Tuesday, 31 July 2012

MailOnline edits, then removes, RightMinds post

On 28 July, MailOnline published an opinion piece by Rick Dewsbury about the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

Under the headline The NHS did not deserve to be so disgracefully glorified in this bonanza of left-wing propaganda, Dewsbury said:

But it was the absurdly unrealistic scene – and indeed one that would spring from the kind of nonsensical targets and equality quotas we see in the NHS - showing a mixed-race middle-class family in a detached new-build suburban home, which was most symptomatic of the politically correct agenda in modern Britain.

This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.

Almost, if not every, shot in the next sequence included an ethnic minority performer. The BBC presenter Hazel Irvine gushed about the importance of grime music (a form of awful electronic music popular among black youths) to east London. This multicultural equality agenda was so staged it was painful to watch.

Several hours later, the second and third paragraphs of that were changed to this:

This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but such set-ups are simply not the ‘norm’ in any part of the country. So why was it portrayed like this and given such prominence? If it was intended to be something that we can celebrate, that two people with different colour skin and different cultural heritages can live harmoniously together, then it deserves praise.

But what will be disturbing to many people is top-down political manipulation – whether consciously or unthinkingly – at a major sporting event.

MailOnline completely removed the article, without explanation, the following day.

(Hat-tip to John Walker, who took screenshots of the original and who wrote about it before it was edited.)

Another 'eye-catching' Star headline on Cowell

The front page of today's Daily Star has, it claims, an 'exclusive':

It is not unusual for Richard Desmond's Star to run stories about programmes broadcast on Richard Desmond's Channel 5.

And with yet another outing of Celebrity Big Brother starting in a couple of weeks, the Star needs to start promoting it now. So we have 'Cowell's secret Big Bro sex romps' on the front page.

Has Simon Cowell - who isn't dead - been having 'secret Big Bro romps'...whatever that means?

Here's the story:

Simon Cowell’s stunning ex-lover Jasmine Lennard is set to give TV censors a nightmare on Celebrity Big Brother next month.

The model, 27, signed a legal agreement never to spill the beans about her sizzling six-month fling with The X Factor boss.

However, the sexy lass is struggling to keep her lips sealed.

Oh. So someone who apparently had a 'fling' with Simon Cowell six years ago is going on Celebrity Big Brother (and won't be able to talk about it).

As Star editor Dawn Neesom might say, this is a headline that is 'eye-catching' rather than accurate.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The People pays damages over drunken proposal 'exclusive'

On 6 November 2011, the People published this 'exclusive':

Charlotte Church has proposed to her boyfriend Jonathan Powell during a boozy pub karaoke night.

The star belted out The Ronettes’ Be My Baby then slumped in a chair next to her man and gave him a huge kiss. She told him: “That was for you because I want you to be my baby. Will you marry me?”

He replied: “Yes but I don’t want to be known as Mr Church.”

The pair, both 25, then ordered bottles of champagne “one each” and celebrated into the early hours of last Saturday morning at the pub, the Robin Hood in Cardiff.

A friend said: “Jonathan was thrilled and Charlotte was very happy. She was singing I’m Getting ­Married in the Morning as we helped her to the taxi afterwards.”

Church immediately issued a statement, pointing out the story was rubbish:

"This story is a complete fabrication. I have not proposed to my boyfriend, drunkenly or otherwise. It is embarrassing for me (and him) for our families and friends to read that I have.

I was not in the pub they mention on the night they allege this happened. I haven't been there for 5 months. At the time that I was apparently drunkenly proposing I was in fact performing in a completely different town with a large public audience.

There is literally not one shred of truth in this story, and it is still alarming to me that lies of this scale can be printed. This is not journalism. It's a perfect example of why this out of control tabloid industry needs regulation immediately."

Today, the paper has agreed to pay substantial damages and legal fees, has apologised and agreed not to repeat the accusations. Lawyers for the People said in court that it:

accepts that the story was completely untrue and should not have been published. It has previously apologised in the newspaper and online for publishing the allegation, which it accepted was incorrect after Charlotte first complained.

There's no explanation has to how the People came to publish the story and all those fictional quotes. It is also worth noting that the Mail and Sun were quick to repeat the People's claims without doing any fact-checking of their own.

The People had already published one apology - three weeks after the original story appeared and, coincidentally, one day before Church gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry. The Inquiry was told that apology was a 'unilateral one' and 'just not good enough'.

