Decision of the Complaints Committee 03193-16 Versi v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Mother of four stabbed to death while her family were at a funeral ‘may have been murdered in Islamic honour killing’”, published on 25 May 2016.
2. The article reported that a woman had been found dead in her home and the police were investigating the circumstances of her death.
3. The complainant said that the reference in the headline to an “Islamic honour killing” was inaccurate: “honour killings” have no basis in Islam. He noted the difference between the words “Islamic”, meaning relating to Islam as a faith, and “Muslim” meaning relating to a Muslim individual. He said that “honour killings” are rooted in culture, not religion.
4. The publication did not believe that the headline was inaccurate, and noted that the possibility that the woman had been murdered in an “honour killing” was not in dispute. It said that the phrase complained of had been used to indicate that the killing may have been related to the religion of those concerned. The publication did not accept that the phrase “Islamic honour killing” would have suggested to readers that “honour killings” are approved of by Islam. It said that the article was not an in-depth discussion of “honour killings”, and the phrase had just been used a shorthand reference to the religion of the individuals involved. It noted that “honour killings” are particularly prevalent in Muslim countries.
5. Nonetheless, the publication offered to remove the word “Islamic” from the headline and from the article, and to publish the following footnote:
An earlier version of this article said that the police were investigating whether Mrs Khan may have been murdered in an ‘Islamic honour killing’. We are happy to make clear Islam as a religion does not support so-called ‘honour killings’.
6. The complainant declined to resolve his complaint on the basis of the publication’s offer, and asked that the Committee adjudicate.
Relevant Code provisions
7. 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.
Findings of the Committee
8. The phrase “Islamic honour killing” suggested that the killing had been motivated by Islam, when there was no basis for saying that religion had played a role in this killing. The Committee did not accept the publication’s explanation that, in this context, “Islamic” had simply referred to the religion of those involved. There was a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, in breach of Clause 1 (i).
9. The publication had offered to remove the word “Islamic” from the article, and append an explanatory footnote. This footnote stated the original error, and made clear the correct position. It was offered in the publication’s first response to IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, which was sufficiently prompt. Further, the placement constituted due prominence under the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii).
10. The complaint was upheld under Clause 1 (Accuracy).
Remedial action required
11. The publication had already offered to amend the article and publish a footnote. In light of the Committee’s findings on the matter, these actions should now be taken without delay.
Date complaint received:
Date decision issued: 18/07/2016
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