Leveson report and tackling anti-Muslim reporting
Tuesday December 11 2012
It’s been over a week since the publication of Lord Justice Leveson’s report on press reform and we are still waiting for the Government to fulfil its commitment to take the recommendations forward on a cross-party basis. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have fully supported Lord Leveson’s recommendations but the Prime Minister says he has “serious misgivings and concerns” on introducing a statutory underpinning to press regulation.
The Prime Minister has asked the press industry to address Lord Leveson’s recommendations but the proposals put forward by the editors of all major newspapers are inadequate and dismiss key areas of concern to the Muslim community. Namely, a ‘third party’ complaints clause and giving an independent regulator the ability to intervene in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting.
The above is an example of a response that you could send on to your local MP to inform them of this Islamophobic incident.
Please take these simple steps to urge the Prime Minister to fulfil his promise to fully implement Lord Leveson’s recommendations.
We are at a critical moment in history whereby we can finally ensure the press report responsibly on all vulnerable groups, including Muslims. Please therefore take the time to do this and please forward this email to as many people as possible. May Allah (SWT) reward you for your efforts.
“[Insert MPs name]
Before Lord Justice Leveson’s report into press behaviour was published, the leaders of all three main political parties said publicly and privately to victims of press abuse that his recommendations should be taken forward on a cross party basis. They also said that they would implement them as long as they were proportionate and workable - in fact, in the words of the Prime Minister, as long as they were "not bonkers".
Lord Justice Leveson has recommended self-regulation of the press, with its effectiveness and independence (from industry and politicians) guaranteed by law. This has been supported by Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. David Cameron does not agree. He announced that he would not support Leveson’s recommendation to give self-regulation any legally-backed guarantee, meaning it will lack the independence and ‘teeth’ that are the hallmark of the current failed system of self-regulation.
In his report, Lord Leveson cites various submissions and witness testimony, including from ENGAGE, on the media’s portrayal of Muslims and other minority groups. He concluded, “[W]hen 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.
“Overall, the evidence in relation to the representation of women and minorities suggests that there has been a significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability. Whether these publications have also amounted to breaches of the Editors’ Code in every case is debatable, but in the ultimate analysis is little to the point. That failure has, in the main, been limited to a section of the press and may well stem from an undue focus on seeking to reflect the views (even if unsuccessfully) of a particular readership. A new regulator will need to address these issues as a matter of priority, the first steps being to amend practice and the Code to permit third party complaints.” (my emphasis).
As a British Muslim, I am deeply concerned by the sheer volume of media reporting on Islam and Muslims that is inaccurate, discriminatory and unbalanced. I believe Lord Leveson’s recommendations are vital to advancing good and ethical journalism.
I note that in the proposals drafted by editors of the major newspapers this week, there are several recommendations which appear in Lord Leveson’s report which have been sidelined. Notable among them, and which are of particular concern to me, are recommendations 13 and 29, on the inclusion of a ‘third party’ complaints clause and intervention by the regulator “in cases of allegedly discriminatory reporting and in so doing reflect the spirit of equalities legislation,” respectively.
As your constituent I urge you to write to the Prime Minister asking him to back Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, in full and without compromise, as he said he would.