Press regulator comes down hard on The Sun
The Sun newspaper have been forced to admit that their front page splash, stating ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’ was ‘significantly misleading’ and are to print a statement acknowledging this.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) ruled on 26th March that the article from 23rd November last year misrepresented the results of a poll on which they were based because the relevant question in its poll did not support the claim.
The newspaper’s columnist stated as fact that there was ‘support’ for Daesh, and that Muslims had sympathy with a ‘murderous, twisted ideology’.
Over 3,000 complaints were lodged against the paper’s front page and The Sun was ordered to print a clarification statement.
Respondents were asked to what extent they had sympathy with ‘young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria’, rather than with those who went to fight with Daesh or any other Islamist group.
But, while Ipso upheld the complaint it investigated, the paper was spared having to print notice of the settlement on its front page.
The watchdog said the newspaper had agreed to publish the notice on page two of Saturday’s edition, having been ordered to place it ‘no further back than page five’.
Ipso said: “While the newspaper was entitled to interpret the poll’s findings, taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that one in five British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join Isis and for Isis itself.
“In fact, neither the question, nor the answers which referred to ‘sympathy’, made reference to [Daesh]. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results and, as a result, the coverage was significantly misleading.”
The Sun refused to accept that the meaning of the question was unclear, vague and confusing.
The watchdog said it had received a large number of complaints about the paper’s coverage and chose the advocacy group Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend) as the lead complainant.
The complainants argued that, as the question did not mention Daesh, the people that answered the question might not have intended for their answers to be understood as relating to those joining the group.
For example, a number of British Muslims had left the UK to fight against Islamic State, or alongside anti-Assad forces or various Sunni militant groups.
A statement from IPSO read: “While the newspaper was entitled to interpret the poll’s findings, taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that 1 in 5 British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join [Daesh] and for [Daesh] itself.
“In fact, neither the question nor the answers which referred to ‘sympathy’ made reference to [Daesh]. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results, and as a result the coverage was significantly misleading.”
Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, Steve Barnett, said The Sun’s front page amounted to a ‘shameful distortion of its own polling data’.
“It reflects the warmongering editorial tone of the newspaper, which is apparently intent on exploiting any means at its disposal to persuade its readers that British Muslims are – at best – ambivalent about terrorism.
“Its dishonest use of opinion polling is the Sun’s latest weapon of choice in this undeclared propaganda war,” he blogged.