After the now infamous Muslim foster care case which the Murdoch Times first promoted, and which was then picked up and ranted about in the usual inimitable style by the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his obedient hackery at the Daily Mail, came the complaints. There were almost 180 of them made to press regulator IPSO, most of them under Clause 1: Accuracy of the Editor’s Code.
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) had urged complaints to be made to IPSO, but at the time I was sceptical about the use of this approach, other than to drive MPAC closer to campaigning groups like Hacked Off, telling “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”. There was more.
“All those who have complained will soon learn that IPSO is the press establishment’s poodle: it fetches and carries for its master … sham regulator IPSO will sit on its hands … 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”. So what happened?
Despite the Guardian’s Jamie Grierson pointing out that the press coverage of the case had been “skewed”, and a follow-up article by Tay Jiva, adoption and fostering manager at the Penny Appeal, titled “Muslim fostering row: Careless press must be held to account”, IPSO has done exactly as I predicted. They have done nothing. You read that right.
Andrew Norfolk - reputation shredded
What IPSO did is not at first easy to identify: the organisation’s website, and its Twitter feed, are silent on the matter. But MPAC has published IPSO’s hand-wringing response, which is a classic of excuse making. After admitting “IPSO is able to consider complaints … from third parties about accuracy”, it warns “In the case of third party complaints about accuracy, we need to consider the position of the party most closely involved”.
What this means is that IPSO is using the five-year-old girl at the centre of the Muslim fostering story as an excuse to sit on its hands. Here is their weaselling get-out: “In this case, the coverage is about the welfare of a young child, and the alleged inaccuracies related to her foster arrangements. IPSO’s executive is concerned by the effect that the process of investigating and publicly ruling on the alleged inaccuracies in this coverage may have on those involved in the case, and particularly the child”.
IPSO CEO Matt Tee, preparing to wring that hand
This is IPSO’s excuse for not ruling on claims that the foster family didn’t speak English, that reports didn’t say why the child had been taken into care, or the problems her mother was experiencing, that the mother had not asked for a change of foster family, that the child’s maternal grandmother, with whom she would be going to live, was from a Muslim background, or that the child seemed settled with the foster placement.
IPSO excuse note in full
No, IPSO will sit on its hands and do nothing, excusing its inaction by suggesting that it can’t investigate any of those matters because of the effect it might have on the child. Except that most, if not all, of those issues could be resolved without the child being involved, or even aware of the process. IPSO has once again wiped the press’ backside.
And the little people have been told, as so often in the past, to run along and not make waves. That’s not good enough.