Sunday, 19 September 2010

PCC must act over Express' 'Muslim Plot to Kill Pope' front page

The Metropolitan Police have said:

Six men who were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Friday, 17 September, were all released without charge late on Saturday night and early this morning.

Hearing the six men have been released without charge may come as something of a shock to readers of the Express who had been told on Saturday that the men were almost certainly guilty, having hatched a 'Muslim Plot to Kill Pope':

Every media outlet was reporting the arrests on Friday, but there was a very clear note of wariness in the coverage. The indication was that the police acted out of caution rather than any serious threat.

But the Express doesn't do subtlety - especially when there's a chance of accusing Muslims of something awful. Look at the first sentence:

Islamic terrorists disguised as street cleaners allegedly hatched an audacious plot to blow up the Pope.

As Sim-O points out, the Express is declaring these six men were definitely 'Islamic terrorists' but were only 'allegedly' plotting to kill the Pope.

But then the Express makes it sound as if there was definitely a plot as well:

The threatened attack was foiled at the 11th hour after police raided a cleaning depot in London as the suspects prepared to start their shift yesterday.

It was strange to see the Express' front page sub-head calling the men 'bogus street cleaners'. The paper was more convinced they were 'Islamic terrorists' than actual street cleaners.

Most of the rest of the quotes and information about the arrests that appears in the Express' article was repeated elsewhere. But one Express-only sentence stood out:

It is feared plotters with links to Al Qaeda planned “a double blow to the infidel” by assassinating the head of the Roman Catholic church and slaughtering hundreds of pilgrims and well-wishers.

As there was no plot, and no one else seemed to be reporting this claim, the suspicion is the Express used dramatic licence here. By putting 'double blow to the infidel' in quote marks, it makes it seem as if someone has actually said this. But they don't say who. Because no one did.

Sim-O points out another line that also only seemed to appear in the Express:

An investigation is also under way to determine if the foreign nationals had entered Britain legally and were entitled to work here.

The Express seems to be saying: even in the unlikely event they aren't found to be 'Islamic terrorists', there's sure to be something dodgy about their immigration status.

This was a quite disgraceful, scaremongering, hate-inciting front page from the Express. Will they give so much prominence to the fact they've all been released without charge? Of course not.

The question is what will the PCC do? As there are six men directly involved they will only consider a complaint from one of them. Although it would be understandable if they didn't want to remain in the public spotlight, let's hope they do complain.

But if they don't, the PCC should consider acting anyway.

The Express used its front page to smear six men as Islamic terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda. A front page correction, retraction and apology must follow.


  1. One of the papers today says the arrests were due to a joke made by one of the men in the staff canteen. So several of the men were guilty of nothing more than listening to somebody else joke about blowing up the pope.

  2. What an inevitable end to this shocking yet totally unsurprising Express non-story. I doubt there will even be a tiny column on page 34 correction, sadly.

  3. Here's hoping they find a good lawyer prepared to sue the Express and take some of Desmond's dirty money.

    God that paper is like used toilet paper.

  4. Sounds to me as around as significant a comment as the flippant sort that goes on in every English pub, or where the misguided man on his way into an airport answers to the question "Anything To Declare?" with "Oh only a few bombs officer!" - in those contexts, the outrage from the tabloids is why these airport people don't have a sense of humour and why do they over-react. But that's probably because it's a white middle-class person going on holiday, rather than an alleged Muslim alleged illegal immigrant alleged bomb-plotter. Funny how a beard and a foreign accent can make all the difference.

  5. Nice find. Par for the course for the Express.

  6. The other point is that I've seen nothing that confirmed that any of the six gentlemen were Muslims, yet that was the Express's main angle. The only indication of their ethnic or religious origin was that they were "thought" to be Algerian. So why have the Express done a 2+2=5 and made the declaration that they are Muslims? Or is it that describing them as Algerians wouldn't have suited their bigoted agenda?

  7. This is completely despicable, but also tragically typical. This, along with the 'Atheist Hate Campaign', just goes to underline the zeal of the Daly Mail to find some sort of group to scapegoat anything. It will be an historic day when something is finally done about the filth this paper puts out.

