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‘Misleading’ article based on memo nominated for award

THE DAILY Telegraph’s original story in relation to a memo about Nicola Sturgeon, which has been described by the press regulator as “significantly misleading”, has been nominated for a British Journalism Award.

The article, based on a memo leaked by the Scotland Office with the authorisation of Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, claimed that Sturgeon had informed the French ambassador that she would prefer to see David Cameron as Prime Minister rather than Ed Miliband.

Published during the general election campaign in April, it triggered a sequence of events which resulted in a legal challenge against Carmichael’s re-election after it emerged he had lied about his involvement in leaking the memo.

In July the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) upheld a complaint against the Telegraph over its handling of the story.

IPSO ruled that the newspaper had published the memo’s contents as facts without contacting the parties involved for comment to verify their accuracy.

After it forced the newspaper to publish its adjudication in full, IPSO chief executive Matt Tee said Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code obliged the press to “take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”.

“This article was significantly misleading because the newspaper had failed to make clear that it did not know whether the account the memorandum presented was true.”

Having admitted – following a Cabinet Office investigation whose findings were announced several weeks after the election – that he had sanctioned the memo’s leak through his adviser Euan Roddin, Carmichael acknowledged that “the details of the account are not correct”.

The Press Gazette, which is involved in running the British Journalism Awards, tweeted on Wednesday that the award judges “looked at the original Telegraph reporting of the memo and the IPSO ruling and made their own minds up”.

The latest stage of the legal challenge by four constituents against Carmichael’s election is due to resume in Edinburgh on Monday.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021