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Complainant Name:
A reader

Clauses Noted: 1, 12

Publication: Daily Express

Complaint:

A reader complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined ‘Why do I have to tolerate the rantings of bigots just because they are Moslems?’ published in the Daily Express on 15th November contained inaccurate and discriminatory information about the Islamic faith in breach of both Clauses 1 (Accuracy) and 13 (Discrimination) of the Code of Practice.

The complainant expressed concerns about a number of inaccuracies and what he considered to be the discriminatory nature of the piece. He considered that the reporter had made remarks about the behaviour and attitude of Moslems that were incorrect in their generalisation, and racist in their motivation. Specifically, he said, not all Moslems support Bin Laden, beat their wives or send their children off to be married without their consent. In fact, the vast majority of Moslems are moderate.

The newspaper pointed out that the article, headed as comment, was clearly distinguished as the opinion of the columnist, in accordance with terms of the Code, and was therefore not in breach of Clause 1. It also considered that, as no reference was made to a person’s race or religion, no breach of Clause 13 was possible. The newspaper said that in reply it had published an article from a member of the Moslem Council the following week.

Decision:
Not Upheld

Adjudication:

The Commission emphasised that Clause 13 (Discrimination) relates only to named individuals and, as in the article no specific persons were subject to prejudiced or pejorative attack based upon their race or religion, did not consider that a breach of the that clause could be established. However, it took the opportunity of this adjudication to set out below some general comments regarding the reporting of religious issues.

Regarding the alleged inaccuracies, the Commission noted that the reporter made no factual claims regarding every Moslem, but rather drew attention to certain situations that she believed happened within certain Islamic societies. The entire article was presented, in accordance with the Code, as the opinion of one reporter, and did not purport to be a purely factual account of this complicated issue. Nonetheless, the Commission appreciated that the piece had aroused genuinely strong feelings from a wide range of people and was therefore pleased to note that the newspaper had published with equal prominence a direct rebuttal to the original article by a suitably informed party, a member of the Moslem Council of Britain.

The complaint was therefore not upheld.

In adjudicating on this complaint the Commission observed that the standard of most newspaper reporting about such issues was high - and, in most cases, sensitive to the feelings of minority groups. The Commission had received a number of complaints about different publications, the majority of which were about comment which the complainants understandably found distasteful but was not something that could be censured under the Code.

The Commission took this opportunity to underline some of the central provisions of the Code which need to be applied when reporting such matters. Specifically, editors must make sure that material is accurate and that comment is distinguished as such; that there is no discrimination on the grounds of race or religion against a named individual; and that when disputes of fact do arise a fair opportunity to reply is given.

Report:
56



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