· Decision of the Complaints Committee 00870-15 Hussain v The Sunday Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Mohammed Hussain complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, on behalf of the iERA, that The Sunday Telegraph had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in two articles headlined “The rising tide of anti-Semitism” and “How the Muslim brotherhood fits into a network of extremism”, published on 25 January 2015 and 8 February 2015 respectively.
2. The first article reported that there was increasing concern about anti-Semitic attacks in Jewish communities in Britain, following the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. It mentioned that some of iERA’s speakers have expressed strong anti-Semitic sentiments in the past. The article of 8 February was a report of the presence in Britain of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliate organisations, and noted that iERA is based in the same building as a number of Islamic organisations which the article claimed are linked with the Brotherhood.
3. In relation to both articles under complaint, the complainant said that iERA’s speakers were not “extremist”, as claimed. With regard to the 25 January article, the complainant said that the charity’s founder, Abdurraheem Green, had previously clarified the events surrounding his request that a Jewish man be “removed from his sight” when talking at Speakers’ Corner: the comment had been aimed at a habitual heckler in a highly charged forum; it was not meant to be anti-Semitic. The complainant also said that Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Quick, whom the article said had called all Jews “filth”, was not an iERA speaker. The complainant was further concerned that iERA had not been contacted for comment, prior to publication, nor had it been given a fair opportunity to reply, in breach of Clause 2.
4. The newspaper said that individuals who hold the kind of views expressed by iERA’s staff and participating speakers should not be surprised that other people might legitimately describe those opinions as “extremist”. It noted that the iERA had brought two previous substantively similar complaints against the same newspaper. In both of those cases, the Committee had found that the references to iERA’s speakers being “extremist” was not a breach of the Code, including in light of Mr Green’s later clarification regarding his comment at Speakers’ Corner. The complainant had not denied the other references to Mr Green, namely that he had said that the “Jewish homeland is a ‘myth’ and British public opinion is ‘totally hostage to the Zionist-controlled media.’” Mr Quick had spoken at iERA’s conference in 2011; the newspaper did not accept the complainant’s position that Mr Quick was not an iERA speaker.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading comment or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
Clause 2 (Opportunity to reply)
A fair opportunity to rely to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
Findings of the Committee
6. The Committee had previously found that the newspaper was entitled to characterise iERA’s speakers as “extremist”. In the articles now under complaint the newspaper had presented the information in the same way as before, and no new information had been provided by the complainant which would require the Committee to consider revising its position. Further, Mr Quick had previously spoken at an iERA event, and it was not disputed that he had called all Jews “filth”. The article under complaint was a report on growing anti-Semitism in the UK, and the reference to Mr Quick was one of a number of references to iERA speakers (past and present) making anti-Semitic remarks; those other references were not under dispute. The Committee expressed some concern about the inclusion of Mr Quick’s remarks in the article, given that he had not spoken at an iERA event since 2011. Nonetheless, in the context of this article, the reference was not significantly inaccurate such that it required correction; there was no breach of Clause 1.
7. The terms of Clause 2 are engaged in circumstances where inaccuracies have been established. As that was not the case on this occasion, there was no breach of Clause 2.
8. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 25/02/2015Date decision issued: 22/05/2015 Back to ruling listing