Decision of the Complaints Committee 15165-17 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 “Archbishop of Canterbury says Islam should ‘take responsibility’ for the London Bridge attack just as Christianity should for killing Muslims”, published on 5 June 2017.
2. The article was based on a recent radio interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. The sub-headline of the article reported that the Archbishop had said that leaders of all faiths must “take responsibility for countering the religious justification for atrocities committed in their name.” The article went on to report that in the wake of the London Bridge terror attack, the Archbishop had said it was unhelpful to state that “this is nothing to do with Islam” and had drawn on past events from his own religion, Christianity, to show the need for religious leaders to counter the justification for atrocities committed in the name of their religion.
3. The complainant said that the headline of the article was inaccurate and not supported by the text. He said that there was a marked difference between the Archbishop’s comments that religious leaders should take responsibility for countering the religious justification for terrorist attacks, and the suggestion that he had called for Islam to take responsibility for the London Bridge attack itself.
4. The publication said that the headline was an accurate representation of the comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The publication said that the headline was an interpretation of the interview as a whole, and stated that as a third party the complainant was not in a position to contest the meaning behind the Archbishop’s comments. The publication said that the first sub-headline of the article accurately reported Justin Welby’s direct quotation that “faith leaders must counter religious justification for atrocities,” and maintained that the headline was balanced, as it made reference to both Christianity and Islam.
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, and-where appropriate- an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.
Findings of the Committee
6. The use of the term “take responsibility” in the headline of the article was ambiguous. However, the first sub-headline clarified the basis for the use of the term, stating that the Archbishop had said “faith leaders must counter religious justification for atrocities.” The article also went on to report further comments made by the Archbishop of Canterbury during the discussion, which focused on the responsibility of faith leaders in the aftermath of terrorist attacks. Where the meaning behind the use of the term “take responsibility” in the headline was ambiguous, but the article, including the sub-headline, clarified that the Archbishop had been referring to religious leaders taking responsibility for “countering the religious justification” for terrorist attacks, the headline was not inaccurate and was supported by the text. There was no breach of Clause 1.
7. The complaint was not upheld
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 17/06/2017
Date decision issued: 30/08/2017
Back to ruling listing