THE SHAME OF ANDREW NORFOLK — PART 5: A CHAMPION OF FAKE NEWS

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IN JULY last year the chief investigative reporter of the Times published another of his sensational exposés from the “dark side” of Britain’s Muslim community.

Andrew Norfolk’s target was a small Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire, some of whose trustees are Muslims.

The award-winning Norfolk told readers how one of the charity’s reports led to death threats against Rotherham’s Labour MP Sarah Champion.

It wasn’t true.

Three months later, and after Press Gang intervened on behalf of the charity, the Times dramatically withdrew Norfolk’s allegation.

In a letter from one of its lawyers, the paper admitted “no death threats … were attributable to the report”. 

It was fake news — published on the front page of a paper that once claimed to be “Britain’s Most Trusted National Newspaper”.

Before Norfolk and the Times got to work on its reputation, Just Yorkshire had never received abuse on its website.

Now there was a steady stream, including death threats. 

One of these read:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

The charity was forced to close. 

This new scandal follows Norfolk’s now notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” investigation of 2017. 

Norfolk was exposed as a rogue reporter after the judiciary confronted his false narrative.

The court released documents which revealed that the so-called Christian girl at the centre of the story was the daughter of a woman whose parents are practising Muslims. 

For much of her life, the little girl was brought up by her grandparents — in a Turkish household of practising Muslims.

(This story has been told in the first three parts of The Shame Of Andrew Norfolk: see, for example, Retribution.)

Now comes the fake “death threats” story … 

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On 25 July 2018 the Times launched a campaign claiming the racial justice charity Just Yorkshire had put the life of the MP Sarah Champion in danger.

Over a four day period the paper published seven articles criticising the charity.

It was a typical Andrew Norfolk investigation — the initial front page article was buttressed by two further articles.

An editorial made it clear the Times backed its chief investigative reporter to the hilt. 

The issue was kept alive the next day with another front page article and a comment piece by columnist David Aaronovitch.

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A “SLIP”, AN “ERROR”, A “MISTAKE” …
THE DRAMATIC front page article written by Andrew Norfolk in July 2018 which claimed the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against the MP Sarah Champion. On Christmas Eve 2018 the Times buried a 69-word paragraph on page 24 admitting there was no truth in the allegation. Lawyers for the paper privately described the allegation as a “slip”, an “error”, a “mistake”.

The campaign came to an end with a front page story on July 29. 

By then the 16-year-old charity’s reputation was in tatters — its funders were backing away and its only employee would soon be made redundant.  

Norfolk’s first article was headed:

Terror police boost MP’s security for MP over criticism of Asian sex gangs

It continued on page 7 under the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

The first two paragraphs stated:

An MP who received death threats after condemning the sexual abuse of girls by groups of British Pakistani men has been given increased security amid fears that hard-left and Muslim opponents are trying to force her from office.

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

There were, in fact, two strands to Norfolk’s “Terror police” story.

The first was the allegation made against Just Yorkshire.

The second was an exposé of an alleged plot by Muslim Labour Party members in Rotherham to unseat Sarah Champion.

This second strand is discussed later in this piece.  

Norfolk attempted to create a link between these two separate elements but was unable to find any evidence.

Instead, he lumped the alleged plotters with Just Yorkshire branding both as critics of the MP. 

In his article, Andrew Norfolk claimed that Just Yorkshire was a major opponent of the MP:

The strongest public attacks on Ms Champion, who campaigns for the victims of child sexual exploitation, have been made by a Rotherham-based racial justice charity, Just Yorkshire.

The charity’s leader has accused the MP of “industrial scale racism” and “inciting and inviting hatred against minorities”. 

Norfolk added that a report co-authored by Nadeem Murtuja, interim director of Just Yorkshire:

… said that British Pakistanis felt “scapegoated, dehumanised and potentially criminalised” by their MP, who had “crossed a point of no return”.

The Just Yorkshire report had examined the impact of a controversial Sun article by Sarah Champion in August 2017 on the town’s 7,600-strong Asian community.

Champion’s article was headed “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it”.

The MP, who was Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities at the time, wrote:

There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is?

Champion was heavily criticised for the piece and later admitted it “should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did.” 

She resigned from the shadow cabinet a few days later.

Just Yorkshire’s report on the local impact of her article was published seven months later, in March 2018.

SARAH CHAMPION

SARAH CHAMPION
THE LABOUR MP for Rotherham plays a key role in Andrew Norfolk’s articles on Just Yorkshire. When Norfolk revealed that police increased her security in July 2018 after she received death threats, she declined to comment. But after the Times admitted there were no death threats and Just Yorkshire complained to the press watchdog IPSO, she sent the Times an email confirming that her security had been increased as a result of the charity’s report. She has not responded to requests by Press Gang to provide the evidence for this.

Norfolk wrote:

Its foreword accused her of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

He noted that “Ms Champion apologised to the Rotherham Pakistani community ‘for any hurt or adverse reaction I inadvertently caused’, but said that Just Yorkshire’s findings were ‘based on an extremely limited survey, distributed through networks not made in any way clear in the report’.”

Norfolk added:

The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion. Scotland Yard’s counterterrorism unit increased her security risk level and she was advised to accept extra protection. The MP declined to comment.

Readers of the Times will have thought this was a charity run by Muslims whose extreme views had endangered the life of the town’s MP.

Three months later the Times, after the intervention of Press Gang and facing the threat of legal action, backed down.

The paper’s legal department admitted: 

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

♦♦♦

FOR INTERIM director Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire, the onslaught from Andrew Norfolk and the Times came as a complete shock.