The grandmother/publicist confusion

MailOnline has published this correction today:

Our article of 17 June 2012 incorrectly stated that Chris Hemsworth was pictured with his grandmother. The woman was not his grandmother but his publicist. We are happy to clarify the position.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

MailOnline and Egypt's 'sex after death law'

On 13 July, the PCC published details of a complaint against the Mail that seems to have actually been resolved at the end of May.

MailOnline added this to the end of an article:

This article has been edited to deal with complaints that our original was inaccurate. We apologise to readers who were offended by our first story.

What was the 'first story'?

Outrage as Egypt plans 'farewell intercourse law' so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives up to six hours after their death.

That article claimed:

Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives - for up to six hours after their death. The controversial new law is part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

Except it wasn't. The headline of the MailOnline article now reads:

Egypt's 'plans for farewell intercourse law so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives' branded completely false

'Branded' false. Not is false. And the story says:

The controversial new 'farewell intercourse' law was claimed, in Arab media, to be part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

And indeed the claims did originate 'in Arab media'. But the MailOnline (and others) repeated them without much, if any, fact-checking. There's background on the story here and here.

But, as Dan Murphy pointed out in the Christian Science Monitor:

The problem is that there was never any such proposal, at any stage of consideration, in the Egyptian parliament. Ms. [Mervat el-Tallawy, the head of Egypt's National Council for Women] issued a statement today that says she's concerned about legislation that may harm the position of women in Egypt, but that there was never any "sex after death law" under consideration, let alone one she complained about. Arabiya followed up as well, quoting Parliament Secretary Sami Mahran as saying no such piece of legislation ever existed.

So MailOnline has now apologised. Not for getting it wrong, but 'to readers who were offended by our first story'.

MailOnline, the Middletons and the Olympic advertising rules

On Thursday morning, the lead story on MailOnline was about the Middletons and their business Party Pieces:

'Breach of strict laws'. 'Flouting the law'. 'Criminal offence'.

It sounded serious, although the tell-tale inclusion of 'could be' in the headline suggested otherwise. The article by Rebecca English said:

Kate’s sister Pippa, who writes an accompanying blog called The Party Times, is also taking a risk with a piece entitled Celebrate The Games And Support Team GB which provides links to many of the items on sale.

And although the firm is careful to avoid the most blatant breach of the stringent code – mentioning the actual word ‘Olympics’ – if you put Olympics into Party Pieces’ own search engine it takes you to their Celebrate The Games page, which could still be grounds for action.

Just after 5pm the same day, the Guardian reported:

The party planning company owned by the Duchess of Cambridge's family has been hurriedly cleared by London 2012 organisers of infringing brand protection laws, but will be asked to make "minor changes" to its website.

Locog said it would investigate the Party Pieces website, owned by the Duchess of Cambridge's parents and featuring a blog by her sister Pippa, after it emerged it was offering a range of Olympic-related goods in a section of the site headed "Celebrate the Games" and illustrated with the Olympic torch...

But following an investigation, a Locog spokeswoman said: "There are no infringements and the products are fine. We may ask them to make a very minor change to some copy."

At time of writing, over 36 hours after the Guardian's piece was published, MailOnline has not written an update for its readers. Given the prominence they gave to the original claims, they should.  

This comes less than two weeks after an attack on the Middleton family by Mail columnist Amanda Platell, who seemed very upset Pippa had been seen in the royal box at Wimbledon. The Middleton's now 'have an unsettling air of snootiness about their behaviour,' she said.

(Hat-tip to Jonathan Haynes)

Express and the weather (cont.)

The Media Blog points out that the Express' fondness for passing off exaggerated and contradictory weather forecasts as front page news continues.

On 7 July, the front page headline was: Sorry, there's no might about it...IT WILL RAIN 'TIL SEPTEMBER

Then yesterday: 95F - Forget the rain, Britain's summer starts this weekend.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Another 'cure' for Alzheimer's

On 18 July, the Express was at it again:

Despite the headline - Pill to stop Alzheimer's: News treatment will stop disease for three years - there is no pill.

What the research - conducted on 24 people - is actually about is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) which:

is actually given by injection into a blood vessel.

The article by Giles Sheldrick does say that:

Trials of the drug...have proved so successful it could be available at chemists in pill form within a decade.

So there 'could' be a pill. At some point within the next ten years.

