The press regulator just ruled that a story by The Times was essentially b*llocks

The front page of a Times article which the press regulator called a distortion
Steve Topple

The press regulator has just ruled that a controversial story by The Times was a “distortion” of real events, finding it had breached two pieces of the regulator’s code of practice.

The case

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) was passing judgement on a story [paywall] The Times ran on 30 August 2017. As The Guardian reported:

The Times reported that a ‘white Christian child’ had been left distressed after being placed with two Muslim households in Tower Hamlets over a period of six months…

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The furore surrounding child AB, as she was known in court documents, was prompted by a front-page article in the Times headlined ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’ on 28 August.

According to confidential local authority reports, a social services supervisor had described the child crying, asking not to be returned to one foster carer because ‘they don’t speak English’.

The complaint

But Tower Hamlets Council, the local authority at the centre of the case, reported The Times to IPSO for breaches of accuracy. It said that the article claimed:

  • That the judge had ruled the child “must leave Muslim foster home”.
  • The judge had praised the newspaper for “exposing council’s failure”.
  • That “the judge ordered the council to conduct an urgent investigation into issues reported by The Times”.
  • The child “should not remain in the placement organised by Tower Hamlets”.

Also, Tower Hamlets claimed that the article did not make clear that it had actually applied for the child to live with her grandmother. Tower Hamlets claimed all these points were inaccurate.

The Times: ‘distorting’ the facts

IPSO agreed, saying the story was a “distortion” of events. Its ruling said that none of it was “what the court decided, or an implication of what the court had decided”. IPSO found that The Times:

Had failed to take care not to publish distorted information, in breach of Clause 1 (i). The newspaper made no proposals to correct this distortion, in breach of Clause 1 (ii).

Two other complaints from Tower Hamlets Council were not upheld. But beyond the official complaints, many people believed there were Islamophobic undertones in The Times‘s reporting:

The Times noted the IPSO ruling on its front page on Wednesday 25 April, and put the full ruling [paywall] on page two of its print edition and online. But this is not the first time IPSO has ruled that a Rupert Murdoch paper has breached its standards.

Previous breaches

As The Canary previously reported, there was controversy over a Sunday Times headline which stated that “Asians make up 80% of child groomers”. IPSO found this to have breached its accuracy guidelines, as:

The study had not found that 80% of people convicted of child-grooming offences were Asian; its findings related to a specific sub-set of these offences. The research was available to the newspaper prior to publication.

The UK media: institutional Islamophobia?

In October 2016, the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) – part of the Council of Europe – said that the the fuelling of prejudice against Muslims “showed a reckless disregard… for their safety”. It criticised Murdoch’s Sun for its “inflammatory anti-Muslim headlines”, such as this:

A front page from The Sun

But it appears that this report, and subsequent breaches of IPSO standards, have had little impact on Murdoch’s papers. Just this week, The Sun‘s managing editor said he didn’t believe Islamophobia “is an issue” in the “mainstream media”.

He must be reading a different mainstream media from the rest of us.

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