EXCLUSIVE: THE WATCHDOG STIRS

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THE TIMES is under investigation for a controversial series of articles which claimed a five-year-old Christian child was forced by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to live with Muslim foster parents. 

The three articles, written by award-winning Chief Investigative Reporter Andrew Norfolk and published in August last year, resulted in a barrage of complaints to the watchdog IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

Critics claimed the series was inaccurate and amounted to a racist smear against Britain’s Muslim community. 

The Muslim Council of Britain branded the articles “disgracefully dishonest”.

IPSO — funded and controlled by newspapers including The Times — rejected 254 complaints.

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GOSPEL
THE FIRST of The Times articles, published on August 28 last year, attracted 251 complaints — all of them rejected by the Independent Press Standards Organisation.

It ruled that only people directly affected could complain about discrimination.

And it claimed it was unable to investigate allegations of inaccuracy “without the involvement of an individual in the position to know the facts of this case … “

But Press Gang has learned that everything has dramatically changed.

A “party directly involved” has recently come forward.

An IPSO spokeswoman confirmed that this person has submitted a complaint — number 255 — and that it is being investigated.

The complaint alleges that one of the articles in the series was inaccurate — and also breached the section of IPSO Editors’ Code which protects children.

The new complaint is a major blow to The Times.

The paper — and its editor John Witherow — had hoped the “Childgate” affair had blown over.

This morning Press Gang told the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) about the new development.  

Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said he is now “looking to re-submit his complaint.”

He had previously condemned IPSO’s failure to investigate as an “appalling dereliction of duty”.  

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times’ editor John Witherow has come under the Press Gang microscope. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced Mazher Mahmood. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation. The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s had probably prostituted herself to persuade the dentist to co-operate. For the full story, see Withering Heights.
Photo: PA

Andrew Norfolk, who won the Paul Foot award for his investigative reporting of the grooming of teenage girls in the north of England, has defended his articles.

He told the BBC Today programme last October:  

“My job as a reporter, when matters on the face of it raise serious concerns are brought to our attention, my job is to investigate them.”

He added:

“And when you discover issues that you believe are in the public interest to explore and expose … I think we did our job as a newspaper.”

IPSO is also considering whether to accept another complaint: number 256.

On Wednesday, Press Gang submitted a 13 page complaint — the most comprehensive IPSO has received on the issue of accuracy.

Yesterday, a copy of the complaint was sent to Andrew Norfolk and John Witherow, editor of The Times.

We asked for a comment by 2pm this afternoon.

There was no response from either. 

The Press Gang investigation continues.

Anyone who has any further information can contact via Twitter @pguk10

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CORRECTION
This article was amended on January 21. The original headline — “A Watchdog Stirs? — was amended to “A Watchdog Stirs”. The second paragraph originally said there were three front page articles: in fact there were only two. Apologies for the mistake. 

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One Response to “EXCLUSIVE: THE WATCHDOG STIRS”

  1. Law and Media Round Up – 22 January 2018 | Inforrm's Blog Says:

    […] Press Gang blog reports that IPSO is now investigating a new complaint concerning the misleading and inaccurate Times […]

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