After the less than totally accurate reporting of the so-called Muslim fostering case, where a five-year-old Christian girl was placed with a mixed race family by Tower Hamlets council, and the revelation in a Case Management Order that the Murdoch Times and its star reporter Andrew Norfolk had misrepresented elements of the story, the inevitable complaints have arrived at press regulator IPSO.
And as so often when complaints are made, our free and fearless press has been absent elsewhere when reporting the matter - apart from Press Gazette, which has told “The exclusive Times story claiming a five-year-old girl from a Christian background had been ‘forced’ into foster care with Muslim families has resulted in 178 complaints being made to the newspaper’s regulator”. And there was more.
“The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) said the majority of complaints against the article fell under three clauses of the Editors’ Code of Practice: accuracy, privacy and discrimination … The story … was also picked up by the Daily Mail … The Mail attracted 14 complaints for its coverage, according to IPSO, and drew criticism for using a stock image of a Muslim family and adding a veil to the woman’s face to illustrate the article”. So who might have been complaining about the stories?
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) is one such group. They have observed “Recently the Times and Daily Mail published stories about a Christian child being ‘forced’ to stay with Muslim foster carers … Islamophobes around the country ran with the story and used it to demonise Muslims, but the story has since been found to have many holes and Muslims are demanding some action is taken about this”.
There were six rather large holes in the Times and Mail coverage, not least the failure to mention the emergency nature of the foster placement, the untrue claim that the foster carers did not speak English, the Muslim heritage of the child, that the child appeared settled with the foster carers, and that her mother had not asked for a change of carer.
MPAC has advocated for complaints on the grounds of Clause 1: Accuracy. On this they would appear to have both papers bang to rights. And on privacy and discrimination there seem to be good grounds to complain. But on all these matters I have to tell MPAC, and any other individual or group which has complained to IPSO, that they are wasting their time. IPSO will do its best … to do nothing.
All those who have complained will soon learn that IPSO is the press establishment’s poodle: it fetches and carries for its master. As many of the complaints as can be rejected will be rejected on the grounds that they are from third parties to the case. Others will be rejected on the grounds that the Editor’s Code of Conduct does not cover religious groups. And sham regulator IPSO will sit on its hands with the rest.
The Muslim fostering case is yet another example, if any more were needed, of how the regulator allegedly governing most of our free and fearless press is not fit for purpose. The best those complaining can expect is a “correction” buried inside the Times or Mail.
No-one will say sorry. No retractions will be made. No-one will face any kind of disciplinary action. The whole circus will then carry on as before. And that’s not good enough.