The NHS Behind the Headlines analysis points out:

Limited conclusions can be drawn from this research as it is early stage, was conducted on a small number of people, and was not peer-reviewed. Larger studies that compare IVIG to other existing treatments for Alzheimer’s disease are required to determine how safe and effective the drug is.


The research suggests that IVIG can slow down the progression of some of the symptoms of Alzheimer's but this certainly does not amount to a cure. It is unclear how long the beneficial effects of IVIG may last or whether everyone treated with IVIG would experience any benefits.

All these caveats are extremely important, given the Express' eye-catching and premature headline claim, plus the first line of the article, which states:

Alzheimer's sufferers and their devastated families were last night given new hope after scientists hailed the “most exciting” breakthrough yet in the search for a cure.

Given all the research that will need to take place over the next ten years or so, there's a very real danger that instead of giving 'new hope', such coverage gives only false hope.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Batman casting is a riddle to the Sun

The Dark Knight Rises opens on Friday.

Some Sun readers may be slightly confused, however, by seeing Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman.

Why? Because the Sun's Gordon Smart 'revealed' in January 2011 that Megan Fox had 'signed up to play Catwoman':

Moreover, in a 'world exclusive' in December 2008 (in which they also noted Rachel Weisz was 'up for' Catwoman), Smart and Jess Rogers also 'revealed':

The story says:

FUNNYMAN EDDIE MURPHY will play The Riddler in the next Batman movie, The Sun can reveal.

The Beverly Hills Cop star, 47, has been signed up by British director CHRISTOPHER NOLAN...

A film insider said...“Eddie’s a fantastic addition. Everyone’s excited to see what he does as the Riddler.”

'Everyone' will have to wait...

MailOnline and a photo of a nine-year-old girl in tears

From the Street of Shame column in issue 1318 of Private Eye:

“I believe absolutely that one of the main responsibilities of the new regulatory system should be to ensure that the editors’ code is followed both in spirit and the letter by all newspapers, magazines and, importantly, their online versions,” said Paul Dacre in his submission to the Leveson inquiry.

The Mail editor was referring to the Press Complaints Commission’s code and opining on how the press should be regulated. But one morning’s evidence at the end of last month revealed how well that works out in practice when it comes to Dacre’s own domain. 

Crying and holding a bunch of flowers
Media lawyer Giles Crown gave evidence on behalf of Edward Bowles, whose 11-year-old son Sebastian was one of the 28 people, most of them children, who were killed in a coach crash in Switzerland in March. On 15 March, the family were preparing to visit the scene of the crash when an agency photographer took a long-lens photograph of their nine-year-old daughter Helena, who was crying and holding a bunch of flowers she planned to leave at the site of her brother’s death. 

The photograph, captioned “Relatives of victims leave the hotel”, clearly violated clauses 3 (privacy), 5 (intrusion into grief or shock) and 6 (children) of the editors’ code of which Dacre is so fond – and yet the only UK newspaper to use it was the Daily Mail, on its website MailOnline.

Picture kept up for more than three months
The following day Mr Crown, a friend of the Bowles family, contacted both the PCC and editors, including Paul Dacre, on their behalf, to request that “all private photographs of the family… are removed immediately from all media websites, and there is no further publication whatsoever of any such photographs. In particular, there must be no more taking or publication of any photographs of Helena.” 

After a follow-up email sent to “two individuals at the Mail and a general editor’s or news email address as well” two days later, the paper did agree to remove some photographs it had acquired from Mr Bowles’s Facebook account. The picture of the distressed nine-year-old, however, was kept up for more than three months. 

While the inquiry was only able to establish that it had been available online until 19 June, the Eye can reveal that it was only finally pulled from the paper’s website at 11.32am on 25 June – precisely 24 hours before Lord Justice Leveson was due to hear evidence about the case. That evening, Mail managing editor Alex Bannister wrote to the Bowles family to apologise and to point out that at least “this photograph was not published in the Daily Mail” – where it would have been viewed by a mere 1.9m readers, as opposed to the 91.7m monthly users the website boasts. He also claimed that it had been “removed from our website as soon as we became aware that its subject was Helena”. 

The Mail’s excuse was that it thought the paparazzo snap might instead have been of a different, foreign under-ten grieving for their lost sibling. So that’s all right, then.

(The Guardian's report on Giles Crown's evidence to Leveson is here.)

