Ruling

Resolution Statement 04021-18 The Muslim Council of Britain v thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      16th August 2018

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Resolution Statement 04021-18 The Muslim Council of Britain v thesun.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) 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 “RASHER DECISION Tory candidate suspended for suggesting ‘people hang bacon to protect homes from terrorism’”, published on 21 May 2018.

2. The article reported that a Conservative Party council candidate had been suspended for suggesting that people hang bacon from their front doors “to protect your house from terrorism”. The article explained that this was an incident recorded in a dossier compiled by the complainant, who had called for Theresa May to launch an independent inquiry in the Islamophobia in her party. The article stated that:

“The sometimes controversial MCB claims to be the largest Muslim body in the UK, but a recent poll by ICM found that only 2 percent of British Muslims believe the MCV represents them”.

3. The complainant said that the ICM poll has asked respondents “if you needed to engage or influence local or government officials, how do you prefer to do this?". It said that 20% of respondents selected “A Muslim organisation”. The complainant said that this 20% of respondents were then asked “which Muslim organisation would you choose to help engage with government officials on your behalf?". 9% of these respondents selected the MCB. The complainant said that the 2% claim in the article, was a result derived from these two poll responses.

4. The complainant said it would be legitimate to use the poll to claim that 2% of British Muslims would use the MCB to engage or influence local or government officials. However, he said it was inaccurate and unjustifiable to infer from these responses that 2 per cent of British Muslims believe that the MCB represents them. The complainant noted that a 2015 Comres poll found that 55% of respondents believed "The Muslim Council of Britain does a good job representing the views of Muslims”, and a 2015 ICM poll for found that 51% of respondents agreed that the "Muslim Council of Britain represents your views".

5. The publication denied that its article was inaccurate. It said that there was no meaningful distinction between seeking “representation” and looking for an organisation to “engage with government officials on your behalf”. It noted that other publications had interpreted the poll in the same way as it had, and said that there was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, and that the article did not contain any significantly inaccurate or misleading statements, which would require correction under Clause 1 (ii). The publication said it was open to resolving the matter, although it said it would not simply amend the article so that it reflected favourably on the complainant. In direct correspondence with the complainant, it offered to amend the article to say “…but a recent report by the Policy Exchange think tank found that the MCB enjoys only minimal support from British Muslims”, and to publish a footnote saying that the ICM poll specifically found that only 2 per cent of British Muslims would choose the MCB to engage with government officials on their behalf.

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.

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.

Mediated outcome

7. The complaint was not resolved through direct correspondence between the parties.

8. During IPSO’s investigation of the complaint, the publication said that it would be willing to amend the relevant part of the online article to “…but a recent report by ICM found that only 2% of British Muslims would choose to use the MCB to engage with government officials on their behalf”. It also offered to publish the following wording, as a footnote to the article:

A previous version of this article reported that a recent poll by ICM found that only 2 per cent of British Muslims believe that the MCB represents them. In fact, the ICM poll specifically found that only 2 per cent of British Muslims would choose the MCB to engage with government officials on their behalf; the article has been amended to correct any possible confusion. The MCB has asked us to make clear that it is an affiliate-body, that does not act on behalf of individuals, making the ICM poll less relevant. In addition, it has asked us to record that in a 2015 Comres poll for the BBC, 55% of respondents believed "The Muslim Council of Britain does a good job representing the views of Muslims”, and in a 2015 ICM poll for Channel 4, 51% of respondents agreed that the "Muslim Council of Britain represents your views".

9. The complainant accepted the publication’s offer of resolution, and the Complaints Committee did not make a determination as to whether there had been any breach of the Code.

Date complaint received: 16/06/2018

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 19/07/2018