Ruling

13904-16 Versi v Express.co.uk

    • Date complaint received

      20th April 2017

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 13904-16 Versi v Express.co.uk

Summary of complaint

1. Miqdaad Versi complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Express.co.uk breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Some Muslims so isolated in UK they believe country is 75% Islamic, says shock report ”, published on 4 December 2016.

2. The article focused on the Casey Report, which it said was due to be published that week, on the impact of immigration across the UK. It said the Casey Report had found that “thousands of Muslims living in Bradford, Dewsbury and Blackburn rarely leave their areas and have no clue what life in Britain is like”. The article said that a source had told another newspaper that the report said that some Muslim communities were so isolated that they believe that 75 per cent of British people were Muslim. 

3. The complainant said that the Casey 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 newspaper said that the report had been based on information given by a source to another newspaper before the Casey Report was published; as such, at the time of publication, it was not known what the report would contain. While it did not accept that there had been any failure to take care over the accuracy of the article, given the contents of the published Casey Report, it accepted that the story was inaccurate. The newspaper removed the article from its website, and published the following correction on its home page and as a standalone item in its corrections column:

On Sunday 4 December 2016, we reported that the Casey review into ethnic integration would find that some Muslims were so isolated in the UK they believed the country to be 75 per cent Islamic. In fact, the review reports on a survey in one school with Asian pupils who believed 50 to 90 per cent of the total British population was Asian. We are happy to set the record straight.

5. The complainant considered that the wording of the correction should include an apology, and said that all places where the inaccuracy had appeared should be corrected. To resolve the matter, he requested a meeting with the editor and a published right to reply.

6. The publication said that an opportunity to reply only had to be given when reasonably called for. It considered that the publication of the correction on its website was a suitable remedy to the complaint.

Relevant Code provisions

7. 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

8. While the article had made clear that the Casey Report had yet to be published, it had made the inaccurate assertion of fact that the report had found that some Muslim communities were “so isolated” that they 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.

9. The newspaper had based its report on information given by a source to another publication before the Casey Report was published. However, the newspaper appeared to have made no attempt to verify the information, which was central to its article before proceeding to publish the story. When the Casey Report was published, it became evident that the source’s information was inaccurate, and the article had given a significantly misleading impression of the contents of the Casey Report. The newspaper had failed to take care over the accuracy of the article in breach of Clause 1 (i). A correction was required in order to avoid a breach of Clause 1 (ii).

10. The newspaper had deleted the article, and it had published a correction on its website, which made clear that the Casey Report had not referred to Muslim communities, but to a survey of one mainly Asian school whose pupils had said they believed Britain to be 50 to 90 per cent Asian.

11. The Committee noted the complainant’s request for an apology and an opportunity to reply. However, given that the article had made clear that the Casey Report had yet to be published, and the fact that the inaccuracy related to a general point of fact in a public report, an apology was not required under the terms of the Code. Furthermore, the complainant was a third party; he was not personally and directly affected by the breach of the Editors' Code. As he was not the subject of the inaccuracy, he was not entitled to an opportunity to reply. The action taken by the newspaper was sufficient. There was no breach of Clause 1 (ii) or Clause 1 (iii).

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 deleted the online article and published a correction, which identified the inaccuracy and made the correct position clear. No further action was required.

Date complaint received: 07/12/2016
Date decision issued: 13/03/2017