A week before his first article, Norfolk had rung Murtuja and told him about the alleged plot to unseat Sarah Champion.

“He’d also been told that one of these plotters, a local Labour councillor, had been at the launch of our report,” said Murtuja, a former senior council official in Doncaster.

“I told him this wasn’t true: whoever told him that was mistaken. It’s clear Norfolk was trying to make a connection between the councillor and Just Yorkshire’s report.”

“But Norfolk didn’t mention anything about our report leading to death threats against Sarah Champion — that came as a bolt out of the blue.” 

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NADEEM MURTUJA
THE FORMER council official took over the running of Just Yorkshire in 2017. Andrew Norfolk rang him and asked if he was a practising Muslim (he is) but never told him he was going to write an article claiming the charity’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion. 

For several weeks the charity, formed in the wake of the Bradford riots of 2001, watched as its reputation crumbled.

Formally known as Just West Yorkshire, the charity had been set up with the support of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust in 2003.

Funders distanced themselves and abuse began appearing on its website.

One said: 

“Soon will come a crusade and all Muslims will be butchered. Britain First”

And another:

“Filthy inbred Muslim cunts. We’re going to kill you all. Britain first.”  

On the day the Times campaign against Just Yorkshire drew to a close — 29 July 2018 — Press Gang released the first part of its damning analysis of Norfolk’s Muslim fostering care articles.

This was the first anniversary of Norfolk’s notorious Muslim foster care article .

Norfolk had accused the London borough of Tower Hamlets of forcing a Christian child to live with Muslim foster carers. 

In fact, the mother of the child was the daughter of practising Muslims from Turkey  — and the grandparents had also looked after the little girl for much of her life. 

Press Gang concluded that Andrew Norfolk was a journalist who did not let the facts stand in the way of a sensational story.

The chief investigative reporter of the Times, we noted, had won many awards: 

But among many thoughtful journalists, concerned at the rising tide of Islamophobia in some British newspapers, Norfolk’s role in the “Christian child” saga is chilling.

They cannot understand how a dedicated and courageous reporter could lower his standards to produce a series so one-sided it qualifies as rogue journalism.

When the Times published Norfolk’s sensational “Terror police boost security for MP Sarah Champion over criticism of Asian sex gangs” article, Press Gang was not willing to accept it at face value.

We spoke to Nadeem Murtuja.

He told us Norfolk had twisted the facts to fit what Just Yorkshire considered to be an anti-Muslim narrative. 

He said that when the “Temperature Report” was published on 15 March 2018, it attracted no national publicity and only BBC local radio and the magazine Big Issue North reported its findings.

Press Gang persuaded Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire to join forces with the website.

An alliance was in the interests of both parties.

For Just Yorkshire, Press Gang had expertise: a year-long investigation into the Muslim foster care case meant we had an insight into how Norfolk operated.

We had drafted the only comprehensive complaint to the press watchdog IPSO against the paper’s Muslim foster care coverage.

We also had access to legal advice from leading libel lawyers. 

For Press Gang, Just Yorkshire was an important case study.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which had been reluctant to take on the Times, Just Yorkshire had nothing to lose. 

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which reluctantly submitted a weak complaint to IPSO, Just Yorkshire were determined to make a full complaint.

Unlike Tower Hamlets, which was extremely nervous about briefing journalists, Just Yorkshire was willing to share everything.

Throughout September and the early part of October, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang carried out a detailed examination of the seven articles which Andrew Norfolk and the Times had published. 

The analysis showed Andrew Norfolk resorted to his tried and tested technique of purgeanddeceive in order to create his sensational campaign … 

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NORFOLK STARTED by leaving out the title of the Just Yorkshire report from his first article on July 25.

It’s called “A Temperature Check Report: understanding and assessing the impact of Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion ‘s comments in the Sun newspaper on 10 August 2017″.

The reason why Norfolk left out the title was because, although the report was critical of Champion, it did so with restraint. 

Norfolk purged the title in order to justify the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats” and deceive readers about the measured nature of the report. 

Throughout the entire four days’ coverage of the issue, the Times did not once mention the title of the report. 

Next, Norfolk completely purged his account of a section in the introduction to the report which cautioned readers about the limits of the report.

Just Yorkshire agreed to produce the report “subject to the following provisos”:

A  That this report is nothing more than a temperature check report that is only focusing on one segment of the local community.

B  That the atmosphere that exists in Rotherham cannot be directly attributed to Ms Sarah Champion’s comments; and

C  In that context, it is very difficult to assess if the impact of Ms Sarah Champion’s comments has directly resulted in an increase in racism, Islamophobia or community tensions etc. This can only be determined by South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council through their community tensions monitoring processes;

D  Therefore, this report is a temperature check report at best – providing the local Pakistani community a platform to respond directly to Ms. Sarah Champion’s comments and have their voice heard. 

E  To acknowledge that Ms Sarah Champion should be commended for the invaluable support she has provided to some victims of the CSE [Child Sexual Exploitation] scandal.

Norfolk left out these qualifications in order to deceive his readers who might have wondered how a report prepared on this basis could possibly lead to death threats and increased security for Sarah Champion. 

Norfolk used the same techniques when it came to the major charges he levelled against Just Yorkshire: that it accused Champion of “industrial-scale racism”, of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and of acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”.

Take the charge that Just Yorkshire accused the MP of “industrial scale racism”.

This is what Norfolk wrote:

Sarah Champion was accused by activists in her Rotherham constituency of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the “common ethnic heritage” of most of those implicated in the town’s sex-grooming scandal.

