Ruling

13692-16 Anwar v Sunday Mirror, Daily Mirror & Mirror.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      6th July 2017

    • Outcome

      No breach - after investigation

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy, 2 Privacy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 13692-16 Anwar v Sunday Mirror; Anwar v Daily Mirror; Anwar v Mirror.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Marc Anwar complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that the Sunday Mirror, Daily Mirror and Mirror.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in articles headlined: “Corrie star sacked over racist rant”, published on 25 September 2016; “Cops probe Corrie star’s racist rant”, published on 27 September 2016; “Axed Coronation Street actor Marc Anwar makes shocking claim about ITV bosses following racism scandal”, published on 1 October 2016; “Corrie star: I’m scapegoat” published on 27 November 2016.

2. The articles reported that the complainant, an actor, had been dismissed from his role on Coronation Street following comments he had posted on Twitter. In particular, the first article set out (in a screenshot) the following four tweets, which it described as a “racist attack on Indian people”:

i. “F***ing #indians killing our #kashmir brothers and sisters, beygairth #NawazSharif still sucking #modi Lul!

ii. Why would anyone want to follow silly me, so boring

iii. Ban #india movies in #PakistanisLeaveIndia. B*****ds p**s drinking #c**ts

iv. Why the F***k do #pakistaniartists want work in #f***face #india, do you love money so much”

3. In reporting these tweets, the newspaper had published reaction to them from his former employers and anti-racism campaigners. The third and fourth articles reported comments made by the complainant, apparently criticising the decision to dismiss him.

4. The 1 October article was published online only. The remaining articles appeared online in substantially the same form as in print.

5. The complainant said that the manner in which the tweets were presented was misleading, as they were taken out of context. Those who read the tweets – his 98 followers on Twitter – would have understood that these were not racist comments or attacks on Indian people generally. The complainant explained that his first tweet was intended as criticism of the Indian army killing Muslims in Kashmir, and the Prime Minister of Pakistan who, he believed, was failing to properly raise the issue of the persecution of Muslims with his Indian counterpart. His third and fourth tweets referred specifically to concerns about certain extreme anti-Muslim/anti-Pakistan individuals within the television and film industry in India, as well as to calls to ban Pakistani TV dramas in India.

6. The complainant was also concerned that the third and fourth articles claimed he had referred to ITV bosses having an “agenda” and said that he had been made a “scapegoat”. He said that this was misleading, as these claims had been manufactured from comments he had made, on Twitter and in a text message exchange with the journalist, which had been taken out of context.

7. In relation to the “agenda” claim, the complainant had been sent a message on Twitter which read “Hey Marc was gutted when you written out of Corrie, you have said sorry and should have been enough”, to which he had replied “Thank you…but sorry is never enough for those that have personal agenda, I have no personal agenda. Peace”.

8. In relation to the “scapegoat claim”, the complainant said that this was lifted from two messages he had sent to the journalist, after publication, and nine days apart. In the first he had said “ITV did what they did, to protect their brand. Absolutely fine. I was dispensable.” In the second he had said “I believe a number of wrongs took place and made scape goat of a Pakistani born Muslim”. He denied that this meant that ITV had made him a scapegoat and said that, instead, he had been referring to those who had subsequently criticised him on social media.

9. The complainant said that his tweets had been sent to a closed group of 98 of his followers on Twitter (although he accepted that he had subsequently made those tweets public, by removing privacy settings on his account). Given the limited audience, he said that publication of the tweets intruded into his privacy, in breach of Clause 2. He also complained that publication of material taken from his exchange with the journalist was intrusive: he said that it was clear that this was a private and confidential exchange, entered into with a view to arranging a meeting, and was not for publication.

10. The newspaper did not accept any breach of the Code. It said that there was a public interest in reporting the complainant’s comments on Twitter and in correspondence with the journalist. The complainant had a public-facing role, and his comments had subsequently been investigated by the police as a hate crime.