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

ASA upholds complaints about Express/Star front page 'offers'

On 5 April, this blog highlighted some 'offers' that appeared on the front pages of the Express and the Star. On one day, the papers highlighted that you could get £5 off at Tesco when you spent £40, a few days later, the same offer for Asda.

Yet when people turned to page x for more details, all they found was a paid for advert promoting an offer that was generally available. In other words, you did not need to buy the Star or the Express in order to get the offer.

Twelve people complained to the Advertising Standards Agency. In response, Express newspapers said:

they did not believe anything in the front-page flashes implied there would be a £5-off coupon inside the newspapers. They said the text did not state or imply that there was a coupon but only that it was possible to get £5 off shopping at Tesco when spending £40. They said the flashes made clear that readers needed to go to the page indicated to find out more and the relevant page contained full details, and the terms and conditions, of the promotion. They said that if a coupon had been part of the promotion they would have stated as much, as they had in other coupon promotions. Express Newspapers believed that making clear a coupon was not required would only have encouraged more consumers to purchase the newspapers, because it was an additional benefit compared to coupon offers. They considered the ads did not misleadingly imply there was a coupon inside the newspapers.

As this blog pointed out in April, several people took to various money saving and voucher forums to complain, as they had believed they needed to buy the paper (and some had done so).

The ASA agreed with them, upholding the complaints on the grounds of misleading advertising:

The ASA noted the front-page flashes did not explicitly state there was a coupon inside the newspapers. We considered, however, the overall impression of the ads, in particular the text "£5 OFF SHOPPING AT TESCO WHEN YOU SPEND £40 DETAILS: PAGE XX", was such that consumers would believe there was a discount offer that was available only to readers, for example in the form of a money-off coupon, on the relevant page. 

We noted that the relevant pages instead included paid-for advertising by Tesco which described a promotion whereby customers would receive a coupon for £5 off the next week's £40 shop if they spent £40 during the current week, rather than receiving a £5 discount when spending only £40 as the front-page flashes stated. 

We understood that promotion was generally available to Tesco customers, rather than only to readers of the Daily Star and Daily Express. We considered the ads misleadingly implied the newspapers included a £5 discount offer that could be redeemed without further significant conditions when spending £40, for example in the form of a coupon, and therefore concluded that they breached the Code.

The ASA can only tell the newspaper not to do it again - not much of a punishment for a long-gone advert - but they also told Express Newspapers:

to ensure future front-page flashes did not misleadingly imply there was a discount offer inside the newspaper that could be redeemed without further significant conditions if that was not the case.

(Hat-tip to Dave)

Saturday, 14 July 2012

'The misleading nature of the news reporting is cause for dismay'

On 9 July, the front page of the Express lauded a 'wonder jab' that 'cuts weight in days':

The same research was also mentioned in the Mail under the headline  'Flab jab' could let you stay slim on a junk food diet by using immune system to fight weight gain.

Express hack John Geoghegan reports:

A monthly fat-busting jab could soon be used in the fight against obesity, scientists claim.

Tests have resulted in weight reductions of 10 to 20 per cent within days.

Later in the article, he mentions:

Ideally, the jab would be used along with a healthy diet to maintain weight loss.

A healthy diet? Who'd have thought?

Much of the story is made up of quotes from Dr Keith Haffer who, we're told:

led the US study for vaccination firm Braasch Biotech LLC

But, as the NHS Behind the Headlines team makes clear, Haffer:

is also the president and chief scientific officer of a company called Braasch Biotech LLC. Braasch Biotech LLC specialises in the development of human and animal vaccines. It is therefore necessary to view the findings with caution.

The Express didn't mention this explicitly, nor some of the other shortcomings in the research:

Mice who were given the vaccines experienced an initial drastic loss of weight but then gained weight over the course of six weeks – just not as quickly as the mice in the control group.

The weight loss after the first dose of vaccine was so drastic that the dose used in the second injection in the study was reduced out of concern for the mice’s health.


If the volume of vaccine given to the mice was scaled up it would be equivalent to over a litre for an average sized adult – a much greater volume than is usually used in a vaccination.

As for the Mail's headline that this jab could allow you to stay slim on a junk food diet:

A treatment that allows people to continue to eat whatever they like and not gain weight is nothing more than fantasy. Furthermore, the suggestion that people can have a jab and then eat as much junk food as they like is dangerous. A poor diet can contribute to a host of diseases, including cancer.

They conclude:

Overall, these results are not hugely encouraging, and the misleading nature of the news reporting is cause for dismay...

