Resolution Statement 00420-19 Lewisham Islamic Centre v The Daily Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Lewisham Islamic Centre complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Daily Telegraph breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice in an article headlined "Mosque with 'extremist links runs Scout troop" published on 19 January 2019.
2. The article reported that a scout group run from Lewisham Islamic Centre was "being investigated by police" after an investigation by the publication linked it to an "Islamic extremist". The article went on to report that the Scout Association had "raised the alarm" after the publication found that Lewisham Islamic Centre "segregated groups by gender despite the scouts' commitment to mixed sex groups". The article went on to report that Lewisham Islamic Centre did not respond to a request for comment.
3. The article was also published in much the same format online under the headline "Police called in after Scout group run from mosque is linked to Islamic extremist and Holocaust denier" published on 18 January 2019.
4. The complainant said that the article was inaccurate. It said that Lewisham Islamic Centre had not been suspended by the scouts for extremism fears as alleged. The complainant said that the suspension was due to an administrative error with a member of staff and not due to links to extremism; the member of staff received correspondence from the Scout Association which confirmed this. It said that the article inaccurately claimed that the mosque and the mosque's scout group was under investigation by the police, when there had been no police investigation and the mosque had not been contacted by the police.
5. The complainant also said that the article inaccurately reported that the centre had broken scout rules by segregating its groups by gender. It said that two of its three age groups were totally mixed and the other group, the 10.5 to 14 age group, was also mixed but carried out activities separately. The complainant denied that it enforced segregation and emphasised that this was not against scout rules or regulations as suggested in the article.
6. The newspaper did not accept that it had breached the Code. It said that it had investigated all the allegations included in the article: that the mosque had extremist links and that the mosque segregated its groups by gender. It said that it had passed both these concerns to the Scout Association and received a statement from the Scout Association confirming receipt of the allegations. It said that this statement confirmed that it had launched an internal investigation and reported the allegations to the Metropolitan Police.
7. The newspaper said that the article did not report that the mosque was being investigated by the police, it reported that the mosque's scout group was being investigated. The publication said that after it reported the allegations arising from its investigation to the Scout Association, it received a letter from the Scout Association confirming that it had reported the scout group to the police. It emphasised that the police would inevitably make preliminary investigations and this was not misleading and the article did not report that the police had contacted the mosque. The publication said that it would be willing to correct its position if the complainant could provide any information which contradicted the information it received from the Scout Association.
8. The publication said that it was not inaccurate to report that the mosque segregated its groups by gender; by the mosque's own admission it segregated its oldest age group. Further, the publication emphasised that the article did not report that segregation was against scout rules, it reported that groups were segregated despite the Scout Association's "commitment to mixed sex groups" and referenced the scout's member resources.
Relevant Code Provisions
9. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.
iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
10. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
11. During IPSO's investigation, the publication offered to publish a correction on page 2 in print in its usual corrections and clarification column. The publication offered the following wording:
Lewisham Islamic Centre
A 19 Jan article reported that police were investigating claims that a Scout group hosted by the Lewisham Islamic Centre had extremist links. We now understand that the Lewisham Islamic Centre was not subject to any police investigation. Further, we reported that the Lewisham Islamic Centre segregates its scout groups by gender. It denies that it enforces segregation and we accept that segregating children is not against the Scouts Association’s rules. We are happy to make these points clear and apologise for any contrary impression.
12. The publication also offered to amend the wording of the online headline to read "Scout leader suspended after Scout group run from mosque is linked to Islamic extremist and Holocaust denier". It also offered to publish a correction with the online article and offered the following wording:
CORRECTION: This article originally reported that police were investigating claims that a Scout group hosted by the Lewisham Islamic Centre (LIC) had extremist links. We now understand that the Lewisham Islamic Centre was not subject to any police investigation. Further, we reported that the LIC segregates its scout groups by gender. The centre denies that it enforces segregation and we accept that segregating children is not against the Scouts Association’s rules. We are happy to make these points clear and apologise for any contrary impression.
13. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to its satisfaction. The correction was published online by the Telegraph, and in the print edition by the Daily Telegraph on 07 June 2019.
14. As the complaint was successfully mediated, the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.
Date complaint received: 20/01/2019
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 05/06/2019
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