  8. Couldn't there be "citing racial hatred" laws that can be used against the Daily Express? Although, now that I think about it, I am sure the other sleazepapers will get even worse.
    The one thing that I have noticed about sleazepapers is that they do not like to be told they are wrong.

  9. Call me an idealist if you like, but I would like to see a law obliging the Express to give its apology and retraction the same prominence as its original erroneous piece.

    The Express poison has been injected not only into the minds of sad Express readers, but subliminally into the mind of anyone who glances at a news stand.

    We need a Royal Commission on the media, to look into this kind of thing, and also media ownership, to avoid Berlusconisation of the UK, and to replace the PCC by an independent body with real powers. Green Party conference recently passed a resolution to this effect.

    Democracy cannot function properly if public opinion is manipulated by this style of "journalism".

  10. You could have written the above story on the day men were arrested and probably not had to change a word!

    What a pathetic excuse for a so called newspaper (no-use paper sounds better!!)

  11. There won't be a front page apology. It would shock their readers too much to read that not all Muslims are terrorists, or even that anyone foreign isn't always a Muslim and/or terrorist. I doubt they could cope with that.

  12. I saw this at my Grandads house yesterday- made me feel quite sick.

  13. So a joke, just like the joke about Robin Hood airport being blown up.

  14. I wonder what would the reaction be on this page if the publication was not a tabloid newspaper!!!
    for the last four months i have been tryiong to get Reuters news agency to apologise for an inaccurate and unbalanced report they published about 5 people who were executed on the 9th of May this year in Iran.

    for four long months several reuters editors including the editor in chief resisted my and maintained their article was accurate but finally after few MPs intervened they had to remove the piece and correct the story. However they never addressed the issue of balance in their report publicly!!!!

    my complaint about two newspapers which ran the Reuters story

    the link to the article removed

    why do we not still have a PCC style organisation to regulate international news agencies such as Reuters and AP

  15. @Fazel - good for you and for continuing to push! The reaction should be as appalled by any shoddy media reporting and in many instances the source of several misleading stories is often news agencies.

    They should not be exempt from censure and like others I strongly believe we need more robust monitoring body rather than the useless PCC. One that covers agencies such as Reuters, pushes for very swift responses (within 48-hours in clear cases such as the Express story); a like-for-like size, space and prominence on stories such as this one and an ability to impose punitive financial penalties on poor reporting where there is clear harm.

  16. The job of a newspaper is to sell adverts, not be "accurate" or "balanced".

    If accuracy and balance are marketable, that's all well and good, but they're not (or at least, not as marketable as fearmongering, fruity young girls, and pointless celebrity gossip).

    It's not clear what "balance" even means. Equal coverage of different viewpoints? Coverage in proportion to how widely held the viewpoints are? Something else?

    Complaining that journalism is "unbalanced" is a meaningless criticism; "balance" means whatever you want it to mean.

    Everyone has a viewpoint. Everything is editorialized. Even the mere selection of what to report and what not is a form of bias. Sure, there are different degrees. Some organizations (the AP and Reuters being good examples) strive to produce broad, non-selective coverage of more or less anything and everything.

    TV and print news is, however, far more selective, and far more agenda-driven, through necessity.

    Even without a profit motive or an overt political bias, there is still selection done to assess relevance and level of interest. For example, virtually every news outlet is overwhelmingly biased towards national news, to the exclusion of world news and local news. Many broadcasters have a soft human-interest "and finally..." story to close their shows, typically representing the only piece of good news they'll broadcast. Neither of these things are _balanced_, but so what?

    Railing against this is tilting at windmills, and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and intent of the press in all its forms.

  17. "God that paper is like used toilet paper."

    Minus the paper.

  18. DrPizza
    i'm sorry but you are coming across a wee bit patronising:

    Railing against this is tilting at windmills, and represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature and intent of the press in all its forms

    I think most people who read this blog understand the nature of the press, but this story isn't about balance.

    it's about a blatant, large print LIE.

    I dislike the express's agenda and angle, but i understand it has one. however, printing a fear mongering, big racist lie is a little bit different than not being 'balanced'.

  19. This is outrageous. No amount of apologies can repair the damages on the image of the Muslim world.

  20. Common people. you all know that the only truthful info in a newspaper is the price and the date.


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