The media coverage of this story made the results sound much more promising than they are and failed to point out the less positive findings or the flaws in this “flab jab” research.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Homeless charities respond to 'misleading' claim hostels are 'full of Somalis and Poles'

Last month, a blogpost by Allan Mallinson in the RightMinds section of MailOnline appeared under the headline:

He said:

I had known that perhaps up to 25% of the homeless were veterans, a disturbing enough statistic.

He told the story of Stephen, who had been in the army for 17 years. Mallinson wrote:

He had been to SSAFA, to Citizens Advice etc, who signposted him on, and then to ‘Shelter’. And here’s where the story really begins to disgust – to say the least.

He said that all the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles – which my friend tells me, according to her colleagues in the charity sector, is true, except that in rural areas it is more Somalis than Poles.

Jeremy Swain, chief executive of the homelessness charity Thames Reach, left a comment under the post calling it 'grossly misleading'. He then wrote to the PCC to complain:

"I wish to put in a complaint concerning a Daily Mail article headlined ‘As thousands of servicemen are made redundant, how many will be turned away from homeless shelters that are packed full of immigrants’.

I believe this article breaches both section 1 on accuracy and section 12 on discrimination of the Press Complaints Commission Code of Practice for Editors. These stipulate that the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information and that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to people’s race or nationality.

I strongly support efforts to help British armed services veterans to escape homelessness, but this article misrepresents and distorts what is really happening in respect to the total number of homeless veterans and who is entitled to live in hostels for the homeless, whilst inciting racial hatred.

The article is inaccurate on a number of different points:

It suggests that up to 25 per cent of the homeless were armed forces veterans – the latest data for London compiled by outreach workers across the capital indicates that 6%, not 25% of rough sleepers have a background in the armed forces. Furthermore, approximately half of these rough sleepers actually served in the armed forces of Central and Eastern European countries.

See link for details of the rough sleeping Chain data for London’s rough sleepers which contains this information.

Elsewhere, the article suggests 'the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles'. This is inaccurate as whilst many people from overseas end up sleeping rough, they cannot access homeless hostel bed spaces as they have no rights to the benefits which would pay their rent. Quite simply, unless someone has paid national insurance contributions for over a year, they won't be found accommodation in hostels and other ways of helping them are being sought within the homelessness sector. Hostels are not 'full of Somalis and Poles' as the article’s author states. Indeed they make up a very tiny minority of the hostel population.

The article then states that 'unless you have an address you cannot receive benefits' which adds to the impression that veterans are doubly disadvantaged as they are left on the street and unable to claim benefit. This is an urban myth. People sleeping rough are entitled to benefits if they are UK citizens and can provide appropriate identification.

The article then suggests 'charities are being overwhelmed by immigrant need to the exclusion of our own'. This is simply not the case. Homeless hostels only cater for those entitled to benefits which include British army veterans. Additionally some local authorities such as Southwark, Edinburgh, Wandsworth and Westminster are introducing or have introduced additional clauses to give priority to ex-services personnel which gives them priority to housing.

This article is wholly inaccurate and in my view is intended to create an impression of entitlement to services which benefit some national groups (Somalis and Poles) at the expense of services personal from the UK. As such it is likely to lead to racial discrimination against non-UK nationals and possibly assaults on people from central and eastern Europe and other parts of the world who are vulnerable through living destitute on our streets."

Inside Housing reports that five complaints have been sent to the PCC, and:

Forty homelessness organisations signed a letter to Daily Mail Online refuting the blog’s claims.

Their letter stated:

‘To imply that veterans are being denied help because hostels are “overwhelmed by immigrant need” is misleading’.

The RightMinds blog has already published an article from Matt Harrison, director of the charity Homeless Link, challenging Mallinson. Will the PCC regard that as sufficient remedy?

(Hat-tip to Ivan)

UPDATE (14 July): Mallinson's article was updated yesterday, and two bullet point corrections were added to the end. They say:

  • An earlier version of this article stated that an address is required to claim benefits. We are happy to point out that this is, in fact, incorrect. Homeless people can claim benefits without having a formal residence.
  • We are also happy to point out that a 2008 report by the Royal British Legion puts the estimate of homeless people with armed services' backgrounds at 6%.

Meanwhile, the sentence that originally read:

He said that all the civilian shelters were full of Somalis and Poles – which my friend tells me, according to her colleagues in the charity sector, is true, except that in rural areas it is more Somalis than Poles.

