Press regulator finds Times newspaper distorted Muslim foster case story
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) has ruled the Times "distorted" its coverage of a five-year-old who was placed with Muslim foster carers. The front-page article on 28th August was headlined Times “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care”.
The Times newspaper, ran three front-page stories after a five-year-old girl was removed from her mother's care by Tower Hamlets council in east London.
The articles indicated the “white Christian child” was ‘distressed’ that Muslim foster carers stopped her from eating bacon, confused her by speaking Arabic and removed a crucifix.
They didn’t have a photograph of the girl and instead used a stock picture of a Muslim family to elaborate the the story in print and online. The image included a photograph of the girl with a woman, said to be her foster carer, wearing Islamic dress. They electronically altered the image to cover the woman’s face with a veil.
Tower Hamlets council said that the newspaper’s front-page headline, "Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home", was misleading because the child was to go live with her grandmother.
It’s emerged that the grandmother of the child, also of a Muslim background, did not speak English.
The council complained that the story which was published on the front page of the newspaper’s 30th August edition – the third front page dedicated to the story that week – implied that a judge had ruled against Tower Hamelts by ordering that the then five-year-old girl be removed from the Muslim household.
The press regulator ruled that the article breached rule one of the editors’ code of practice, which concerns accuracy.
The Ipso ruling, which was published in full on page two of the newspaper, called the article a “distortion” of the issue.
Ian Brunskill, the paper's assistant editor, whilst addressing the Commons Home Affairs Committee investigation of the reporting of minorities on Tuesday 24th April admitted the paper's reporting had caused “enormous offence, it's caused enormous upset."
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it was the first time a story relating to Islam had been corrected on the front page of a newspaper.
Harun Khan, the organisation's secretary general, said: "It is about time the Times was forced to apologise for promoting what was widely known to be an inaccurate, misleading and bigoted narrative about Muslims.
"We hope that this will mark a turning point in the tolerance the Times has shown for anti-Muslim bigotry in its coverage and commentary."
The chief executive of Tower Hamlets council, Will Tuckley, said it had complained because it wanted to defend its own foster carers.
He said: "From the start we had concerns about the validity of the allegations about the foster carers.
"For example one allegation was that they did not speak English, even though that is a prerequisite for any foster carer.
"The allegation that the foster placement was a bad choice by the council was also found by Ipso to be distorted information."
The Times mentioned the Independent Press Standards Organisation ruling on the front page of Wednesday's 25th April paper and publishes the full adjudication on page two and online.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled the paper should publish the adjudication on page six or more prominently, as well appearing in the top 50% of online stories for 24 hours as on its website.
The Daily Mail also picked up the story on its front page the following day under the headline: “MPs’ anger as Christian girl forced into Muslim foster care”. The Daily Mail also used a digitally edited stock picture of a Muslim woman with a veil holding a child’s hand. The former Mail Online columnist and commentator Katie Hopkins tweeted an image of the front page, asking: “Which individual at Tower Hamlets was responsible for the abuse of this little girl?”