It was not the best time for allegedly independent press regulator IPSO - which isn’t - to show just how flexible, or even totally absent, the high principles of its board members really are: at the same time that the press establishment was turning its fire on the Press Recognition Panel and properly independent regulator IMPRESS, IPSO board member Trevor Kavanagh was going in with both feet on Channel 4 presenter Fatima Manji.
Why did Kavanagh cross the road? Because Rupert Murdoch considered it to be in his best interests to do so
As Zelo Street regulars will recall, disgraced former Sun editor Kelvin McFilth had not merely attacked Ms Manji, he had carried on a campaign of harassment against her, inciting others to complain to the broadcaster and to Ofcom, because she presented the news while having the effrontery to wear a headscarf. Ms Manji complained to IPSO. Predictably, IPSO wiped Kel’s arse for him and the complaint was dismissed.
But if she thought that the matter would rest there, she reckoned without Kavanagh. Remember, this is an IPSO board member. A board member of the press regulator which had just considered and then declined her complaint. Who then used his Sun column to administer a bit of afters, just to show Ms Manji who was boss.
“Channel 4’s Fatima Manji made a fool of herself by accusing my old editor Kelvin MacKenzie of discrimination after she wore a hijab to report the Islamist truck massacre in Nice” ranted the faithful Murdoch enforcer, continuing “Nobody seeing her in full Muslim headdress [a scarf!] could doubt it was provocative of Channel 4 … she singled herself out by dressing as she did … She knew precisely what she was doing”.
That, everyone, is just how “independent” IPSO is. Many MPs and peers were sufficiently concerned that they have written to Alan Moses, head man at IPSO. The letter tells “We are writing to you with great concern upon learning that Mr Trevor Kavanagh, a board member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), has attacked Channel 4 News reporter, Fatima Manji in his column for the Sun newspaper. He wrote that Manji ‘made a fool of herself by accusing my old editor Kelvin MacKenzie of discrimination … she knew exactly what she was doing’”.
The letter also notes that “we are very concerned that Mr Trevor Kavanagh had publicly attacked a complainant, which could potentially deter future complainants, and that he continues to sit on the board of IPSO … We seek your urgent clarification on whether you believe that Mr Kavanagh’s public attack on a complainant to IPSO in in breach of the expectations of an independent press regulator, and whether his position on the board remains tenable”. The signatories demonstrate cross-party backing.
That is because, although the MPs who have backed the letter represent Labour, many peers including from the Tories and Lib Dems have also put their names to it. They are right to be concerned, but I have to tell them that nothing will be done.
At time time Kavanagh was appointed, I made clear that this was a sign of Rupert Murdoch giving the finger to all those victims of phone hacking and other less than principled behaviour indulged in by his goons. Despite Kavanagh’s disgraceful abuse of his position, he will remain in place, thus demonstrating that IPSO is a sham regulator. He has been allowed to put the boot in on Fatima Manji pour encourager les autres. He will do it again if he feels he needs to hurt someone. That is all.