UK Press Standards Org won’t examine The Times of London’s Magnitsky lies since complaint not made by family

By Lucy Komisar
Feb 2, 2020

What does a self-proclaimed “independent” media regulator do in the UK when one of its member newspapers prints fabrications?

Commentary in The Times of London that includes numerous fabrications. For more about that article, go here.

The Times of London ran a lying commentary calling for a UK Magnitsky Law, ie a law that allows the government to charge and punish targeted individuals in selected, ie. “enemy,” countries without charges, evidence or due process. This is now called human rights law.

I sent a complaint to the UK Independent Press Standards Organisation about the article. I said the IPSO code had been breached on grounds of accuracy. It’s a code standard.

According to its self-description, “IPSO is the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry. We exist to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors‘ Code of Practice has been breached. We are able to consider concerns about editorial content in newspapers and magazines, and about the conduct of journalists.

IPSO is supposed to keep UK media honest. Its members are the media, which makes this self-regulation.

Complaint, Oct 25, 2019

From: Lucy Komisar
Sent: 25 October 2019 23:40

Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #08334-19#]

Your complaint
Type of complaint: Material published in print and/or online
Date story was published: 10/24/2019 4:00:00 AM
Publication: The Times (News UK)
Publication has been contacted?: No

Publication headlines: Headline: The time has come for Britain’s long-overdue Magnitsky law. URL: law-6hgh6xttf

How the Code has been breached.
The clause breached was Accuracy. This op ed article is based on egregiously fake facts. See this story and the links for the evidence. I have sent it to the authors. They should retract the story.

Oct 28, 2019

Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #08334-19#]
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2019 13:11:28 +0000
From: Todd Stammers <>
To: LK@
CC: IPSO No-Reply <>

Dear Ms Komisar,

I write further to your recent email. I would be grateful if you could explain your connection to the article. Are you complaining as a concerned member of the public? Also, I note that you have provided a link which you say disputes the article. However, IPSO considers each complaint on its own individual merits, and does require complainants to briefly explain, in their own words, why the article is inaccurate. This is important so that we can be sure we have understood your complaint fully. 

Therefore I would be grateful if you could highlight exactly which phrases of the article you believe to be inaccurate, and what the correct position is. 

I look forward to hearing from you, within the next seven days. 
With best wishes,

Todd Stammers
Systems Handler

IPSO response Nov 8, 2019 (LK: I have boldfaced key parts)

Dear Ms Komisar,

I write further to our earlier email regarding your complaint about an article headlined “The time has come for Britain‘s long-overdue Magnitsky law” published by on 24 October 2019.

On receipt of a complaint, IPSO‘s Executive staff reviews it to ensure that the issues raised fall within our remit, and represent a possible breach of the Editors‘ Code of Practice. The Executive has now completed an assessment of your complaint.

You said that this article was inaccurate in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) because it referred to him as a lawyer when he was in fact an accountant. You also stated that the year he was hired was incorrectly stated as well as the fact he was beaten while in custody.

IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors‘ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we do need to consider the position of the party most closely involved.

In this case, we decided that the alleged inaccuracy related directly to Sergei Magnitsky. In order to make a decision on whether the Code was breached, it appears IPSO may need to make findings on his personal life and his experience when he was in custody. To do this, we would require the involvement of an individual with first-hand knowledge of him; you did not appear to be in a position to provide this information.

In addition, any ruling by IPSO on this matter would result in the publication of information about Mr Magnitsky, which might not be appropriate without the consent of his family. In these circumstances, we considered that it would not be appropriate to investigate and publicly rule on your complaint without the input of somebody who knew him. Because of this, we declined to consider your complaint further. For clarity, this does not affect the ability of a direct representative such as a family member to make a complaint on this point.

You are entitled to request that the Executive‘s decision not to take forward your complaint be reviewed by IPSO‘s Complaints Committee. To do so you will need to write to us in the next seven days, setting out the reasons why you believe the decision should be reviewed. Please note that we are unable to accept requests for review made seven days after the date of this email. We would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider the points you have raised.

