Decision of the Complaints Committee 16191-17 Syed v Mail Online
Summary of complaint
1. Moussa Syed complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “White van driver injures at least 10 people after ploughing into a crowd outside London’s Finsbury Park mosque where hate cleric Abu Hamza once preached as Muslims finish their evening prayers”, published on 19 June 2017.
2. The article reported a breaking news story, that worshipers leaving a mosque in Finsbury Park had been hit by a van.
3. The complainant said that the attack did not take place outside Finsbury Park Mosque, it took place at a different mosque, which was not connected to Abu Hamza. He said that the reference to Abu Hamza in the headline carried an implication that the attack was justifiable.
4. The publication said that it did not intend to cause any distress or upset by reporting on the tragic incident. It said that the article was a breaking news story, of which it had received information from several reputable news agencies, late at night, that the attack had taken place outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, believed to be Finsbury Park Mosque. It said that there was initial confusion as the two buildings are very close in proximity, and worshipers had been leaving both buildings at the time. It said that as soon as it was informed that the attack had occurred outside the Muslim Welfare House, it amended the headline and article to make this clear. Furthermore, the publication said that the link between Abu Hamza and Finsbury Park Mosque is well-documented and in reporting this, it did not intend to imply that the attack was in any way justified.
5. The publication said that the version of the article
under complaint remained online for only 22 minutes before being
amended, and that it had also added the following clarification as a footnote
to the article:
“An earlier version of this article bore a headline which
stated the victims had been attacked outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, where
Abu Hamza once preached. This was based on initial reports from reputable news
agencies, although it has since been clarified that the attack took place
closer to the nearby Muslim Welfare House. It is also the case, as we made
clear in a subsequent article, that in recent years the Mosque has become known
as a beacon for community relations and that the Abu Hamza connection is
therefore purely historical. We are happy to make this clear, and apologise for
any contrary impression given”.
Relevant Code provisions
6. 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
7. The article reported on a significant breaking news story which had occurred overnight, and there was initial uncertainty as to where the attack had taken place. Other news agencies had reported that the attack had taken place outside Finsbury Park Mosque, and the publication was of the reasonable belief that this was accurate, at the time. The publication had taken sufficient care to ensure the accuracy of this information. Furthermore, there were two mosques in Finsbury Park which were within close proximity, and worshipers had been leaving both buildings at the time. It was not known which mosque the attacker was intending to target, and, as such, the Committee did not consider that the reference to Finsbury Park Mosque was significantly misleading. Nevertheless, as soon as the publication was made aware that the attack had in fact taken place outside the Muslim Welfare House it promptly amended the headline and the article to reflect this, and added a footnote to the article to make this amendment clear. The version of the article under complaint remained online for only 22 minutes. While the Committee did not establish a breach of Clause 1, it welcomed the publication’s clarification on this point.
8. Abu Hamza was the former imam of Finsbury Park Mosque who
had been convicted of terrorism related offences. The publication was entitled
to report the connection between Abu Hamza and Finsbury Park Mosque and the
Committee did not consider that the article was inaccurate on this point. There
was no breach of Clause 1.
9. The complaint was not upheld.
Remedial action required
Date complaint received: 19/06/2017
Date decision issued: 13/10/2017
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