A Guardian columnist had to eat his words after smearing an innocent Muslim Labour candidate

Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland
Afroze Fatima Zaidi

On 8 November, the Guardian reported on its website false accusations of antisemitism made by columnist Jonathan Freedland against prospective Labour candidate Majid Mahmood. Both the Guardian and Freedland have since taken down the potentially libellous reports.

It turns out Freedland made the accusations on his blue-tick Twitter account, to over 114k followers, without bothering to verify the facts. The Majid Mahmood allegedly found to have been antisemitic was not the same Majid Mahmood to whom Freedland was referring.

Naturally, this has raised questions around competence and, moreover, bias among journalists in the establishment media:

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The Guardian was quick to distance itself from Freedland’s incompetence:

However, people aren’t letting the Guardian off the hook that easily:

And the Guardian’s centrist, and particularly anti-Corbyn, stance in recent years hasn’t gone unnoticed:

Damage done

Although Freedland has apologised, it only came in a second tweet after he admitted to his false reporting:

In the apology, Freedland still failed to take responsibility for his lack of fact-checking, merely saying his source was “previously reliable”. For a lot of people, this raises serious concerns over Freedland’s journalistic credibility. Moreover, his apology won’t undo the damage already caused by the misinformation he spread:

Some people – including one reporter – suggested Freedland should out his “previously reliable source”‘

In light of these developments, some people even called on the Guardian to sack Freedland:

In the meantime, though, a sizeable donation to Mahmood’s fundraising page for Syrian refugees is probably a better apology:

Targeted smear campaigns

It does appear to be the case that some unchecked allegations of antisemitism are being systematically deployed to undermine leftist Labour candidates:

Shaista Aziz was recently at the receiving end of similar allegations. Zarah Sultana was also accused of antisemitism based on old social media tweets. So it seems that leftist Labour candidates who are Muslim have particularly been targeted:

So Mahmood appears to be the latest Muslim Labour candidate facing allegations of antisemitism. While both the Guardian and Freedland have retracted the fake news, it does raise serious questions about fair reporting at such a crucial time in UK politics.

Featured image via Flickr/ Chatham House

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