Again, Norfolk deceives his readers by saying that Just Yorkshire was criticising Just Yorkshire for “highlighting the ‘common ethnic heritage’ of those involved in the grooming cases”. 

Andrew Norfolk

PURGE AND DECEIVE
ANDREW NORFOLK is one of Britain’s most decorated journalists: his work on Asian sex gangs won him both the Paul Foot Award and a share of the Orwell Prize. But his recent investigations into issues involving Britain’s Muslim community have drawn criticism from many quarters. Press Gang has condemned his purge-and-deceive strategy: purging important facts and twisting others to deceive his readers. Even the press-controlled watchdog, IPSO, has found some of his articles breached the editors’ code of journalistic practice. 
Photo: Graham Turner for the Guardian

This is what the charity actually said:  

To attempt to define the issue of child sexual abuse / grooming along ethnic lines, and to see the Pakistani community through the prism of paedophilia and criminality is frankly racist — or even claiming there is something inherent in their heritage is bordering on industrial scale racism.

The charity wasn’t criticising Champion for pointing out that most of those convicted of child sexual exploitation were of Pakistani-heritage — it was criticising her for saying that all men of a Pakistani background were potential abusers. 

Norfolk then deceives his readers by selecting “industrial scale racism” from the larger quotation and leaving out the words, “bordering on”, in order to make it look more extreme. 

There was an even more serious deception: readers had no way of knowing that the “industrial scale racism” quote doesn’t even appear in the “Temperature Check” report of March 2018. 

It actually comes from the press release Just Yorkshire released on the day after Sarah Champion’s Sun article was published back in August 2017. 

But, while he was selecting what he considered to be a damaging quote, Norfolk purged his account of a highly significant statement in this press release. 

Just Yorkshire said:

“We condemn any form of threat made towards Sarah Champion for speaking out — and we urge local enforcement agencies to provide the maximum protection.”  

And when Norfolk says the charity accuses Sarah Champion of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” he purges his article of the fact that Champion had condemned her own article of doing exactly that.

In the days after her Sun article appeared Champion claimed the paper made “the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin”.

The MP said she did not write the headline or opening sentences, which were “stripped of any nuance about the complex issue of grooming gangs, which have exploited thousands in my constituency”.

The Sun hit back, saying “Sarah Champion’s column, as it appeared on Friday, was approved by her team and her adviser twice contacted us thereafter to say she was ‘thrilled’ with the piece and ‘it looked great’.’

A spokesperson added:

Indeed, her only objection after the article appeared was her belief that her picture byline looked unflattering. Her office submitted five new photos.

Champion admitted: “The article should not have gone out in my name and I apologise that it did”.

She resigned as shadow equalities minister.

Norfolk also stated that the foreword of the “Temperature Check” report accused Sarah Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’.”

But once again, he deceives his readers by stripping this provocative quote of its context.  

The preface — not foreword as Norfolk says — was written by the respected West Indian academic Professor Gus John. 

TEMPERATURE CHECK 2

TEMPERATURE CHECK
THE FRONT cover of Just Yorkshire’s report. Andrew Norfolk did not share with his readers the title for fear it might alert them to the care with which it was prepared.  Although Andrew Norfolk’s articles suggested Just Yorkshire is a Muslim charity, it was in fact run for nearly ten years by a Buddhist: the Singapore-born civil rights activist Ratna Lachman. She died of cancer in 2017 and was replaced as interim director by Nadeem Murtuja. The charity has three trustees, all of them women. Zaiban Alam is a barrister. Zlakha Ahmed, MBE is the chief executive of the organisation Apna Haq which helps domestic violence victims, including those from ethnic communities. Both Alam and Ahmed are practising Muslims. The third trustee, Leila Taleb, a human rights consultant, is an atheist. 
Photo: Just Yorkshire

He wrote that one of the reasons why Sarah Champion’s article was so offensive to Rotherham’s Muslims was that it was published on the second anniversary of a tragedy that shook the town.

In September 2015 two white thugs attacked an 81-year-old Yemeni man Muhsin Ahmed on his way to a local mosque for morning prayers.  

As they set about him, they asked if he was a “groomer” — that is, one of the men who had abused young girls in the town. 

Ahmed was so badly beaten that he later died of his injuries. The two attackers were subsequently gaoled.  

Gus John noted:

Here was a Member of Parliament, a Labour MP, whom the Ahmed family and the Pakistani community had a right to expect to conduct herself differently, effectively doing exactly what the neo-fascist murderers of their loved ones [sic] had done, motivated as they were by hatred of Muslim / Pakistani men, as a collective, for sexual exploitation of white girls.

Andrew Norfolk states that John was accusing Champion of “acting like a ‘neo-fascist murderer’,” when John was actually saying was that she was doing what the two murderers had done — assuming that all Pakistani-heritage men were potential groomers.

And, once again, Norfolk deceived his readers by tampering with the quotation.

He changed the meaning of the words “neo-fascist murderers” by reducing the plural “murderers” to the singular “murderer”.

If he had left the quote as it really was, readers might have wondered how Sarah Champion could possibly act as two murderers at the same time.

Norfolk’s opening report of 25 July 2018 was a classic example of his purge and deceive method of working.

♦♦♦

NORFOLK’S DRAMATIC front page article of July 25 was backed up by two other pieces on the same day.

Norfolk wrote a piece supporting Sarah Champion’s stand on the issue.

It was headlined “MP faced fury for stand on sex gangs”.

Norfolk  wrote:

Sarah Champion incurred the wrath of many on the political left when she told readers of the Sun that the country “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls”.

He did not mention the fact that Champion had condemned her own article.

