent people.

We should all work to ensure accurate information thrives. Battling misinformation frequently feels like an uphill battle but it is the responsibility of everyone in the media to ensure it does not prevail.

Guidance for publishers

Reporting on conflict can be one of the most complex and demanding jobs for journalists and publishers.

That is why we have decided to highlight three key sections of the Impress Standards Code that should be prioritised when it comes to covering the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza.

Accuracy

Everyone can conduct fact-checking, using known and generally reliable sources and wider internet searches.

 Clause 1 of the Impress Standards Code requires publishers to take all reasonable steps possible to verify information before hitting publish.

For example, if particular claims or “evidence” originates from sources with a track record of highly partisan coverage of the issues surrounding Israel and Palestine you should apply due scepticism. That doesn’t mean that those sources are wrong, simply that you need to question the material more carefully and apply the reasonable steps test: what would be the significance of any inaccuracy, how reliable is the source, were attempts to corroborate made, what is the urgency of the story, and were attempts made to contact those who could be significantly adversely affected.

We are not here to tell publishers what should and should not be covered, nor are we going to police opinions. But opinions must be clearly separated from fact and content must be based in facts that are not distorted or misrepresented.

If you are caught out by misinformation on social media, or publish any other inaccuracies, ensure it is clearly corrected with equal prominence to the original article or post as soon as possible.

Discrimination

Impress publishers must not make prejudicial or derogatory reference to anybody based on a number of protected characteristics, including race and religion, per clause 4 of the Impress Standards Code.

Members can also breach the Code if they are found to have encouraged hatred or abuse against these groups.

In a highly divisive situation where emotions understandably run high there will be claim and counter claim expressed in inflammatory language.

Although it may be appropriate to report them and to attribute them, publishers are themselves responsible for ensuring that what they publish does not encourage abuse against any group based on their protected characteristics, including race and religion.

The same goes for opinion pieces, which must not be used as a vehicle for discrimination. Therefore, publishers must be aware that opinion pieces, and the opinions of journalists included in otherwise factual content, are captured by the Code.

Harassment

Harassment is the pursuit of a person in circumstances where the pursuer knows, or ought to know, that the individual wishes to be left alone, and is covered in clause 5 of the Impress Standards Code.

It also requires publishers to take special care when engaging with the victims of traumatic events and their families.

As per Clause 7.2 (Privacy) journalists should also be cautious to avoid making any approaches that may result in the harassment of a person suffering from grief or shock or their friends, colleagues or wider families.

FULL STANDARDS CODE

Fake news originates from people with a motive to deceive and can often deceive many ordinary people who believe it, are outraged by it, and therefore share it with others innocently. We implore everyone to recognise just because the source from which the information comes to you may be well-intentioned, that is no guarantee that the information itself is reliable.

Websites dedicated to spreading disinformation often have names chosen to suggest authenticity and reliability. If you don’t know the site that is the source of the information, you can apply journalistic principles such as checking and corroborating the source. Also look for regulated sources of news, that are accountable and subject to journalism ethics.

Members of the public and representative groups can make complaints to Impress if they are concerned a publisher has breached the Code by contacting us via our website or email: complaints@impressorg.com.

We also want to reiterate that we are here to help publishers as well. If you are concerned or confused about whether what you are about to publish would breach the Code or not, please get in touch and we can offer ethical advice; email compliance@Impressorg.com.


Media enquiries

Louie Chandler: louie@impressreg.org.uk / 02033076778

About Impress 

Impress is a champion for news that can be trusted. We are here to make sure news providers can publish with integrity; and the public can engage in an ever-changing media landscape with confidence. We set the highest regulatory standards for news, offer education to help people make informed choices and provide resolution when disputes arise.