Ruling

Resolution statement 09372-16 Boaler v thesun.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      20th April 2017

    • Outcome

      Resolved - IPSO mediation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 12 Discrimination

Resolution statement 09372-16 Boaler v thesun.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Mr Robert Boaler complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that thesun.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “OFF HIS HEAD: White Muslim convert who rapped about beheading the QUEEN is being probed by police”, published on 10 October 2016.

2. The article reported that the complainant was a “white Muslim convert” and an “ISIS-supporting rapper” who had posted a music video online entitled “Off With Their Heads”. 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****”. The article also reported that the police had confirmed that they were reviewing the content of the video.

3. The complainant said that it was inaccurate for the publication to characterise him as a White Muslim convert and an ISIS supporting rapper 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 thesun.co.uk.

4. The publication said that the reporter had watched several videos posted by the complainant in which he was wearing Islamic dress, using Islamic terminology and carrying an ISIS style flag. It said that it was not apparent that these videos were satirical and the assumption was made that the complainant was a Muslim convert.

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.

Mediated outcome

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 a private letter of apology for any distress caused and offered to publish the following correction on thesun.co.uk home page for 24 hours and thereafter in the Corrections section:

In a story, “OFF HIS HEAD White Muslim convert who rapped about beheading the QUEEN is being probed by police” (10th October), we incorrectly stated that performance artist Robert Boaler, whose professional name is Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah, was a White Muslim convert. We are happy to clarify that he is not and that his performances are meant to be satirical.

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: 14/10/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 14/02/2017