Decision of the Complaints Committee 14185-16 Versi v thesun.co.uk
Summary of Complaint
1. Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “SECRET I.S. SAFE Half of British Muslims would not go to cops if they knew someone with ISIS links”, published on 01 December 2016.
2. The article reported the findings of a Policy Exchange poll entitled “Unsettled Belonging: A survey of Britain’s Muslim communities”. The poll’s 3,000 participants were asked: “If you thought someone close to you was getting involved with people who supported terrorism in Syria, what would you do?”. The poll found that 52% of British Muslims would report them to the police, 26% said they would talk to the person directly, 20% said they would ‘look for help from family and friends’, and 17% said they would seek help from ‘religious community leaders’. The article reported that “almost half of British Muslims wouldn’t go to the police if someone they knew was involved with supported of terrorism in Syria”.
3. The complainant expressed concern that the headline inaccurately reported the question asked to the participants in the poll. He said that there was a fundamental difference between the statement “someone close to you” in the poll’s question, and “if they knew someone”, which was reported in the article.
4. The complainant referred to an earlier ComRes poll, Survey of Muslims in 2015, which found that 94% of respondents said that “If someone I knew from the Muslim community was planning an act of violence” they would report them to the police. The complainant said that whilst Policy Exchange report and the 2015 Survey for ComRes were not based on the same underlying data, this earlier poll provided context through which the findings of the Policy Exchange poll could be understood. He said that when compared to the findings of the 2015 poll, the Policy Exchange poll’s findings demonstrated that more Muslims would report such an individual to the police and fewer would not get involved that the broader population.
5. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code. It said that the newspaper was entitled to report on the findings of the Policy Exchange poll only, and was not required to introduce other polls into the article. It said that the Policy Exchange Poll was a survey of British Muslims only, and it did not draw comparisons between its findings, and the views of the broader population.
6. It said that the two phrases “someone close to you” and “if they knew someone” were not distinct in their meaning, and one could be substituted with the other. It did, however, offer to amend the headline to “SECRET I.S. SAFE: Nearly half of British Muslims would not go to cops if ‘someone close to them’ had ISIS links” as well as amend the first paragraph and replace ‘someone they knew’ to ‘someone close to them’. The newspaper also offered to publish a footnote on the article, which stated:
An earlier version of this article reported that a Policy Exchange poll entitled “Unsettled Belonging” found that half of British Muslims would not go to cops if they knew someone with ISIS links. To clarify, the poll found that 48% of British Muslims would not go to police, if they knew someone close to them with ISIS links, 26% would rather talk to the person directly with only 4% saying they would not get involved.
7. It also offered to publish the following online clarification, to appear on the newspaper’s homepage for 24 hours and thereafter in the Corrections section:
A headline on a story “SECRET I.S. SAFE” (1st December 2017) carried a sub-heading stating ‘Half of British Muslims would not go to cops if they knew someone with ISIS link”. After listening to concerns from the British Council of Muslims, we have amended that to “Half of British Muslims would not go to cops if someone close to them were getting involved with people who support terrorism in Syria”
8. The complainant did not accept that the footnote and clarification proposed by the newspaper adequately addressed his concerns. He said that any correction must acknowledge his position, that when compared to the findings of the 2015 poll, the Policy Exchange poll’s findings demonstrated that more Muslims would report such an individual to the police and fewer would not get involved that the broader population.
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.
Findings of the Committee
10. The Committee did not accept that the two phrases, “someone close to you” and “if they knew someone”, were interchangeable. However, in circumstances where the focus of the poll’s question related to whether or not an individual would co-operate with the police, it did not consider that the paraphrasing adopted by the article was significantly misleading. However, while the Committee did not establish a breach of the Code, it welcomed the newspaper’s offer to amend the article and publish a footnote and clarification.
11. The selection of material for publication is a matter of editorial discretion. Newspapers have the editorial freedom to make such selections provided that they do not raise breaches of the Editors’ Code. The newspaper were entitled to report on the findings of the Policy Exchange poll only. The omission of an earlier poll, which was not based on the same underlying data as the Policy Exchange poll, did not render the article significantly misleading, inaccurate, or distorted. There was no breach of Clause 1.
12. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial Action Required
Date complaint received: 15/12/2016
Date decision issued: 20/04/2017
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