British Muslim Initiative www.bminitiative. net
Attention: News Desk
The Sun and Daily Mail withdraw unfounded allegations by Policy Exchange
Following a complaint by the British Muslim Initiative to the Press Complaints Commission regarding media coverage of the disgraced Policy Exchange's unfounded report on alleged extremist literature in mosques, the Sun newspaper has withdrawn its coverage of the report from its website and published a clarification letter by BMI.
When a Newsnight investigation in December revealed that vast amounts of evidence used by Policy Exchange to claim that UK mosques were distributing extremist literature were revealed to be entirely forged, BMI noticed that few newspapers reported the revelations. In fact, many of these papers had originally given prominent and extremely biased coverage to the report, including The Times (on its front page), The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and The Sun, and had completely failed to display any objectivity or balance in presenting the story, presenting it as fact despite the hugely inflammatory nature of the allegations.
After receiving BMI's complaint, the Sun was quick to point out that it had based its misleading coverage on a report by the Times and, having taken on board BMI's comments, arranged for the article to be taken down from its website. It also published the following letter in its print and online editions:
"Your article 'Books of hatred at mosques' (October 30) was taken from an inaccurate report by Policy Exchange based on forged evidence. The report sought to unfairly tarnish the reputations of British mosques, many of which have long been at the forefront of promoting community cohesion and empowering local people."
Mohammed Sawalha, President, British Muslim Initiative
Mohammed Kozbar, Trustee,
The Daily Mail, which also covered the Policy Exchange report in a biased manner, has also agreed to withdraw the article from its website and noted BMI's concerns though did not accept the bias of its reporting. The BMI's complaints against the Daily Telegraph and the Times, which have refused to withdraw their coverage, as well as the complaint against the Daily Mail are ongoing and will be reviewed by the Press Complaints Commission in the coming weeks.
Mohammad Sawalha, President of BMI commented: "The hostile, sensationalised and utterly biased coverage throughout the story violated the media's responsibility to present facts in an accurate, objective and measured manner, as is sadly so often the case when it comes to reporting of issues related to Muslims and Islam. This decision by the Sun to withdraw its coverage highlights the media's fundamental responsibility to cover such issues in a measured manner, and not to engage in the morally and socially irresponsible reporting that we have seen in recent months, which have had a direct negative impact on the daily lives of Muslims and other minorities."
Policy Exchange's downfall and the exposure of its extremely shoddy and dishonest research methods also points to the dangers of allowing think tanks, through their links with major political parties and their pretences of impartiality and reliable research, to dictate public opinion and policy on issues of fundamental importance, and to smear entire communities and community institutions on the sole basis of their own prejudices and hidden agendas.
British Muslim Initiative
18 March 2008
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