Has suddenly become:

He said that in all the civilian shelters there were Somalis and Poles – which my friend tells me, according to her colleagues in the charity sector, is true. 

This has been very quietly changed - but surely this change should be noted in a bullet point at the end too. Moreover, why has the MailOnline not also changed the claim in the headline that homeless shelters are 'packed full of immigrants'?

Sorry we said you were a convicted drug dealer

Associated Newspapers in Ireland has apologised after articles in the Irish versions of the Mail and Mail on Sunday falsely accused someone of being a 'convicted drug dealer'. The Independent in Ireland reports:

A businessman who was falsely referred to as a convicted drugs dealer in newspaper reports about the funeral of RTE broadcaster Gerry Ryan has received a High Court apology.

Associated Newspapers (Irl) Ltd, publishers of the Mail titles, unreservedly apologised to Aidan Cosgrave for the injury to his reputation and for the distress and embarrassment caused to him.

The apology stated Mr Cosgrave is not a convicted drug dealer and has never dealt in drugs.

Mr Cosgrave (55) of Londonbridge Road, Sandymount, Dublin, took the action after the Irish Mail on Sunday and the Irish Daily Mail published reports on December 12 and 13, 2010, about the funeral of the RTE broadcaster.

One of the reports was headed "Convicted drugs dealer was at Gerry's funeral".

The articles had been published in the context of the controversy surrounding the finding of the inquest into the death of Gerry Ryan, who had died on April 30, 2010.

When the case was called before Mr Justice Eamon deValera today, Frank Callinan SC, instructed by solicitor Robert Dore, for Mr Cosgrave, told the judge it had been resolved and an apology from Associated Newspapers was read to be read in court.

This report, the apology stated, was illustrated by a photograph of Aidan Cosgrave present as a friend of Gerry Ryan as a mourner at the funeral and who was said, in both articles, to be a convicted drug dealer.

"Mr Cosgrave is not a convicted drug dealer and has never dealt in drugs," the apology stated.

"Further, any suggestion from our reports that Mr Cosgrave had supplied cocaine to Gerry Ryan that might have contributed to his death or otherwise is wholly unfounded.

"We unreservedly apologise to Mr Cosgrave for the injury to his reputation and for the distress and embarrassment caused to him," the apology stated.

Mr Justice deValera was told the case could be struck out.

In the proceedings, it was claimed Mr Cosgrave was a close personal friend of the late RTE broadcaster and he was deeply distressed at his untimely death and had attended the funeral as a mourner.

(via Roy Greenslade)

'No further action'

MailOnline reports:

Bullet point five says:

Arrests made after two held over alleged plot to attack the London Olympic canoeing event

The article does not elaborate on this, but a MailOnline article from 29 June does:

It explains:

Two Muslim converts have been arrested on suspicion of plotting an attack on the London Olympic canoeing venue after police spotted them on a dinghy nearby.

An 18-year-old and a 32-year-old were detained after dawn raids were carried out at separate addresses in east London by officers acting on a tip-off.

Sources said the arrests were made after the men were seen acting suspiciously close to the venue in Waltham Abbey, Essex, on Monday.

These arrests were reported elsewhere, including the Telegraph which seemed to present this 'Olympic terror plot' as fact in its main headline:

Yet neither the Mail nor the Telegraph appear to have reported any subsequent developments in the case - in particular, the fact that both men were released without charge the following day.

As Associated Press explained:

Scotland Yard says an 18-year-old and a 32-year-old arrested at separate addresses in east London last week have been freed "with no further action."

So not only does it appear that the Mail and Telegraph have failed to inform their readers of this, but MailOnline is today mentioning the arrests again.

(More on this from Islamophobia Watch)

(A report on Islam and Muslims and the British Media (pdf), by Unitas, was submitted to the Leveson Inquiry this week)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

'Forced' to fly the EU flag

On 29 April, the Mail on Sunday reported: Brussels orders EU flag must fly over Whitehall every day... and we could be fined if we fail to comply.

Two months later, on 25 June, the Mail on Sunday returned to the story:

The article - which was reheated by the Express the next day - explained:

A row over the Government being forced to fly the European Union flag took a farcical turn last night after Brussels offered to pay for a new flagpole if it complied with the demand.

The Mail on Sunday revealed earlier this year that Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles was furious after being told that he faced being fined under new European Commission rules if he did not fly the EU flag continuously outside his office.