He also deceived readers when he claimed:

Nowhere in the [Just Yorkshire] report was it acknowledged that the MP stressed in her [Sun] article that in highlighting the ethnicity factor she was referring to a specific model of child abuse, the grooming and exploitation of “mainly white pubescent girls” by organised groups of men.

This is false. 

On page 11 of the “Temperature Check” report it states that in her Sun article Champion “described the perpetrators of the abuse as predators, working in gangs, and said that their common denominator was their ethnic heritage, namely British Pakistani. She identified their victims as ‘mainly white pubescent girls who were being sexually abused’.”

Another piece criticised the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for supporting Just Yorkshire for much of its sixteen years existence. 

On August 25, the day that Andrew Norfolk makes the “death threats” accusation, the Times devoted one of its leading articles to the case.

It was headed “True Champion”.

It stated that “Rotherham’s MP deserves support for speaking out on sexual abuse”.  

It began with the role of the Rowntree trust. It acknowledged that it had done good work in social policy and housing but noted: 

That makes it all the more disappointing that it should be implicated in the saga in which the Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, has received death threats for condemning the sexual abuse of girls by Pakistani men.

It said that Sarah Champion’s protection “has had to be increased”, adding: 

With the murder of the MP JO Cox still fresh in the memory, it is appalling that a local representative should need police protection.

It ended by saying that:

When Ms Champion told the Sun that Britain “has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” she was doing no more than stating a truth. And unless the truth is confronted, the danger is that abuse will be repeated. She is, as her name suggests, a champion of her constituents.

The campaign against Just Yorkshire continued the next day with another front page article by Norfolk.

This time it concerned a private, undated letter Tory Home Secretary Sajid Javid had written to Champion and which she published on her website.

The headline was “Javid orders research into ethnic origin of sex grooming gangs”. 

In fact, the letter outlined research that was already on-going.

Buried deep in the article was the statement that if “there is a need for further research, we will take it forward.”

It was another example of Andrew Norfolk’s purge and deceive technique.

He was trying to give readers the impression that Javid had ordered research, perhaps as a result of his articles. 

The columnist David Aaronovitch also joined the fray with a piece headed “Criticising Muslims doesn’t make you a racist: activists who have denounced Rotherham’s MP are trying to shut down debate about real problems in their community.”  

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RAMPED
TIMES COLUMNIST David Aaronovitch joined in the attack on Just Yorkshire. On 26 July 2018 he wrote that “accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up” by Just Yorkshire’s report. Press Gang wrote to Aaronovitch and asked him for the social media evidence that backed up this claim. He did not reply …

Aaronovitch wrote:

Yesterday we revealed that accusations of racism against Ms Champion and consequent threats to her on social media had been ramped up by a report published by a so-called racial justice charity [Just Yorkshire].

Two days later the campaign came to an end when Just Yorkshire was mentioned in a front page article by Norfolk. 

This was another attack on the Joseph Rowntree charitable trust for funding peace groups in Northern Ireland which allegedly had links to terrorists.

There were two paragraphs about the charity’s funding of Just Yorkshire.

The Times reported this week that the trust, a Quaker organisation, had given £550,000 to a group that accused a Labour MP of “industrial-scale racism” for highlighting the sexual abuse of girls by gangs of British Pakistani men.

Norfolk did not tell his readers that this sum had been spread over many years. 

Michelle Russell, the Charity Commission’s director of investigations and enforcement, said yesterday that it had opened an investigation into Just Yorkshire for its attack on Sarah Champion, the MP for Rotherham. “We are examining the administration of the charity and scrutinising some of its activities,” she said.

This was misleading.

The Charity Commission told Press Gang it had received complaints about Just Yorkshire — including one about the “Temperature Check” report — but that these had been received before Norfolk’s articles were published.

The Charity Commission also confirmed that it had not used the word “attack” in its press statement.

The Commission added that it had asked Just Yorkshire for its comments on the Times coverage.

A spokesman told Press Gang it was still considering the issue.

The result of the campaign by Andrew Norfolk and the Times against Just Yorkshire was devastating.

Funders pulled back and income dried up. 

The charity made its only employee, the interim director Nadeem Murtuja, redundant in January this year and told the Charities Commission it has decided to close.

♦♦♦

BY MID-OCTOBER last year, Just Yorkshire and Press Gang were ready to hit back at Andrew Norfolk and the Times

A nine page letter was sent to the editor of the Times, John Witherow, to say that the  articles about the charity were defamatory.

The letter, dated 16 October 2018, challenged the paper to provide the evidence that proved the “Temperature Check” report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

WITHEROW

JOHN WITHEROW
THIS ISN’T the first time Times editor John Witherow has been investigated by Press Gang over his attitude to Muslim issues. In 2012, when he was editor of the Sunday Times, the paper published a front page article written by the now-disgraced News of the World investigations editor Mazher Mahmood and reporter Eleanor Mills. The piece accused a Muslim dentist of being willing to perform female genital mutilation (FGM). The police investigation collapsed when it turned out that an undercover associate of Mahmood’s may have “prostituted” herself in order to persuade the dentist to carry out the procedure. Police founded no evidence the dentist was involved in FGM. See Withering Heights for the full, sordid story. 
Photo: PA

The response from the Times could not have been more dramatic. 

On November 5, Kirsty Howarth, a senior editorial lawyer at Times Newspapers Ltd which owns the Times, wrote to say:

 … the death threats made against Ms Champion since the report was published have not been directly linked to the report …

The Times was admitting that the allegation about death threats — the single most important element of Andrew Norfolk’s front page of July 25 — was false.