Best wishes,

Darryl Garvey
Complaints Officer

My response Nov 24, 2019

From: Lucy Komisar
Sent: 24 November 2019 16:48
To: Darryl Garvey <>
Subject: part of my response: the Spiegel tells the truth about Browder hoax

My response to you will include this information, but perhaps you would like to review it now and reconsider your decision.

Der Spiegel has just printed a major story proving that William Browder is a fraud and his Magnitsky story a fake. It’s the first major Browder-debunking story by a mainstream western media.

Story in German is attached.

Story in English has beginning, but rest is behind paywall   [note, paywall was since dropped]

But I have a translation of spiegel story here (right arrow to p2 and 3) and same in attached jpgs. That translation doesn’t include the German lead:

Story Without a Hero
by Benjamin Bidder


When the US imposes sanctions for human rights violations, they invoke the case of one prisoner allegedly murdered in Russia. They are based on the reports of the investor Bill Browder. Is the West taken in by a fraud?

(that lead is correct in the German but milder in Spiegel’s online English translation below)

The case of Magnitsky
How true is the history on which US sanctions against Russia are based?

 Exclusively for subscribers

With his statements on the death of a whistleblower Bill Browder brought the Americans against Putin. But his portrayal is full of contradictions. By Benjamin Bidder

My response Nov 26, 2019

Subject: Re: Response to your rejection of complaint about fabrications repeating the Browder hoax printed in The Times
Date: Tue, 26 Nov 2019 17:00:18 -0500
From: Lucy Komisar
To: Darryl Garvey   Der Spiegel has just linked to the Browder story in English:

To the Independent Press Standards Organization:

I find your response to my complaint about the falsity of The Times opinion article by Ben Brandon and Alex Bailin, repeating William Browder‘s fabrications about his accountant Sergei Magnitsky, bizarre to say the least.

First you challenge my right as a third party to make the complaint, suggesting that only Magnitsky‘s family could do so. Either you don‘t understand the article The Times published, or you are deliberately misunderstanding it.

It is na¯ve to think that the article is a personal story about Magnitsky. On the contrary, it fits with a campaign promoted by William Browder which has had an outsized impact on western foreign policy, particularly promoting a new cold war against Russia. That endangers and affects me.

The article repeats Browder‘s lies that Magnitsky was his lawyer (no, accountant), that he hired him to investigate a 2007 tax fraud (no, hired in 1997 to handle his taxes), that he uncovered Russian embezzlement (no, he didn‘t), that he was beaten to death (no, he wasn‘t). All of this is to build a wall against Russia collecting on $100 million in evaded taxes and illicit stock buys.

If you examine the report just published by Der Spiegel in Germany, you will find proof of Browder‘s fabrications. (Link plus German and English translations attached.) I have analyzed the key elements of the Spiegel story here:

Magnitsky claimed none of the fabrications written by Brandon and Bailin and shown to be fake by Der Spiegel, so he cannot be blamed for them. They were invented by Browder after Magnitsky’s death.

It is a red herring to say this is a personal matter affecting the family of Sergei Magnitsky, who has unfortunately been used to promote William Browder‘s self-serving fabrications. It makes no sense to require a complainant to have first hand knowledge about him (he died in 2009), as this is not about him, it is about Browder‘s lies.

You have no need to investigate Magnitsky‘s personal life and custody. The relevant investigation has been done by the Moscow Public Oversight Commission and been widely publicized, including on Browder‘s own website, and filed as evidence in U.S. Federal Court in New York. I have attached the report filed in U.S. court.

You say you could not rule on my complaint without talking to someone who knew Magnitsky. As I said, this is not about Magnitsky, it is about Browder. According to your standards, no one can challenge a story about a public figure without talking to their family members. That is patently absurd. Don’t your newspaper members believe that provable facts count?

You also should be concerned about the members of the general public who want their newspapers to print the truth but are forced to endure lies, such as the Browder hoax.

You say you are “the independent regulator of most of the UK‘s newspapers and magazines.” You claim, “We hold newspapers and magazines to account for their actions, protect individual rights, uphold high standards of journalism and help to maintain freedom of expression for the press.”

High standards of journalism should include truth-telling. I therefore request that you review your rejection of this complaint.

