Friday, 24 February 2012

The Daily Mail and the "Strict Muslim" - Part 2


Quite a nasty article in the Daily Mail today entitled "'Strict Muslim' raped four women at knifepoint to 'punish them for being on the streets at night' about one "Sunny Islam" who has been jailed for a series of vicious rapes in London.

There is no evidence whatsoever that he is a "Strict" Muslim (although his family are reported as being so).

Part 1 of this post details efforts to challenge advertisers on their support for articles that appear to break PCC guidelines, whilst the post you are reading deals with a complaint to the PCC itself.
BFTF sent a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) about the story and just received a response, a few keypoints of which are detailed below. The response states the number of people who complained and BFTF notes that, aside from BFTF, three other people contacted the PCC. Collectively, the complaints to the PCC were in the following categories:

Section 1(i) - Accuracy : The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

In relation to this the PCC commented that:

"One complainant had raised concerns that the headline had included statements in quotation marks that Mr Islam was a “strict Muslim” and raped women to “punish them for being on the streets at night”, although the body of the piece had not repeated these comments or attributed them to anyone.

The Commission acknowledged the complainant’s position, but it noted that inverted commas can be used to indicate a summarized claim as well as a direct quotation.

Given that the article had included a summary of Mr Islam’s offences and the comments of Judge Lees and the defending counsel, the Commission was satisfied that readers in general would not be misled by the headline in such a way as to constitute a breach of the Code.

Discrimination - Section 12(i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

In relation to this the PCC commented that:
The complainants considered that the article had unnecessarily focused on the religion of Mr Islam instead of the acts that he committed: his religion was not genuinely relevant to the story. It was their contention that such practice was customary for the newspaper and was another example of discrimination against Muslims.

However, the clause does not cover references to groups or categories of people. Various complainants considered that the continual references to Mr Islam’s religion discriminated against the Muslim community. However, given the terms of Clause 12 do not cover references to groups or categories of people; the Commission did not establish a breach of the Code on this point.

Discrimination - Section 12(ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

In relation to this the PCC commented that:
"the Commission made clear that it would require a complaint from Mr Islam, or his personal representative, in order to establish whether he believed that the references to his religion were irrelevant. In the absence of such a complaint, the Commission could not make a ruling under Clause 12 (ii) of the Code and as such, it could not comment further on this aspect of the complaint.
In summary, the PCC stated the:
The Commission did not establish a breach of the Code.

Of the many aspects of this response that are disturbing, perhaps the most worrying is that section 12(i) can apparantly simultaneously cover "an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation. . ." and also "not cover references to groups or categories of people"

BFTF genuinely cannot reconcile those two sentences, so sent an email to the local MP asking if they could explain what it meant.

UPDATE : 03 APR 12 : Having had no response, emailed local Labour MP (again) to ask "what efforts the Labout Party is doing to stop, or at least speak out agiainst, this kind of demonising journalism that is unfair, selective and damages community cohesion."

Received response the next day saying that the issue was being looked at and that " as a result of the Levenson Enquiry, and serious concerns expressed by all political parties – including Ed Miliband – about the regulation of the UK’s media, the PCC is to be disbanded and a new regulatory body be established. The following link will take you to the draft proposal for the future structure of the system of press self-regulation: http://www.pcc.org.uk/assets/0/Draft_proposal.pdf
BFTF has read this document and does not see anything in there that provides assurance that demonising media reports will be tackled.

UPDATE : 26 JUN : Recently received a response from the local (Labour) MP, who had contacted the Home Office. The MP felt that the Home Office response had not fully addressed BFTF's concerns. The Home Offices' reply said, in part:

"We have a long and proud tradition of free speech and tolerance in the United Kingdon, which means that people are entitled to the peaceful expression of their beliefs, no matter how unpalatable they may be. However, we have to balance the right to freedom of speech with the need to prevent speech which incites others to hatred and violence"

BFTF certainly did feel that its concerns had not been addressed so sent the following to the MP:
"...my original question was "what efforts the Labout Party is doing to stop, or at least speak out agiainst, this kind of demonising journalism that is unfair, selective and damages community cohesion" and I do not believe I have received an answer to this.
What comments has the Labour leadership publically made regarding this issue?
Has any senior Labour figure stated clearly that the demonised portrayal of Muslim in the Daily Mail is not acceptable?
What proposals does the Labour Party have to ensure that inflammatory and biased media coverage - which can destroy community cohesion - will be tackled?. ."

.
UPDATE : 09 SEP : Chased up local MP again as no response received so far.

The PCC website



1 comment:

  1. Stuns me what the PCC will allow. I remember putting in a complaint about 'The Star' headline "Asylum Seekers Ate Our Donkeys' back in early noughties. You can pretty much guess the result...

    ReplyDelete