This was a major retreat.

The lawyer did not, however, admit that this was a mistake, nor did she offer an apology.

Indeed, she tried to argue that Norfolk’s first article was not misleading.

“What we in fact understand to be the case is that the publication of the report increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about Ms Champion’s security ie to a level beyond that which had existed when her life was previously threatened. 

“In light of the severity of those concerns … we do not consider that the article is misleading, but as the Times is a newspaper of record which aims for complete accuracy at all times, it has amended the article online and intends to publish following wording in its Corrections and clarifications column both in the paper and online subject to any reasonable comments you may have …” 

Kirsty Howarth did not provide the evidence which showed Champion’s security was increased as a result of the Just Yorkshire report.

The paragraph the Times was proposing to publish was as follows

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

Just Yorkshire replied to this letter on November 13.

The charity said the proposed paragraph “is not acceptable, either in terms of content or prominence”.

The letter continued:

When you use the word “suggested” you know full well it is a weasel word.

The article stated bluntly: “The Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.”

When this first article continued on page 7, the headline was even blunter: “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”.

The letter noted that proposed paragraph now claimed Andrew Norfolk made it clear “elsewhere” in the article that no death threats were “attributable” to the report. 

Just Yorkshire said “we cannot find any such assertion”.  

The Times did not answer this letter — instead there was a series of phone calls and emails.

TIMES 5 NOV 2018

BOMBSHELL
THE DRAMATIC letter from Times lawyer Kirsty Howarth admitting that neither Andrew Norfolk nor the newspaper had any evidence to back up the sensational allegation that Just Yorkshire’s report had led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

On December 3 Kirsty Howarth emailed to ask:

Are you able to set out for me in concrete terms what the remedy package you consider appropriate would consist of in order that I may instructions?

On December 11, Just Yorkshire submitted two articles for publication — one a short front page apology and an inside news article setting out the charity’s criticism of Andrew Norfolk’s articles. 

The charity also asked for compensation and a letter from editor John Witherow to its principal funders explaining that there had been no death threats as a result of the report. 

On December 21 Howarth emailed to say this proposal had been rejected: 

… the Times editorial independence is sacrosanct and is never used as a bargaining chip in resolving complaints.

She then suggested Just Yorkshire might submit a letter for publication in the paper’s letters page: 

 … but I should warn you that the time that has passed since the articles were published is likely to be relevant here.

On Christmas Eve last year the Times published its 69 word paragraph on the bottom left hand corner of page 24 … 

♦♦♦

MEANWHILE LEGAL advice had been sought about whether Just Yorkshire could sue the Times for defamation.

A libel lawyer told Press Gang it would be risky to bring an action: 

The Times will argue that the article did not say that the report incited people to make threats against Sarah Champion, or that JY [Just Yorkshire] intended or was negligent as to that consequence. It simply says that there was a causal connection.  They will argue that there is no serious criticism of JY, certainly not one which would cause serious harm, in saying that the report led to people doing unintended things …

Since libel actions are expensive, Just Yorkshire decided to put the issue of litigation on hold.

Instead, the charity turned to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, IPSO.

Although it claims to be “independent”, IPSO is funded by Britain’s major newspaper publishers.

One of the most powerful of these groups is Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, owners of the Times, the Sun and the Sunday Times

On January 8 Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire made an official complaint to the watchdog.

Just Yorkshire’s complaint was that the Times had breached the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code which newspapers sign up to.

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FAKE NEWS
“IN AN age when world leaders routinely dismiss unwelcome reports a as ‘fake news’, readers need a source they can trust for honest journalism that informs, entertains and analyses without bias. …”
Source: The Times annual IPSO statement, 2017

This states: 

The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator. 

A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

Just Yorkshire also claimed that the paper’s coverage broke the discrimination clause which states:

The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

IPSO has few powers and the best Just Yorkshire could hope for was a adjudication that the Times had breached the Editors’ Code

There is no financial redress, the main “punishment” is that the paper might be forced to publish a judgment setting out the breaches. 

IPSO now asked the Times to respond to Just Yorkshire’s complaint. 

When the paper replied on January 25, it had changed its position.

Previously the paper argued that the first Andrew Norfolk article only “suggested” Just Yorkshire’s report led to death threats.

Now its position was that: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

The letter added that the “error” was a “slip”.

However, the paper insisted that there were many other references to death threats in its coverage of Just Yorkshire, the two most important of which “clearly linked the death threats to Ms Champion’s own comments, not to the report”.

It added:

In the light of this, the Times considers it appropriate for the wording [of the paragraph published on 24 December 2018] to have said the article ‘suggested’ that the report led to the death threats and did not consider that the error, though unfortunate, was significant or that it required an apology, though clearly a correction was needed.” 

The paper also gave IPSO more information about its sources for the allegation that concerns about the “Temperature Check” report had contributed to counter-terrorism police providing extra security for Sarah Champion.

The paper: 

… is able to confirm that the information came from trusted and highly reliable and credible sources and it was accurate. The Times has since spoken to Ms Champion who has confirmed that these statements are correct. 

This was another change from the original article which had stated

 The MP declined to comment.

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MYSTERY AT THE YARD 
METROPOLITAN POLICE Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu is in charge of counter-terrorism policing in England and Wales. His staff officer Nick Bonomini told Just Yorkshire that the Met’s Parliamentary Liaison & Investigation Team “… are not, nor have they, conducted a formal investigation into the report published by [Just Yorkshire].” Another officer later confirmed that the force knew of no death threats which were linked to the report. However, the Met also confirmed that “action had been to safeguard” the MP as a result of the report. Sarah Champion later claimed that the report had led police, who already had “significant concerns” for her safety, to increase her security. Press Gang has been unable to reconcile the contradiction between these two positions. Sarah Champion has declined to answer any of our questions.
Photo: MPS

Now the MP had come out into the open on behalf of Andrew Norfolk and the newspaper. 

