Press ruling gives licence to more Islamophobia

28th Oct 2016
Press ruling gives licence to more Islamophobia

Journalist Fatima Manji, who has been with the programme for four years, presented the Channel 4 News coverage of the Bastille Day massacre in Nice. (Photo: Channel 4)

The Editors’ Code of the relatively new Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) is quite clear on discrimination. ‘i). The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability. ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.’

It is a huge mystery how former Sun Editor, Kelvin MacKenzie, was cleared by the regulator over his attack on Fatima Manji, the Channel 4 News presenter, for wearing a hijab while reporting on the Nice terror attacks. IPSO rejected a complaint against the columnist, finding him not guilty of discrimination and harassment despite the outrage about his Islamophobic remarks. More than 1,700 complaints were made to the regulator.

In its ruling, the IPSO stated that while the columnist’s opinion was “undoubtedly offensive” they were somehow views that he was “entitled to express.”

The new body was set up just two years ago in response to the Leveson Report which looked into the behaviour of the press following the phone hacking scandal. The previous Press Complaints Commissions was found to be not independent enough. No mention has been made of it not being representative enough with the all-white 12 member board not reflecting the diversity of our nation.

It is clear that MacKenzie’s remarks were not the exercise of his freedom of speech, but a pejorative reference to Manji’s faith, inciting hatred against her and abusing her by associating her with terror. Such remarks have no place in civil society and clearly breach the Code which should uphold the “highest professional standards”.

It is frightening that a regulator that is responsible for protecting minorities from discrimination may actually do the opposite by endorsing and fomenting hatred as well as increasing Islamophobia.

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