News website accused of anti-Semitism joins press watchdog bankrolled by Max Mosley
- Dorset Eye has joined Impress, displaying the regulator’s kitemark on its website
- Critics claim website is a ‘cover to spread antisemitic hate’ after controversies
- Falsely claimed Rachel Riley worked for ‘Israeli state propaganda machine’
A news website accused of anti-Semitism has been endorsed by Britain’s only state-approved press regulator.
Dorset Eye has joined Impress and displays the regulator’s kitemark on its website as a guarantee of a ‘commitment to the principles of journalism’.
Its husband-and-wife founders Jason and Debbie Cridland claim the website is ‘Dorset’s only news outlet for the people of Dorset’ but campaigners have branded it a ‘cover to spread antisemitic hate’.
Impress was set up in 2013 with support from the campaign group Hacked Off and Mr Mosley (pictured)
Dorset Eye founders Jason and Debbie Cridland claim the website is ‘Dorset’s only news outlet for the people of Dorset’ but campaigners have branded it a ‘cover to spread antisemitic hate’
The website sparked outrage in 2019 after publishing an article which falsely claimed TV presenter Rachel Riley works for the ‘Israeli state propaganda machine’. A Labour Councillor was suspended for sharing the article on Twitter.
Impress’s decision to accept Dorset Eye as a member raises new questions about the regulator, which has been bankrolled by privacy campaigner Max Mosley’s family charity. Almost all newspapers, including The Mail on Sunday, are regulated by the Independent Press Standards Organisation, a regulator free of state control.
Two years ago, Countdown presenter Ms Riley, 35, who is Jewish, suffered a deluge of online abuse over her vocal criticism of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and her campaigning against antisemitism.
In August 2019, an article in Dorset Eye claimed Ms Riley ‘and her goons’ will be responsible for ‘another Jo Cox moment’ by calling out antisemitism in the party – a reference to the Labour MP who was murdered in 2016. ‘For a while, Rachel Riley has been working – not so clandestinely – for (or with) the Israeli state propaganda machine,’ the article erroneously claimed. ‘Whether she is paid for her hate and propaganda is not for me to say but she is quite obviously (if only to me) a fascist and an Israeli state terrorist sympathiser.’
It added: ‘At some point another Jo Cox moment will happen but this time it will not just be MPs who are at great risk. Rachel Riley and her goons will only have themselves to blame if some loose cannon stoops to another loathsome low.’
Lisa Lewis, a Labour councillor in Sherborne, Dorset, was suspended after retweeting the article, which is still available on the website.
Another article on Dorset Eye – later removed – described Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as ‘a modern day Judas’ and a ‘paid agent’ of Israel. It also warned of ‘another Kristallnacht’ – a reference to the Nazi destruction of synagogues and Jewish-owned business.
Describing the website as a ‘cover to spread antisemitic hate’, the Campaign against Antisemitism last night said: ‘It is unacceptable for a community website which purports to have a warm and fuzzy image to publish antisemitic articles.’
Members of Impress, which is officially recognised by the Government’s Press Regulation Panel, are required to abide by ‘minimum professional standards’. According to its Code of Conduct, publishers must not ‘make prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person on the basis of that person’s… race, religion… or another characteristic that makes that person vulnerable to discrimination’.
An Impress spokesman declined to say if the Dorset Eye articles had breached its Code of Conduct but said: ‘Going forward their content and newsgathering will be subject to the Impress oversight.’
Impress was set up in 2013 with support from the campaign group Hacked Off and Mr Mosley. It has only signed up small publications, with national newspapers refusing to join because they fear it risks imposing ‘state-sponsored’ regulation on the press.
The Mail on Sunday last year revealed that the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), an organisation linked to Impress, had given money to 5Pillars, a website accused of publishing conspiracy theories about terror attacks. PINF said the money would have to be repaid if Impress rules against the website.
Dorset Eye did not respond to requests for comment. An Impress spokesperson said: ‘The role of an approved press regulator is not to endorse the actions of those it regulates but to fairly and neutrally investigate and assess the newsgathering practices and content.’
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