The Times denied its coverage discriminated against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire.The charity’s response to the Times letter was withering.In a letter, dated February 8, it noted that the Times letter only discussed one occasion when the paper said the report “led” to death threats. The charity said: 

It seems to us that whoever wrote this letter is suffering from amnesia. 

The Times was ignoring the fact that when Norfolk’s front page article of July 25 continued to an inside page it carried the headline:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats.

 

Nor was Just Yorkshire impressed with the Times sources who said its report had led to increased security for Sarah Champion:

The obvious riposte to this assertion is that, presumably, these were exactly the same “trusted and highly reliable and credible sources” that told Andrew Norfolk about the death threats. 

Just Yorkshire said these sources were “evidentially worthless”. 

The charity had also cited a previous IPSO ruling, called Solash v The Times, where a complaint against the paper was upheld because it wouldn’t reveal the documentary evidence to back up its source.

Just Yorkshire invited IPSO “to make a similar ruling in this case”.

The charity also welcomed the emergence of Sarah Champion, adding:

… Sarah Champion can now furnish the evidence of increased security that Andrew Norfolk and the Times have failed to provide so far.

Just Yorkshire asked for “tangible evidence (social media records, emails, anonymous letters)” and for details of the discussions with counter-terrorism police “which led to them advising, and her accepting, increased security”. 

The letter continued:

In the circumstances, we cannot see any reason why Sarah Champion should decline to provide the documentary evidence necessary to prove that our report contributed to her being given greater security.
On its own, we are not prepared to accept that Sarah Champion’s word alone is sufficient to prove the Times position that our report contributed to increased security.
We note that Andrew Norfolk and Sarah Champion have been fellow campaigners on the issue of Asian sex gangs for several years.
We further note that Andrew Norfolk has written many articles that feature the MP all of them, as far as we know, supportive of her stand on the Asian sex gangs issue. 


The Times responded to these points in a letter dated February 20.

On Just Yorkshire’s point that the paper had ignored the existence of the headline “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats”, the Times was  … completely silent.

The letter now made the highly revealing statement that none of Andrew Norfolk’s sources actually told him about the death threats:

We were not told that the report led to death threats …. That sentence in one of the seven articles was a mistake, as we have acknowledged from the very beginning …

Just Yorkshire responded to these revelations in a letter dated March 1.

The letter asked: 

… how on earth did Andrew Norfolk come to make the “mistake” that led him to declare that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion”?

What the Times now seems to be suggesting is that he conjured the “mistake” out of thin air ..

 

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MORE HYSTERIA, LESS ANALYSIS? 
THE TIMES is currently running TV ads extolling the virtues of its journalism. The ad shows hyenas dominating the benches of the House of Commons, suggesting that MPs are full of hot air — and in need of the calm, analytical approach of the Times

The letter invited IPSO 

… to come to the conclusion that the “death threats” allegation was a deliberate decision by both Andrew Norfolk (who wrote the sentence beginning “The Times understands …”) and the Times (whose sub-editor wrote the page 7 headline) in order to create a damning, malicious and sensational … article …

 

IPSO asked the Times to make any final comments before referring the Just Yorkshire complaint to its Complaints Committee.

When the Times replied, on March 7, it did not provide the evidence Just Yorkshire had asked for which proved that the “Temperature Check” report led to increased security for Sarah Champion.

The letter did, however, include an email from Sarah Champion to the Times.

The MP confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the “Temperature Check” report was published.

She added:

… the report’s publication (and its contents) increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about my security and led to their advice that I should increase my security protection, which duly happened.

I hereby confirm that everything that was stated by the newspaper … is true and entirely accurate.

The Times also added some further information about Andrew Norfolk’s two sources:

The Times journalist involved is an experienced, award-winning journalist. He had multiple conversations with two sources for the point regarding Ms Champion, the report, the threats she had received and her police security.

Both sources are known to the journalist as people of integrity and credibility. The newspaper only knows the identity of one of the sources who it can confirm is of some standing and who it knows to be reliable. 

The paper added:

We can say no more than that the source whose identity is known to the both the paper and journalist has direct knowledge of the security concerns raised by the police in light of the report and the measures implemented as a consequence.

Just Yorkshire also complained about the paragraph the Times had published on Christmas Eve last year.

This stated

Our article about Sarah Champion MP’s security protection being increased (News, 25 July) suggested that a report by the charity Just Yorkshire had led to death threats against Ms Champion. In fact, as was made clear elsewhere in our coverage, whilst the report led police to increase her security protection, no death threats made at that time were attributable to the report. We are happy to make that clear.

The charity argued that this paragraph was inaccurate on three grounds:

— the paper had not “suggested” its report had led to death threats. On two occasions it is stated it as a fact, first when the Times “understands” there were death threats and the second, the headline which stated the “scathing report” led to death threats

— the paper argued that it had made it clear elsewhere in its coverage that the report did not lead to death threats. Just Yorkshire said that the only source of any death threats cited by the paper was its report

—  although the paper acknowledged the “death threats” was a “mistake” and that it “regrets the error”, the paragraph did not apologise.

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FOR ROTHERHAM … 
WHEN A right wing fascist murdered 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, he plastered his magazines with slogans. One of these was marked “For Rotherham”, a reference to the Asian sex gang stories. 

