UK MP Offord blasts PCC’s ruling on Guardian riot story which singled out Jews

Back in August, CiF Watch was successful in getting the Guardian to revise language in a story about the UK riots which singled out Jews, as allegedly jeering police.

Here was the original passage from a story by the Guardian’s Paul Lewis:

The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10….But families and other local residents, including some from Tottenham’s Hasidic Jewish community, also gathered to watch and jeer at police

Indeed, in 13 stories either authored or co-authored by Lewis on the riots, encompassing over 12,000 words, Jews were the only ethnic group specifically singled out.

As the Guardian later acknowledged, when they revised the wording, the passage violated their editorial code which prohibits references to people’s religion or race unless it is genuinely relevant to the story.

Here’s the revised passage:

The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10.

But families and other local residents representative of the area – black, Asian and white, including some from Tottenham’s Hasidic Jewish community – also gathered to watch and jeer at police.

The Guardian’s correction page noted:

“A description of the mix of people on the streets of Tottenham on Sunday evening, 7 August, contained these sentences: “The make-up of the rioters was racially mixed. Most were men or boys, some apparently as young as 10. But families and other local residents, including some from Tottenham’s Hasidic Jewish Community, also gathered to watch and jeer at police”. In keeping with Guardian editorial guidelines, a more detailed picture of the mix should have been given to specify some of the other groups there (They gathered in peaceful protest. Suddenly all hell broke loose, 8 August, page 2).” [emphasis mine]

In response to Hendon MP Matthew Offord, who had filed a complaint about the singling-out of Orthodox Jews in the initial article, the PCC said it did not believe the Guardian had breached clause 12 of the PCC code.

The clause states “that newspapers must avoid reference to an individual’s religion unless it is genuinely relevant to the story”.

The PCC acknowledged Mr Offord’s concerns, but said that since the article had referred to a group of Jews, rather than individual Jews, the comment was not in breach.

Mr Offord said: “This is a typical toothless response from the media’s most ineffectual watchdog.

I think “toothless” and “ineffectual” are very apt characterizations of a media watchdog whose standards appear to be below even that of the Guardian. 


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