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Press watchdog throws out attempt by Welsh Tories to gag Nation.Cymru

22 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Conor Holohan during an appearance on GB News.

Emily Price

The press watchdog has backed Nation.Cymru over claims from the Welsh Conservatives that it was wrong to report on who the group had hired as its new head of comms.

Tory Chief of Staff Paul Smith went to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) after we revealed the new comms lead for the Welsh Conservatives was formerly an aide to an elected representative of a fringe party that campaigned for the abolition of the Welsh Parliament.

In an article published in January, we reported that Conor Holohan had begun working for the Welsh Conservatives around Christmas time in 2023.

He had previously worked for Mark Reckless from 2018 until 2021 – firstly as a senior researcher then as a senior advisor.

Reckless is a former UKIP MP who went on to join the Conservative Group but left in 2019 over the party’s failure to deliver Brexit.

In May 2019, Reckless made moves to form a new Brexit Party group in the Senedd but was criticised by pro-devolution Brexit Party volunteers when he suggested that he would support the campaign to abolish the Senedd.

He then left and joined the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.

On LinkedIn, Holohan confirms he worked in two different roles for Reckless until he was made redundant when Reckless lost his seat.

Prior to publishing our story, we approached the Welsh Conservatives for a comment on their new hire’s previous links to the controversial party.

Threat

The Tory Chief of Staff declined to comment and threatened to report Nation.Cymru to the press watchdog, claiming we were in breach of the Editors’ Code of Conduct.

We felt Mr Smith displayed a lack of knowledge of the Code and was attempting to use it without basis in order to block our reporting of a key internal appointment by the Welsh Conservatives.

Shortly after our story was published, Mr Smith reported Nation.Cymru to IPSO claiming that we had breached Clause 1 of the Code (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy).

Mr Smith alleged that it was inaccurate for us to report that Holohan was a former Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party staffer because he did not work for the party – but worked for Reckless.

However, IPSO said it “didn’t consider the article to be inaccurate or misleading” as it made clear that Holohan started working for Reckless in 2018, and it was later than 2019 by the time he joined the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party.

Mr Smith also said that including details of an Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party press release which had been sent by Holohan in 2021 misleadingly suggested that he had supported the content published.

However, IPSO said it did not consider the article to be misleading or inaccurate on this point because Holohan had indeed issued a press release with the wording set out in the article.

The Tory Chief of Staff also complained that it was inaccurate to report that Holohan’s Linkedin confirmed he worked for Reckless in two different roles.

However, IPSO said that Holohan’s LinkedIn made clear that he worked for Reckless as a Senior Researcher from 2018 to 2019. And, in his complaint Mr Smith subsequently confirmed to IPSO that Holohan worked for Reckless as a Senior Advisor from 2019 to 2021.

Mr Smith also complained that we had reported that Holohan had previously ran the hard right blog Bubble Wales alongside the former UKIP official Crispin John who was found to have stolen equipment worth almost £2,000 from the Senedd.

The Tory Chief of Staff claimed that it was misleading to print this because Holohan had no involvement in illegal activities.

IPSO found the article was not misleading in the manner suggested by Mr Smith because Nation.Cymru did not state that Holohan was involved in any criminal activities.

Privacy

Mr Smith also complained that the article breached Clause 2 (Privacy) because it was intrusive into Holohan’s private life.

The press regulator said that Holohan did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy because his employment history could be easily accessed via his public LinkedIn page.

Rejecting the complaint in its entirety, IPSO said: “When IPSO receives a complaint, the Executive staff review it first to decide whether the complaint falls within our remit, and whether it raises a possible breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

“We have read the complaint carefully, and have decided that it does not raise a possible breach of the Editors’ Code.”


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mike hedges
mike hedges
1 month ago

It is right for a news publication to publish news. If any of us working in politics and paid out of the public purse are criticized we have to take it, not like it but accept it.

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Interesting. Gagging the press that report facts. That is the Tory mo and what the Cons have hired.

OK. BAU then.

The tory party have the usual rags and comedy shows backing them, Mail, Telegraph, Times, GBeebies atc. but do not like a light shone on their goings on outside those awful news outlets.

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
1 month ago

Well done!
You must be doing something right if you’ve p***** off the Tories!!

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago

Nice to know that the complaint was thrown out in its entirity. Also good for NC in publishing those details. We do need to know who is working against the interests of Cymru so that we can counter them.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

My thoughts exactly, irrespective of party, we have every eight to know the sort of people those we elect employ.

cablestreet
cablestreet
1 month ago

Keep up the good work!

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

I may not agree with everything you publish but keep printing it. I always have access to the comments section to pitch my own alternatives. Always good to hear that it pays to expose some cad who claims the high ground. Do one on those lobbyists who are becoming a real plague here in Wales.

Richard E
Richard E
1 month ago

“ Quis custodiet ipos custodes “ ✔️

We need to be our guardian of the guardians ✔️

Nation Cymru 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 is a bright light 💡 of truth in an ever darkening media world 🌎

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

I’ve always maintained that freedom of speech depends entirely on what it is you have to say. The owners of the new ‘Free (hate) speech’ phenomenon do not want YOU having YOURS. This is a monumental victory over dictators. If NC was to be ‘gagged’, then GBeebies should be shut down and banned. If we’re doing free speech, we’re ALL doing it. The exposure of filth must continue.

Huw Evans
Huw Evans
1 month ago

I am familiar with the IPSO code and any serious look at it will tell you that the complaint was wholly misconceived – which in turn begs a question about why it was brought and why it was thought there were grounds to support it. One further thing, even if there had been a suggestion of breach of privacy, the code permits intrusion in circumstances where it is in the public interest and the intrusion is proportionate. It didn’t get that far as there was no finding of breach of privacy – but if it had, I am pretty confident… Read more »

Ianto
Ianto
1 month ago

The extreme right never have liked scrutiny. Just look at Putin.

Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
1 month ago

The man works for a political party and has published his recent work history on LinkedIn. If he doesn’t want his professional life and those he works with to be published in a media outlet, then he shouldn’t be work in politics. He’s made his bed and now he must lie in it!

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