My name is Jonathan Coulter, and I need you to help me fund a legal challenge to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) over its irrational and unfair response to a complaint against two newspapers (The Times and Sunday Times), which had both grossly misreported a public meeting held in the House of Lords in October 2016.
The aim of the meeting was to launch a campaign to persuade the British Government to make an apology over the historical repercussions of the Balfour Declaration (of 1917) on the Palestinian people. In three articles, the newspapers wholly misrepresented the entire meeting as a sort of anti-Semitic ‘hate-fest’, and set the tone for other media reports. Thirty attendees including myself complained to IPSO. The Hacked Off campaign is supporting us in this challenge.
The Court has already granted permission for us to proceed with a Judicial Review (JR) challenging IPSO's response to our complaint.
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Winning this case will have two important outcomes:
(a) It will strike a blow for freedom of speech in the UK, emboldening politicians to speak up in favour of a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Few will currently do this because they fear being smeared in the media as anti-Semitic when all they are doing is arguing against the policies of the Israeli government and those who support it.
(b) It will assist the campaign, led by Hacked Off, for radical reform of the system of press regulation, including the implementation of the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry, the purpose of which was to protect ordinary people from cruel and unethical treatment by the press, while at the same time safeguarding freedom of expression. This will be the first Judicial Review of IPSO.
How much is being raised and why?
I have already made a lot of progress, and the case must now proceed to a formal hearing. Henceforth, legal fees and court costs rise steeply, and could reach £60,000 or more. I cannot expose my family to such a crippling financial burden, and need crowdfunding. In order to take on the case, I require an initial fund of £20,000.
This is a strong campaign because it rests on two separate pillars, the “Leveson pillar” which brings together those who feel that IPSO is a sham and an affront to fair process, and that it acts against the public interest by protecting newspaper owners from any accountability, and the “Palestinian pillar" which seeks to uphold our right to unfettered debate about Israel and Palestine.
IPSO was founded by leading newspapers groups to succeed the Press Complaints Commission as a 'self-regulatory body' in the aftermath of the Leveson Inquiry, but it fails to meet the requirements that Leveson laid down.
The complaints process was entirely unsatisfactory. IPSO upheld just one aspect of our complaint against The Times, but allowed it to get away with an acknowledgement tucked away where no-one would notice. It did not uphold our main criticism, one of total distortion, and it completely exonerated the Sunday Times for an article by Rod Liddle that seriously misrepresented the Chairperson (Baroness Tonge). IPSO failed to consider a thorough House of Lords report that dismissed all the accusations that the meeting “had brought the House into disrepute”.
The Hacked Off Campaign, which seeks to expose IPSO as a sham regulator, agrees that the IPSO rulings were so biased as to be irrational and unfair. Counsel then advised me that if I went for a judicial review my case would have strong merits. I have done this, and the Court has now granted permission to proceed on the basis of three legal grounds argued in my application.
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