Forcing Pickles to 'continuously' 'fly' the EU flag?

That's not quite how the European Commission Representation in the UK sees it:

Contrary to the Mail on Sunday story (25 June) repeated by the Daily Express on 26 June, Brussels has not “demanded” that the Department for Communities and Local Government flies the EU flag on one of its two flagpoles all year round.

As was made very clear to the Mail on Sunday before it published the story, and as Mr Hahn wrote in a letter to Minister Eric Pickles, the proposal would “not require the EU flag to be flown on a flagpole in front of the premises…”

The EC is proposing only that Member States’ managing authorities for EU regional funding display an EU flag in a place visible to the public – inside or outside the relevant building – as a symbol of partnership in investing EU structural funds, which aim primarily to create jobs.

It is now up to Member States, including the UK, in the Council to decide whether to agree to that proposal. As Mr Hahn pointed out in the letter, no other national Minister has so far registered any objection. Most managing authorities already fly the EU flag alongside their national and sometimes regional ones.

As for the Mail on Sunday’s claim that Brussels has “offered to buy Britain a flagpole” this was a handwritten comment by Mr Hahn at the end of his personal letter to Mr Pickles, suggesting lightheartedly that Mr Hahn would fund a third flagpole from his own pocket if Mr Pickles wanted to fly the EU flag from it.

The Express did not seek comment from the Commission before repeating the Mail on Sunday story.

Monday, 2 July 2012

The Daily Mail and the ‘victimisation of Christianity’

On 2 June, the Manchester Evening News reported on a case at Trafford Magistrates Court:

A high-flying businessman was hauled before the court for a tirade of religious abuse at a Muslim immigration official waiting to check his passport.

Anthony Holt, 65, had become wound up after reading an article in the Daily Mail about the ‘victimisation of Christianity’ on a flight into Manchester.

When he landed, the retired consultant refused to go through a desk where Sayima Mohammed was on duty.

He astonished witnesses by pointing at her and saying: “I don’t want to be seen by that. I don’t want to be seen by any Muslim in a position of authority. I want to be seen by someone who’s English. This is England. This is my country. I’m not into all this Islam.”

...He had been reading an article in the Mail in which the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey spoke of the ‘victimisation of Christians and Christianity’.

A couple of weeks later, the Mail published another article about the so-called 'victimisation of Christianity'.

It involves the case of Dr Richard Scott, who has been given a written warning by the General Medical Council. Scott was supported by the Christian Legal Centre, who have been prominent is bringing similar cases to the media's attention. Days before the final ruling, the GMC had told the CLC that 'premature comment...can be unhelpful'.

The Mail's reporting of the case is wholly one-sided. The paper's James Tozer writes:

A Christian doctor yesterday claimed he was a victim of religious discrimination after being disciplined for discussing his faith with a suicidal patient.

Richard Scott, 51, a former medical missionary, was reprimanded despite the 24-year-old complainant not even having to turn up to give evidence.

But the GMC Committee makes clear:

The Committee received oral testimony from you [Dr Scott] and Patient A. Patient A was permitted to give his evidence by telephone following the Committee’s earlier ruling. Patient A was supervised throughout his evidence by a GMC legal representative at the direction of the Committee. You were both subject to cross examination and were asked questions by the Committee.

It is worth reading the full verdict of the Committee as it provides a much fuller picture of what actually happened and what informed their decision.

The Mail neglects to mention crucial parts of the Committee's judgement. For example, their clear statement that:

this case did not constitute an attack on the Christian faith. GMC guidance acknowledges the role of faith issues in medical care and the right of doctors to raise such matters within the consultation provided that it is done with the patient’s consent and with sensitivity and respect for any faith they might have.


The Committee does not consider that matters of faith are irrelevant to clinical care, and accepts that there are many circumstances in which spiritual assistance is valuable

Lord Carey pops up in the Mail's article to say:

'I’m extremely saddened by this ruling. Many Christians will be asking whether they any longer have the freedom to express their faith.'

It seems clear - as with his comments on the BBC BC/AD case - that he has not made himself aware of all the evidence before issuing his ready-made comment. 

Scott was accused of telling Patient A that he was:

not going to offer him any medical help or tests or advice


you had something to offer Patient A which would cure him for good and that this was his one and only hope in recovery


if Patient A did not turn towards Jesus and hand Jesus his suffering, then Patient A would suffer for the rest of his life


his own religion could not offer him any protection and that no other religion in the world could offer Patient A what Jesus could offer him


the devil haunts people who do not turn to Jesus and hand him their suffering

And Scott was:

told by Patient A that he had not come to a doctor to talk about religion and that he had come to the Practice because he was unwell and desperately needed help, or words to that effect.

