Ruling

13903-16 Versi v Mail Online

    • Date complaint received

      30th March 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Findings of the Complaints Committee 13903-16 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 “’Right on’ critics are ignoring problems caused by immigration, government tsar warns after Muslim groups condemn her ‘inflammatory call’ for newcomers to take a vow of allegiance”, published on 5 December 2016.

2. The article focused on Dame Louise Casey’s report on the impact of immigration across the UK. It said she had proposed that new migrants to Britain should take an oath of allegiance before arriving, and that she had found that ghettos had formed because the pace of immigration had been “too much” and successive governments had “ignored or even condoned regressive, divisive and harmful cultural and religious practices, for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”. The article stated that the “shock report” had said that Muslims in some parts of the country were so cut off from the rest of society that they believed that the majority of British people were Muslim, and that some believe that Britain is a Muslim country in which “up to three quarters of the population follow Islam”. The article quoted the Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, who had said that the Casey Report was “inflammatory, divisive, pandering to the agenda of the far right”.

3. The complainant said that Dame Louise Casey’s report had not stated that some Muslim people believe that three quarters of the British population follow Islam or that it is a Muslim country, as stated in the article. He noted that the report had referred to one mainly Asian secondary school in which a survey had found that pupils believed that Britain was between 50 and 90 per cent Asian.

4. The publication said that the report had been based on an article published in another newspaper. It accepted that the Casey Report had referred to one school’s perception of the Asian population of Britain, not the perception amongst Muslims. However, it did not consider that the inaccuracy was significant in the context of the article as a whole: it noted that it had appeared in one bullet point and in paragraph 19 of 55; readers would not therefore have been given a significantly misleading impression of the contents of the Casey Report. Nevertheless, it amended the article and offered to publish the following footnote:

An earlier version of this article said the Casey review into ethnic integration reported that some British Muslims believe that Britain is a Muslim country in which up to three quarters of the population follow Islam. In fact, the review refers to a survey in one school with Asian pupils who believed 50 to 90 per cent of the total British population was Asian.

5. The complainant did not consider that a correction appended to the article itself amounted to “due prominence”, and he considered that the wording should include an apology. In addition, he requested a meeting with the editor so that he could discuss the issues raised more broadly.

6. While the publication considered that the clarification it had offered was sufficiently prominent, and in line with the steps it usually takes to correct an inaccuracy, it also offered to publish the wording on its standalone corrections page. It did not consider that an apology was required under the terms of the Code, but it said it would be willing to add a line apologising for the confusion caused. It noted that the complainant had resolved the same concerns with other publications, including the newspaper that had published the initial inaccuracy, on the basis of a published correction. It did not consider that it was obliged to have a meeting with the complainant under the terms of the Code.

7. The complainant said that the offer of an apology was too late to resolve the matter, and repeated his request for a meeting.

Relevant Code provisions

8. 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.

Findings of the Committee

9. The publication had based the article on information published by another newspaper, but it had taken no steps to verify that the information accurately reflected the contents of the Casey Report before publication. This represented a failure to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1(i).

10. The inaccuracy, which had appeared in a bulleted subheading and was repeated in the accompanying text, had given a significantly misleading impression of Dame Louise Casey’s findings. The report had not found that some Muslim communities believed that 75 per cent of the British population was Muslim. In fact, the report had referred to one mainly Asian secondary school whose pupils, when surveyed, said that they believed the country was between 50 and 90 per cent Asian. A correction was therefore required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

11. The publication had amended the online article and appended a corrective footnote, which made clear that the Casey Report had not stated that some British Muslims were so isolated that they perceived Britain to be an Islamic country. The Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to include an apology in the correction, but given the nature and context of the breach, and the fact that the inaccuracy related to general point of fact in a public report, an apology was not required under the terms of the Code. There was no breach of Clause 1(ii).

Conclusion

12. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial action required

13. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

14.  The publication had promptly amended the online article and appended a note, which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear. No further action was required.

Date complaint received: 07/12/2016
Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/03/2017