The Times maintained that its paragraph was accurate.

At this point, IPSO concluded its inquiries and complaints and arbitration officer Madelaine Palacz prepared a report which was submitted to IPSO’s Complaints Committee hearing on March 13.

♦♦♦

JUST YORKSHIRE’S complaint was considered by IPSO at a time when the organisation was under fire for not protecting minorities.

On February 28, the campaign group Hacked Off issued an open letter to IPSO calling on it to stop “condoning religious and race-based hate”. 

The letter stated: 

Racist and faith-based attacks against communities are so common in parts of the press that they have become a dangerous normality. It is clear that these attacks encourage the discrimination, harassment and violence suffered by members of minority communities every day.

Yet you have taken no action. In respect of each of the examples cited in this letter, you have not upheld a single complaint. In one entire year, of over 8,000 discrimination complaints, you upheld only one.

By allowing these abuses to go on without sanction you are turning a blind eye to the continuing incitement of hatred.

We write to express our deep dismay and to ask you to address this problem urgently and publicly. While the press must be free to do its job, your implicit condoning of religious and race-based hate must stop.

Among the signatories were the charity War on Want, and cross-party politicians including Baroness Warsi, Keith Vaz, Lord David Alton and Caroline Lucas.

More than 40 others added their names: Steve Coogan, the broadcaster James O’Brien, the barrister Helena Kennedy and the Bishop of St Albans. 

The chair of IPSO, Sir Alan Moses replied:

IPSO rejects the accusation that it condones religious and race-based hate or in any way approves of offensive attacks on groups on the grounds of their beliefs or identity.

Our decisions on discrimination and accuracy make it clear that a finding that there has been no breach of the Editors’ Code does not in any way imply that IPSO approves of what has been written.

The real issue, with which the letter fails to grapple, is how to strike a balance between the freedom of a journalist or newspaper to offend a group while protecting individuals.

As well as making its complaint, Just Yorkshire also wrote to Sir Alan Moses asking the IPSO board to carry out a broad-ranging inquiry into anti-Muslim journalism at the paper. 

This is called a “standards investigation” and IPSO can order one in cases where there is a “serious and systemic” problem.

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IPSO
IN 2014 the Independent Press Standards Organisation — IPSO — replaced the disgraced Press Complaints Commission (PCC).  The PCC had been swept away by the public revulsion over the hacking of the mobile phone of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It was the Times stablemate, the News of the World, which had been responsible — and the brand became so toxic that Rupert Murdoch closed it. But despite claims that it is a new and improved press regulator, IPSO remains firmly under the yoke of a mainstream press owned in large part by foreign-based billionaires like Murdoch. Its weakness is demonstrated by the fact that it has not been able to prevent Andrew Norfolk and the Times from publishing distorted articles about Britain’s 2.7 million Muslims.

If found guilty, the newspaper can be fined up to £1 million. 

There have been no standards investigations since IPSO started operations in 2014.

Just Yorkshire pointed out that there were broad similarities between the Muslim foster care case and false allegation that its report led to death threats against Sarah Champion.

Moses wrote back to say that the complaints investigation had not been completed but added:

“I have passed your letter to Charlotte Unwin, Head of Standards, so that the concerns you have raised can be flagged up for our ongoing standards monitoring.”

The Just Yorkshire complaint was considered at a meeting of IPSO’s complaints committee on February 13. 

Two members were unable to attend — former CPS official Nazit Afzal and the black barrister Helyn Mensah. 

As a result, there were no representatives of the Asian community — and no representative of any of the UK’s ethnic minorities. 

♦♦♦

WHEN IPSO sent Just Yorkshire its ruling on March 28, it was clear its complaints committee had bent over backwards to protect the Times.

There was little the committee could do to mitigate the impact of the headline which appeared on July 25:

Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats

It found that this was a breach of the accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code:

The print headline to the first article on page 7, had made the categorical claim that the March 2018 report had “led” to the MP receiving death threats. This was a significant claim given its seriousness; it established a causal link between the actions of the complainant and the threats which the MP had received against her life. The newspaper had produced no evidence to support the claim made in the headline on page 7.

But it took a different view of Andrew Norfolk’s comment, again in the first article, that “the Times understands that the report led to death threats against Ms Champion.” 

The complaints committee’s argument was tortuous:

The MP had confirmed that her life had been threatened both before and after the publication of the March 2018 report. She had also confirmed that the report’s publication — and its contents — had increased counter-terrorism police’s already significant concerns about the potential risk to her security, and led to their advice that her security protection be increased, which subsequently happened.

The Committee considered the claim made in the first article, that the newspaper “understood” that the March 2018 report had led to death threats, in that context. Unlike the headline’s categorical claim, the article had made clear the basis for the newspaper’s belief that the report had led to death threats against MP, namely that police had increased the her security risk level and had advised that she accept extra protection. There was no further breach … 

In other words, IPSO found it was perfectly reasonable that Norfolk “understood” that increased security had led to death threats. 

What is astonishing about IPSO’s justification is that the Times, when it was discussing exactly the same remark, stated: 

The Times has openly accepted that it was not correct to say … the report ‘led’ to death threats. It regrets the error …

So IPSO actually found the paper was not inaccurate when the Times had not only admitted its comment was “not correct” but also “regrets the error”. 

In fact, the newspaper only argued that it was not a “significant inaccuracy”.

