Friday 30 November 2012

Leveson on the 'discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced' reporting of minority groups

One interesting but overlooked section of the Leveson Report has been about the representation of minorities.

On the treatment of the trans community, for example, Leveson writes (p.668):

On the basis of the evidence seen by the Inquiry, it is clear that there is a marked tendency in a section of the press to fail to treat members of the transgender and intersex communities with sufficient dignity and respect; and in instances where individuals are identified either expressly or by necessary implication perpetrate breaches of clause 12 of the Code. Parts of the tabloid press continue to seek to ‘out’ transgender people notwithstanding its prohibition in the Editors’ Code. And parts of the tabloid press continue to refer to the transgender community in derogatory terms, holding transgender people up for ridicule, or denying the legitimacy of their condition. Although the Inquiry heard evidence that parts of the tabloid press had “raised [its] game in terms of transgender reporting”,[393] the examples provided by TMW of stories from the last year demonstrate that the game needs to be raised significantly higher.

The section on ethnic minorities, asylum seekers and immigrants is also critical of parts of the press. Leveson states (p.668) that:

the identification of Muslims, migrants, asylum seekers and gypsies/travellers as the targets of press hostility and/or xenophobia in the press, was supported by the evidence seen by the Inquiry.

For example:

the following headlines, which appeared to have little factual basis but which may have contributed to a negative perception of Muslims in the UK: ‘Muslim Schools Ban Our Culture’; ‘BBC Puts Muslims Before You!’; ‘Christmas is Banned: It Offends Muslims’; ‘Brit Kids Forced to Eat Halal School Dinners!’; ‘Muslims Tell Us How To Run Our Schools’.  

The report outlines several other examples (there are lots to choose from) such as 'Muslim Only Public Loos', 'Terror Target Sugar', 'Brave Heroes Hounded Out' and 'Muslim Plot To Kill Pope'. 

Leveson concludes (p.671):

The evidence demonstrates that sections of the press betray a tendency, which is far from being universal or even preponderant, to portray Muslims in a negative light.

Moving on to reporting of immigration issues, Leveson begins by saying (p.671):

The tendency identified in the preceding paragraph is not limited to the representation of Muslims and applies in a similar way to some other minority ethnic groups.

He then outlines some examples of poor journalism, including 'Swan Bake', 'Asylum Seekers Eat Our Donkeys' and 'Failed asylum seeker who has dodged deportation for a decade told he can stay...because he goes to the GYM' all of which were untrue.

Leveson found (p.673):

evidence suggested that, in relation to reporting on Muslims, immigrants and asylum seekers, there was a tendency for some titles to adopt a sensationalist mode of reporting intended to support a world-view rather than to report a story. The evidence given by the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain suggested a similar approach to gypsy and traveller issues.

And (p.672): 

It is one thing for a newspaper to take the view that immigration should be reduced, or that the asylum and/or human rights system should be reformed, and to report on true stories which support those political views. It is another thing to misreport stories either wilfully or reckless as to their truth or accuracy, in order to ensure that they support those political views. And it does appear that certain parts of the press do, on occasion, prioritise the political stance of the title over the accuracy of the story.

His conclusion is damning (p.673):

Nonetheless, when assessed as a whole, the evidence of discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced reporting in relation to ethnic minorities, immigrants and/or asylum seekers, is concerning. The press can have significant influence over community relations and the way in which parts of society perceive other parts. While newspapers are entitled to express strong views on minority issues, immigration and asylum, it is important that stories on those issues are accurate, and are not calculated to exacerbate community divisions or increase resentment. Although the majority of the press appear to discharge this responsibility with care, there are enough examples of careless or reckless reporting to conclude that discriminatory, sensational or unbalanced reporting in relation to ethnic minorities, immigrants and/or asylum seekers is a feature of journalistic practice in parts of the press, rather than an aberration.


  1. Very sharply observed by Leveson. If only his report was not so enormously long - allowing vital details such as this to be easily forgotten.

  2. I think Leveson really never had much choice about the length of his report. There was so much trash to rake over that to miss any of it would be just as bad as the pathetic press itself.

  3. His recommendation in this respect is very important too: he believes that representative groups should be able to appeal on behalf of classes. Vast difference to the PCC which basically only listens to complaints from named individuals.


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