The Committee ruled it was proved - or, in one case, proved in part - that these these statements had indeed been said.

Crucially, the Mail also neglects to mention that Dr Scott admitted that if Patient A's recollection was correct:

a significant departure from Good Medical Practice and supplemental guidance...would have occurred.

And, in the end, the Committee believed Patient A's recollection was correct. They explained:

Having made due allowance for the fact that Patient A gave his evidence by telephone and not in person, the Committee considers that it was able to obtain a sufficient impression of his truthfulness from the manner in which he gave his evidence and his response to questions. The Committee consider that Patient A gave credible evidence, direct answers and made all due allowances in your favour.

The Committee considered that while you sought to answer questions truthfully a number of your responses were in conflict with the evidence. Specifically, the Committee noted that it is unlikely that the very full record of the consultation which you made would have omitted mention of the treatment plan if it had been discussed – since this would have happened before the discussion about religion. The Committee regards it as unlikely that the discussion of your faith lasted only two and a half minutes as you contended, bearing in mind the breadth of material covered during your discussion. Furthermore, regrettably, at times you appeared to be evasive when answering questions.

The suggestion that Dr Scott was at times 'evasive' and some of his answers were 'in conflict with the evidence' is also absent from the Mail's version of this story.

The Committee pointed out:

Your actions were in direct conflict with the GMC’s supplementary guidance: Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice. This states in paragraph 19 that:

‘You must not impose your beliefs on patients, or cause distress by the inappropriate or insensitive expression of religious, political or other beliefs or views’.

Your actions also contravened Paragraph 33 of Good Medical Practice:

‘You must not express to your patients your personal beliefs including political, religious or moral beliefs, in ways that exploit their vulnerability or that are likely to cause them distress.’

Part of the evidence for reaching their conclusion came from the media interviews Scott had done to gain support and bang the 'victimisation of Christianity' drum:

You subsequently confirmed, via National media, that you had sought to suggest your own faith had more to offer than that of the patient.

In this way you sought to impose your own beliefs on your patient.

After quoting Dr Scott, the Christian Legal Centre, Lord Carey and the Christian Medical Fellowship, the Mail publishes a two-sentence quote from a GMC spokesman right at the end of the article.

(Thanks to Press Not Sorry and Jon)

Mail and Sun remove articles about 'riot' by football fans

Stephen Wren posted the following on FansOnline about articles that appeared in the Sun and Mail in February claiming there had been a riot after an abandoned football match:

After the Ipswich match was abandonded a couple of stories appeared in the press stating that Boro fans had 'gone on the riot' or 'rampage'. It said police were inspecting CCTV tapes in order to track down people involved.

I happened to be in the very close vicinity to the incident and recognised that the stories bore little resemblance to fact (indeed about the only fact that was correct was that the game was abandoned and the teams were Boro and Ipswich!).

I contacted Suffolk Police; Ipswich Town and the Boro offering my services as a witness to the event (and stating the actual facts). Ipswich and Suffolk police got back to me very quickly saying the story was basically a work of fiction.

I contacted the papers stating that their story was wrong in almost every element; giving the factual version of events and backing it up with the comments of Ipswich Town and the Police. They didn't reply.

I wrote again stating that they were in brech of the Press Complaints Commission Editors Code of Conduct (both in their article and in not correcting information that had been shown to be seriously inaccurate) and that I would make a formal complaint unless the stories were corrected.

Still no reply so I formally complained to the PCC who, initially, tried to suggest I couldn't complain as I was not the person 'wronged' and that any complaint must come from the club (who they advised had not complained about the articles).

I stated that, as a fan of MFC who was present at the game , I was being tarnished by the false story and therefore I was an injured party in the case. The PCC relented and agreed to take the complaint forward.

After some back and forth communication between myself, the papers and the PCC it was agreed that the stories were not accurate and both papers removed the stories from their websites and databases.

Additionally I recieved a personal apology from each paper.

The PCC confirms (Mail/Sun):

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the online article and a private letter of apology from the newspaper explaining the reasons for its failure to make direct contact with the complainant.

This suggests there will be no printed correction.

(Hat-tip to @quizeye)