Leaked rules for UK say journalists must be aware of Muslim ‘sensitivities’ when reporting facts

Journalists in the United Kingdom may soon be governed by rules that put Muslim “sensitivities” before factual reporting.

That’s according to Judith Bergman, a lawyer, political analyst and senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

Citing a leaked draft from the Independent Press Standards Organization, the entity that regulates the U.K. press, titled “Guidance for Reporting on Islam and Muslims,” Bergman wrote that it “gives rise for concern.”

The Policy Exchange reported on the document, saying the guidance “seems designed to bind the hands of UK newspapers when it comes to reporting on stories relating to Islam and Muslims – with potentially serious long-term consequences for the workings of a free and independent press.”

More from the “Eroding the Free Press” paper from the Policy Exchange:

“In all of this, there seems to be a suggestion that journalists should take a different approach to covering Muslims than that employed towards other faith groups. This all seems remarkably ill-conceived. If we ruled out reporting on matters specific to Muslims not only would we miss some big issues – not least the threat from Islamist extremist terrorism, which continues to dwarf other global terrorist threats – but we would also be unable to report properly on discrimination against Muslims. More generally, we must ask: is it really the role of journalists to consider community cohesion before truth and accuracy? And what are the potential consequences of such an ethos?”

Bergman wrote that it appears “what is uppermost in the minds of the drafters of the guidance is not so much factually accurate reporting, but concerns of a far more political nature, namely those of accommodating religious and cultural ‘sensitivities’ and avoiding the causing of any offense.”

The draft reportedly says journalists “should be aware that their content can have an impact on the wider community and on how minority communities are treated.”

In effect, the proposed IPSO guidance embeds political correctness into the rules and makes facts a distant second.

“Inaccuracies and insensitivities can damage communities and prevents their accurate representation,” the guidance said, according to the Policy Exchange. “They can also contribute to members of communities feeling divorced from, or misunderstood, by the media. Finally, inaccuracies and unbalanced coverage can work to increase tension between communities, which can make harassment more likely.”

Talk about an added burden.

“[T]here seems to be a suggestion that journalists should take a different approach to covering Muslims than that employed towards other faith groups,” Policy Exchange opined.

“This all seems remarkably ill-conceived,” the British think-tank added. “If we ruled out reporting on matters specific to Muslims not only would we miss some big issues – not least the threat from Islamist extremist terrorism, which continues to dwarf other global terrorist threats – but we would also be unable to report properly on discrimination against Muslims. More generally, we must ask: is it really the role of journalists to consider community cohesion before truth and accuracy? And what are the potential consequences of such an ethos?”

Policy Exchange questioned “whether the IPSO ‘guidance’ process is being used to advance the kind of ‘anti-Islamophobia’ agenda promoted by [UK Parliament cross-party groups] on British Muslims.”

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Tom Tillison

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