Decision of the Complaints Committee 01840-14 Sattar v The Sunday Telegraph
Summary of complaint
1. Saqib Sattar 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 an article headlined “Friend of murdered hostage Alan Henning defends Isil online”, published on 16 November 2014.
2. The article reported that Majid Freeman, a friend of Alan Henning, had posted messages on social media “promoting al-Qaeda and expressing sympathy for Syrian jihadist ‘martyrs’”. It said that “he is also promoting an event with the Islamic Education and Research Academy [iERA], which sends non-violent extremist preachers to speak at mosques and to Muslim audiences across Britain.”
3. The complainant said that iERA’s speakers were not “extremists”. It also said that the charity had not been contacted for comment, in advance of publication.
4. The newspaper believed that it had been entitled to refer to iERA’s speakers as “extremists”, and provided a number of quotations to substantiate its position. It said that its speakers had stated in the past that “a husband may use ‘physical force…a very light beating’ against his wife”; that “adultery is punishable by death and a slow and painful stoning”; that “apostates who ‘fight against the community’ should be punished by ‘beheading’”; that homosexuality is “obscene, filthy, shameless”; that flogging should be reintroduced as a punishment for extra-marital sex; and that Jews were “filth”. It said that, in light of these statements, it characterisation of the speakers was not inaccurate.
5. The complainant said that these quotations were misleading and were not being considered in their full context. He also said that some of the speakers quoted no longer worked for iERA, or were external speakers. The complainant said that iERA’s Chairman had made clear that in order for adultery to be proven it must be seen by four reliable witnesses. As such, it was unlikely that a person would ever actually be convicted and punished. The complainant also said that the quotation about “fighting against the community” was misleading, as the punishment for treason in many societies is death, and so the reference to beheading in this context was not extreme.
Relevant Code Provisions
6. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
i) The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement 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 for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
Findings of the Committee
7. The newspaper had explained its basis for its characterisation of iERA’s speakers as “extremists”, and the Committee did not consider that the context provided by the complainant substantively changed the nature of the quotations cited by the newspaper. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and a correction was not required in order to comply with the terms of the Code.
8. 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.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 18/11/2014
Date decision issued: 09/03/2015
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