Nov 27, 2019

From: Lucy Komisar
Sent: 27 November 2019 15:22
To: Darryl Garvey <>
Subject: Re: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #08334-19#]

to make it easier for your reviewers, I have put the information from the first complaint into the appeal document. Attached.

Lucy Komisar

IPSO response Nov 27, 2019

Subject: RE: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #08334-19#]
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2019 15:26:09 +0000
From: Darryl Garvey <>
To: Lucy Komisar

Good Afternoon Ms Komisar,

Thank you for your email.

I can confirm that your complaint will be reviewed by the IPSO Complaints Committee on the grounds you have set out in your email below.

We shall be back in touch again in due course to convey its findings.

Kind regards, 
Darryl Garvey

Gate House
1 Farringdon Street
Tel: 0300 123 2220

IPSO is the independent regulator of the newspaper and magazine industry. We exist to promote and uphold the highest professional standards of journalism in the UK, and to support members of the public in seeking redress where they believe that the Editors’ Code of Practice has been breached. We are able to consider concerns about editorial content in newspapers and magazines, and about the conduct of journalists.

Jan 7, 2020 Here is the final decision, which adds to the you are not family argument that I, as a journalist writing stories published in the U.S. and linking to documentary proof filed in U.S. federal court, could not possibly discover the truth about the Magnitsky story. My comments in boldface.

Subject: Independent Press Standards Organisation – Our reference [IPSO: #08334-19#]
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 11:38:50 +0000
From: Sean Sutherland <>
To: LK@
CC: IPSO No-Reply <>

Dear Ms Komisar,

The Complaints Committee has considered your complaint, the email of 8 November from IPSO‘s Executive notifying you of its view that your complaint did not raise a possible breach of the Code, and your email of 26 November requesting a review of the Executive‘s decision.The Committee agreed the following decision:

The Committee notes that you are not in a position to dispute the article‘s version of events.

Untrue. Having investigated the story since 2016, I‘m in a better position than IPSO to do it.

The Committee notes that the life and death of Mr Magnitskiy has been subject to widespread discussion and coverage. The Committee notes that The European Court of Human Rights found, in a unanimous judgment, that accounts of beating were “credible” and, that Russia was found to have breached the right to life and the prohibition of torture with regard to Mr Magnitskiy‘s treatment in prison.

That is a distortion. Alas, the Magnitsky story has been subject to widespread Browder disinformation. And nowhere in the European Court decision does it says Magnitsky was tortured. Do a search of the decision.

Magnitsky who died of pancreatitis and related diseases had bruises on his wrists and ankles. “The Court considers that the injuries could have arguably been received as a result of beatings by prison officers.” 

Could have” is not a usual basis for a court decision. Such bruises of course, based on accepted autopsy reports, could not have caused his death. And there is no evidence they were inflicted by prison officers.

But they became the reason for a Court finding that “Taking into account the intentional character of the ill-treatment (not proved), the nature of the injuries (bruises) and the level of suffering (obviously from illness) to which [Magnitsky] was subjected, the Court finds that the act of violence in question amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The other place the Court uses the word credible is that his arrest was justified because of “credible” evidence that he intended to leave Russia. IPSO doesn‘t mention that.

The Committee decided that you were not in a position to either provide information which could contradict the findings of that Court or allow the Executive to effectively investigate the other issues in your complaint and ascertain the correct position.

Without examining the evidence I supplied, and which has been published in U.S. media articles that Browder has never challenged, IPSO is in not in a position to make a judgment about my ability as a journalist to find the truth.

For these reasons, and the reasons already provided by IPSO‘s Executive, the Committee declined to pursue your complaint. As such, it declined to re-open your complaint.

The Committee would like to thank you for giving it the opportunity to consider your concerns. 

Best wishes,

Sean Sutherland
Complaints and Arbitration Officer

Therefore, the Complaints Committee confirms the IPSO finding that British media can lie all they want without fear of censure from this allegedly independent regulator as long as their articles do not offend the individuals they write about. The media is secure in the knowledge that the IPSO Executive of an organization enforcing media standards, when provided with extensive documentation, apparently does not have the capacity to check out evidence of fabrications.

Truth and the public be damned.

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