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NORFOLK UNMASKED 
PRESS GANG is not the only critic of Andrew Norfolk. Brian Cathcart, professor of journalism at Kingston University and a founder member of the pressure group Hacked Off, has been analysing Andrew Norfolk’s journalism for more than eighteen months. Earlier this year he and Press Gang editor Paddy French joined forces to produce a 72 page report exposing Andrew Norfolk. The report examined the Just Yorkshire affair and the notorious “Christian child forced into Muslim foster care” case. The report also analysed a third example of Norfolk’s distorted reporting — a November 2018 article that claimed Rotherham council had favoured a convicted rapist in family court proceedings concerning the child he’d fathered on one of its victims. Official sources later revealed that the council had merely obeyed the rules of the family court. Click here to read the report

The Times pleads guilty, IPSO finds it innocent … 

For the breach over the “Security stepped up after scathing report led to death threats’ headline, IPSO acknowledged that a correction was needed but concluded that the single paragraph the Times published on 24 December 2018 was adequate.

The Committee expressed some concern at the wording of the correction which was published, particularly the use of the word “suggested”; the headline of the first article had stated, as fact, that the March 2018 report had led to death threats. However it did make clear the correct position that no death threats made at that time were attributable to the March 2018 report.

Just Yorkshire had argued that a 69 word paragraph buried on the letters page did nothing to counter the impact of a front page article.

IPSO’s complaints committee did not agree:

The Committee considered that the publication of this wording in the newspaper’s established Corrections and Clarifications column as well as online, represented due prominence.

The committee found the Times analysis of the “Temperature Check” report was not inaccurate.

The committee also found there had been no discrimination against Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorkshire. 

Just Yorkshire appealed against the ruling.

The letter pointed out that News UK, the ultimate owners of the Times, makes considerable claims for the quality of its journalism:

All News UK titles strive for the highest standards of accuracy and all editorial staff are expected to follow standard journalistic best practice in verifying stories. When reporting events not witnessed at first hand all possible steps should be taken to establish the credibility and reliability of any sources, and to corroborate their accounts.

Just Yorskhire said the paper had fallen short of its own standards. 

The charity also reminded IPSO that it also set high standards for its own deliberations.

The advice given in the preamble to the guidance which accompanies the Editors’ Code emphasises that the code:

… goes beyond a narrow, legal interpretation of the rules, which could provide loopholes, and instead talks about the Code being honoured “not only to the letter but in the full spirit”. That means that instead of legalistic quibbling, the Code should be honoured in what we might perhaps all recognise as the spirit of “fair play” and “doing the right thing”.

Just Yorkshire said that IPSO’s complaints committee had failed its own test. 

It asked the Independent Complaints Reviewer to “reconsider the complaints committee’s verdict on this matter and apply the principles of ‘fair play’ ….”

 IPSO’s “independent complaints reviewer”, former local government chief executive Trish Haines, submitted her report on May 10.  

She stated:

” … the question for the Complaints Reviewer is whether there was a substantial flaw in the decision making process. In my view, there was not.”

This was the end of the regulatory road for Just Yorkshire.

Although IPSO had proved to be a toothless watchdog, its process had revealed important information about the failings at the Times.  

Nadeem Murtuja and the trustees of Just Yorskhire are now considering whether to proceed with an action for defamation … 

♦♦♦

SARAH CHAMPION is a key figure in this story.

She now makes it clear — mostly, it has to be said, through her silence — that she does not support Andrew Norfolk and the Times in their assertion that the Just Yorkshire report led to death threats against her.

However, it is also clear that she did nothing to correct the falsehood as Andrew Norfolk and the Times assault on Just Yorkshire continued over several days

She also did nothing to dissuade Andrew Norfolk from running the second strand of July 25 story — the alleged plot by “hard-left and Muslim opponents” to topple her as Rotherham’s MP.

She would only say she had no “comment” to make.

Press Gang has evidence that she knew about this element of the story before it was published.

Her silence on the matter suggests that she was prepared to see it published.

In fact, Andrew Norfolk’s evidence for the plot was painfully thin.

Only two politicians were actually named as potential plotters and one of these, former Labour deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar, was no longer on the council.

The only evidence against him was correspondence — Norfolk gave no date for it — in which he called Champion an “ogre” and “if Labour wants to keep her seat, they need to get rid of her pretty quick”. 

The other alleged plotter was councillor Taiba Yasseen who had been dropped from the Labour-controlled cabinet.

Norfolk said that this was “for reasons the party has declined to reveal, but supporters of Ms Champion say that the decision was prompted by concerns that she was trying to discredit the MP.”

No evidence was advanced to support this assertion.

Nor did Norfolk gave any details of actual plotting. 

The evidence for his claim that “far-left activists” were involved appears to be that Yasseen is a membership of Momentum.

Norfolk noted that Yasseen, who has ambitions to become an MP, said the allegation was “categorically untrue”.

Yasseen is a supporter of Sarah Champion — and Sarah Champion has supported Yasseen’s bid to become a Labour candidate in other northern constituencies.

Any plot by Rotherham’s Muslim community to unseat the MP also runs up against some powerful demographics.

The town’s 7,600-strong Pakistani community makes up just over 3 per cent of the 257,000 population.

They elect three out of 61 councillors, all of them Labour.

In the 2012 by-election and the 2015 general election UKIP were the second largest party.

The town has a strong, right-wing element — in the 2012 by-election, the BNP came third to UKIP.

Press Gang asked Sarah Champion if her involvement in Andrew Norfolk’s anti-Muslim journalism is designed to keep right-wing Labour voters from switching to UKIP and the BNP.

She did not reply. 

Andrew Norfolk and Times editor John Witherow also declined to comment. 

♦♦♦

Published: 26 June 2019
© Press Gang 

♦♦♦ 

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