The Sun has effectively been given a green light to incite as much ethnic hatred as it pleases, after a ruling by the press regulatory body. The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has cleared Kelvin MacKenzie over his attack on Fatima Manji, the Channel 4 News presenter, for wearing a hijab while reporting on the Nice terror attacks. And after a week of headlines attacking refugee children, it seems the right-wing paper now has a free pass to do what it wants.
As The Canary previously reported, MacKenzie (The Sun former editor responsible for the Hillsborough scandal) was accused of inciting ethnic hatred after a column denounced the fact that Manji was wearing a hijab while presenting a news piece on the massacre in Nice, France. Over 1,400 complaints were also made to the press regulator.
The original headline, which The Sun tweeted and then deleted, was:
In his column, MacKenzie said he could “hardly believe [his] eyes” when Manji reported on the massacre in Nice. 86 people were killed and more than 400 injured when Mohamed Lahouaiej B, a 31-year-old Tunisian, rammed a 19-tonne truck through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, before police shot him dead. MacKenzie said:
Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male-dominated and clearly violent religion?
With all the major terrorist outrages in the world currently being carried out by Muslims, I think the rest of us are reasonably entitled to have concerns about what is beating in their religious hearts. Who was in the studio representing our fears?
Smearing 1.6 billion people
But Manji hit back, saying:
MacKenzie has attempted to smear 1.6 billion Muslims in suggesting they are inherently violent. He has attempted to smear half of them further by suggesting they are helpless slaves. And he has attempted to smear me by suggesting I would sympathise with a terrorist.
Manji and ITN bosses immediately complained to IPSO. They said that MacKenzie’s article had breached the regulator’s code, on the grounds of discrimination, harassment and accuracy. But IPSO disagreed. Its ruling favoured MacKenzie, saying:
While the columnist’s opinion was undoubtedly offensive to the complainant, and to others, these were views he had been entitled to express. The article did not include a prejudicial or pejorative reference to the complainant on the grounds of religion.
Furthermore he was entitled to express his view that, in the context of a terrorist act which had been carried out ostensibly in the name of Islam, it was inappropriate for a person wearing Islamic dress to present coverage of the story.
A history of intolerance
The Sun has a history of printing headlines and opinions that could be deemed as racist, as Islamophobic or as inciting hatred. As The Canary previously reported, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) slammed the paper for “biased or ill-founded” reporting which fuelled negative “stereotypes”. It cited Katie Hopkins’ controversial column in The Sun, where she likened refugees to “cockroaches” with the headline: Rescue boats? I’d use gunships to stop migrants. The tabloid also came under fire for its “inflammatory anti-Muslim headlines”, such as this:
The ECRI also criticised IPSO, saying it did not meet “standards of independence and effectiveness”, as it was essentially run by editors from within the press industry.
In the wake of the Brexit vote, levels of hate crime rose almost 60% and are still 14% higher than last year. And just this week, the right-wing press have come under fire for their reporting of child refugees entering the UK from the Calais Jungle.
When the independent press regulator says that newspapers should be free to make “pejorative” and “prejudicial” remarks, even if they may cause offence or incite hatred, then something is seriously flawed with the body. In the current climate of fear-mongering and hatred, the press regulator should have the backbone to stamp out discriminatory and racist attitudes wherever they exist. But instead, it appears to want to just compound the problem.
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