Resolution statement 09371-16 Boaler v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Mr Robert Boaler complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “’Off with their heads’: Islamic extremist rapper calls for death of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and labels the Queen a ‘w****’ in vile video”, published on 1 October 2016.
2. The article reported that the complainant was an “Islamic extremist rapper” who had posted a music video online entitled “Off with their heads” which contained hateful, offensive and violent lyrics. The article reported the lyrics of the song which included, amongst others, “chat s*** get Rigby’d”; “some brehs [sic] are destined for damnation like Farage, off with his head”; and “…your Queen, the thieving w****”.
3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the publication to characterise him as an Islamic extremist because he is not a Muslim and does not support ISIS. He is a performance artist, a satirist and creator of the religion “Zebaism”. The complainant said that this video was satire and not intended to be interpreted as his calling for the beheading of the Queen or Nigel Farage. He expressed concern as to the failure of the publication to take care in correctly reporting his religious beliefs. The complainant also said that the article was discriminatory towards himself and Muslims, because it encouraged hate and fear. The complainant also noted that since the publication of the article, he had received multiple death threats and had been reported to his children’s schools and to social services, due to the allegations of Islamic extremism made by the Mail Online.
4. The publication said that it was not apparent to their reporter, nor other publications, that the contents of the video were intended to be satirical. It also said that Kent Police were investigating the content of the video which suggested that the satire was not necessarily obvious to Kent Police either. However, the publication accepted the complainant’s position that the video was intended to be satirical, and that the reporter did not have sufficient grounds to believe that the complainant was a Muslim.
Relevant Code Provisions
5. 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.
(v) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
Clause 12 (Discrimination)
(i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
(ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
6. The complaint was not resolved through correspondence between the parties. IPSO therefore began an investigation into the matter.
7. In order to resolve the complaint the publication removed the online article, offered to write a private letter of apology and to publish the following clarification in the Clarifications and Corrections column:
An article published on 1 October 2016 reported on a video made by performance artist Robert Boaler, who also calls himself Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah and runs a satirical political party. The article incorrectly interpreted the contents of the video and referred to Mr Boaler as an ‘Islamic extremist rapper’. We are happy to clarify that we have since been made aware that Mr Boaler’s material is intended to be satirical and apologise for any distress caused.
8. The complainant said that this would resolve the matter to his satisfaction.
9. 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: 01/10/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 23/02/2017
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