11. The newspaper explained that the journalist had requested to become one of the complainant’s followers on Twitter. To accept her request, the complainant would have seen her profile and biography, which made clear she was a Sunday Mirror journalist. He would have known that – having accepted her request – she would be able to see his tweets. He had subsequently corresponded with the journalist knowing that she was preparing a story for publication. At no point had he requested that the correspondence be treated as “off the record”.

Relevant Code Provisions

12. 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.

Clause 2 (Privacy)*

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

13. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s concern about the manner in which his tweets had been reported. It emphasised that it was not its role to reach a judgement on whether the complainant’s tweets had been “racist”. Rather, in assessing whether the newspaper had complied with its obligations under the Code, the question for the Committee was whether the newspaper had provided a sufficient basis for the way in which it had chosen to portray them.

14. The Committee noted the complainant’s explanation of the context in which his tweets were made. He did not suggest that other tweets or comments, posted by him, set out this context such that – read as a whole – his tweets took on another meaning. Rather, it was his position that the specific audience of the tweets would have been aware of the situation in Kashmir, and in the television and film industry in India and Pakistan, and would have understood that this was what he was referring to. However, the Committee also noted that the first article had explained that his “remarks came days after 17 soldiers were killed at a Kashmir airbase – sparking a UN clash between India and Pakistan” and that a number of the criticisms of the complainant, from campaigners, had referred to this context.

15. The basis for characterising the tweets as “racist” was made clear in the articles, which set out the complainant’s tweets in full. The first article included a statement from ITV which referred to the tweets as “racially offensive” as well as comments from anti-racism campaigners which criticised the tweets for “blaming all Indians” and “target[ing] a segment of the population”. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that he had been referring to the Indian army specifically; however, it remained the position that the tweet he published simply referred to “Indians”.

16. In these circumstances, having regard for the offensive nature of the complainant’s remarks, the fact that the article had referred to the political context in which the tweets were made, and where that the newspaper was – in any event – entitled to criticise the complainant on the basis of the words he had used, the Committee was satisfied that the newspaper had set out a sufficient basis for characterising the tweets as “racist”. There was no failure to take care over accuracy of the presentation of the tweets, and the Committee concluded that the tweets had not been reported in a manner which was significantly misleading or inaccurate.

17. The Committee acknowledged the complainant’s position that he had not intended to suggest that ITV had an “agenda”. However, taken in context with the tweet to which he was replying – which called into question ITV’s decision to dismiss him – the Committee did not consider that it was significantly misleading for the newspaper to report that the tweet referred to ITV.

18. It was, in the Committee’s view, potentially an issue of concern that the newspaper had amalgamated two messages from the complainant into one quotation, reference to the claim that he was a “scapegoat”. This risked creating a misleading impression of what he had said. However, in the message in which he referred to his having become a “scapegoat” he had also said that “ITV took easy option and gave wrong impression of my leaving and total disregard for the person that had been with them for the last 3 years”. Given this context, the Committee did not consider that there was a failure to take care over the accuracy of the material published, in amalgamating the quotations. This was not significantly misleading and there was no breach of Clause 1.

19. The complainant had accepted the journalist’s request to follow him on Twitter, and had subsequently published the tweets to her and 97 other followers. The tweets themselves did not contain private information, but, on the complainant’s account, represented criticism of the actions of the Indian army, of politicians, and of anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistan figures. Having regard to the size of the audience and the content of his tweets, the Committee did not consider that he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Publication of the tweets did not breach Clause 2.

20. The complainant had volunteered information in correspondence with a journalist, whom he knew was responsible for the first article and with whom he was seeking a meeting with a view to publication of a further story. There was no suggestion of an agreement that this correspondence should be treated as confidential or “off the record”. The newspaper’s decision to publish details from that correspondence did not breach Clause 2.

Conclusions

21. The complaint was not upheld.

Remedial Action Required

N/A

Date complaint received: 28/11/2016
Date decision issued: 15/06/2017