Misleading headline attributes half of imported Covid-19 cases come from Pakistan

24th Jul 2020
Misleading headline attributes half of imported Covid-19 cases come from Pakistan

Hamed Chapman

The Daily Telegraph has caused a backlash of complaints for trying to blame Pakistan for being responsible for half of all imported cases of Coronavirus, using Public Health England (PHE) data which had the figure of just 30 cases from June 4 to 27. However, the majority of the cases for the virus came from European countries.

This is how The Daily Telegraph had its headline: ‘Exclusive: Half of UK’s imported Covid-19 infections are from Pakistan.’ Labour MP Afzal Khan tweeted: ‘This is deeply misleading & irresponsible in light of narratives blaming BAME people for spreading Covid-19.’

He wrote a letter of complaint on the misleading headline to the paper which then changed its headline to: ‘Exclusive: Half of UK’s imported Covid-19 infections in June are from Pakistan’, adding the word “June.”

Among others, Labour, MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah, condemned the front-page story that came amid calls for tougher quarantine checks from ‘high-risk’ countries as “sensational” and “misleading.”

“Last week I was told to go back to Pakistan, today we have articles like this. Any wonder why we still have P*** bashing,” the British-born MP tweeted. A change.org petition, with over 6,500 signatures as of writing, is calling for Independent Press Standards Organisation watchdog to intervene, warning that such smear stories will increase hate crime.

Sayed Bukhari, the special assistant to Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, branded the coverage “shameless racism” and “irresponsible reporting”, describing the claims as a “hatchet job” in several tweets.

Commenting on the information provided to The Daily Telegraph, a spokesman for PHE told Pakistan’s news channel Geo.tv that it had shared the background information, saying that since June 4, there have been a “small number of cases (approx. 30) detected in the UK with recent travel history from Pakistan.”

“This is not unique to the UK, and other countries have also recently reported the detection of cases with recent travel to Pakistan. Upon detection of any imported cases, the PHE international contact tracing team follows up any close contacts including on flights and in the UK.”

The Daily Mail also had the misleading headline, ‘Pakistan was the origin for half of Britain’s imported coronavirus cases — amid calls for tougher quarantine checks from ‘high-risk’ countries.’ So did The Sun, ‘Half of UK imported coronavirus cases ‘originate from Pakistan’ amid calls for tougher checks on ‘high-risk countries.’

Like The Daily Telegraph, the other two papers also changed the headlines after complaints to include ‘June’, that is the figure was for the three weeks only.

Just prior to the Telegraph story, it was reported that research by the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium (Cog-UK) found that more than three-quarters of infections in the UK originated from Spain (34 per cent), France (29 per cent) and Italy (14 per cent).

The UK has had over 300,000 Covid-19 cases that have been confirmed by hospital tests but the figure of infections is thought to be is thought to be much higher. Officially confirmed deaths from the virus is over 45,000, more than four times the number recorded in Pakistan.

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

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