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Investigation called for over false stories about Muslims in the Times

EVIDENCE indicates that the Times newspaper has a potentially Islamophobic editorial process that led to a “litany of falsehoods” being published about Muslims, a media reform group has said.

The newspaper’s coverage of three “scandals” involving Muslims were found to have not happened as reported, according to an analysis by two journalists part of the Media Reform Coalition (MRC).

Andrew Norfolk, the newspaper’s chief investigative reporter, had “sacrificed basic journalistic standards” in order to get the stories published, the MRC report published today said.

Two journalists, Hacked Off co-founder Brian Cathcart and Press Gang editor Paddy French, found there was omission or minimisation of “facts that would have led readers to question central elements of what was being alleged” and using quotes out of context.

Mr Norfolk alleged in August 2017 that Tower Hamlets council  placed a white, five-year-old Christian girl with Muslim foster carers who were alleged to have behaved like bullies and bigots, presenting this as a breach of the council’s duty to find appropriate placements.

Relevant and credible authorities agree that the claims against the carers were unfounded, the report says.

In July 2018, Mr Norfolk accused the now shut down human rights charity Just Yorkshire of publishing a report about Rotherham Labour MP Sarah Champion that was so critical that it provoked death threats against her. The Times has since admitted there was no evidence that the report led to threats.

In November 2018, Mr Norfolk accused Rotherham council of encouraging a British Pakistani rapist to request legal rights to visits to his son and to have a role in his upbringing.

All official bodies now agree that the council followed court rules that apply to local authorities requiring it to notify the father of care proceedings, but that it provided no encouragement for him to participate, the report says.

The report also accuses the Times of “resisting complaints and criticisms in defiance of the evidence” and failing to make meaningful corrections.

MRC chair Natalie French called for an independent investigation into the Times’s coverage so the public can know “how such a blatant lapse of professional standards occurred and what will be done to prevent it happening again.” 

Dr Shazad Amin, CEO of theMuslim Engagement and Development organisation, said: “We need an urgent independent inquiry to ascertain whether this is part of a wider problem of systematic anti-Muslim bias at this paper and whether journalistic standards are being compromised in the pursuit of sensationalist and negative stories about Muslims.”

The Times has been contacted for comment.

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