PRESS RELEASE: Baroness Warsi calls for inquiry into press Islamophobia and criticises government inaction on press abuse
“the most timely and most effective way to tackle the plague of hate speech… is an early inquiry”
“The political class failed… Section 40 [of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the Leveson access to justice measure] remains on the shelf”
Speaking this evening at the fifth annual Hacked Off Leveson Lecture at the University of Westminster, former Conservative Party Chairwoman Baroness Sayeeda Warsi called for the Parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee to launch an inquiry into Islamophobia in the press.
Calling for the committee inquiry, Baroness Warsi said,
“I believe that the most timely and most effective way to tackle the plague of hate speech that is driving communities apart and poisoning our public discourse is an early inquiry by the House of Commons Select Committee on Home Affairs.
“I have written to the chair of that committee, Yvette Cooper MP, to ask her to consider this. I dearly hope that she will support this proposal.”
Calling on implementation of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, the Leveson access to justice measure, Baroness Warsi said:
“The political class failed, and in particular my own party, the Conservatives. Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, the motor that was to drive the whole Leveson machine, remains on the shelf.
“For the ordinary Brit there is no effective regulation of news publishers and this is one of the great injustices, and one of the great political failures, of our time.”
Commenting on Islamophobia in elements of the press, Baroness Warsi said,
“In sections of our press it is relentless and deliberate. Steadily and methodically using paper inches and columns to create, feed and ratchet up suspicions and hostilities in our society, driving communities apart and creating untold – and unnecessary – fear and distress.
Poisoning our public discourse, making it almost impossible to have sensible discussions about real challenges, crowding out tolerance, reason and understanding. And this drip drip approach is create a toxic environment where hate crime is the highest it’s been since records began.”
Commenting on the absence of press regulation in the newspaper industry Baroness Warsi said,
“A regulator is meant to uphold standards. IPSO does not and cannot do that.”
- The Leveson lecture is delivered annually by a leading figure in public life, to commemorate publication of the Leveson Report on November 29th
- Previous lecturers have been former The Sun editor David Yelland, Labour Party Deputy Leader Tom Watson MP, comedian Jo Brand, and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable.
- The full speech is available here.
- A note on the differences between the Editors’ Code used by IPSO and the code of the recognised regulator IMPRESS is below.
- Baroness Warsi biography below.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press. The Campaign works with victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.
PRESS ENQUIRIES: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07883 533052
EDITORS’ AND IMPRESS CODES
- The Editors’ Code, which was used by the PCC before Leveson, and IPSO since, only allows discrimination complaints – to which Islamophobic coverage applies – to be brought by the individual affected by the breach themselves. This prevents complaints being brought when a whole community – such as the Muslim community – is subject to press attack.
- Worse still, IPSO doesn’t control the editors code, which is instead written and controlled by a committee of newspaper editors. IPSO has no way of changing it, even if it wanted to.
- Leveson recommended that the code by which journalists must comply should:
- Be the responsibility of the regulator itself
- Allow group discrimination complaints to be heard by the board
- IMPRESS, the Leveson-compliant regulator, controls its own code and allows group complaints to be heard.
- The effect is that, whereas newspapers in IPSO can publish smears against the Muslim community with impunity so long as no individual is described, newspapers in IMPRESS are subject to corrections and apologies where their coverage of Muslims is discriminatory.
The Editors’ Code, enforced by IPSO, states the following on discrimination:
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.
Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
Page 74 of the Editors’ Codebook, which IPSO must enforce, states the following about Clause 12, Discrimination:
The aim of Clause 12 is to protect individuals from discriminatory coverage, and no public interest defence is available. However, the Code does not cover generalised remarks about groups or categories of people.
By contrast, IMPRESS’ code states:
4.3. Publishers must not incite hatred against any group on the basis of that group’s age, disability, mental health, gender reassignment or identity, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation or another characteristic that makes that group vulnerable to discrimination.
A representative group or an individual may bring a complaint under this clause. Hate speech refers to all forms of expression that spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance, and includes insulting, abusive or threatening words related to a person’s protected characteristic. Language that qualifies as hate speech is that which is intended to, or is likely to, provoke hatred or to put a person or group in fear.
BARONESS WARSI BIOGRAPHY
A lawyer, a businesswoman, a campaigner and a cabinet minister, Sayeeda Warsi has had many roles, but she is best known for being the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet. In August 2014 she resigned from Government citing the Government’s “morally indefensible” policy on Gaza.
In 2007 she was elevated to the House of Lords aged 36, making her the youngest peer in Parliament. Later that year she traveled to Sudan and famously helped to secure the release of the British teacher Gillian Gibbons who was on trial for blasphemy.
In 2010 she was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron as Minister without Portfolio and Chairman of the Conservative Party.
Sayeeda is Chair of the Baroness Warsi Foundation and a Trustee of the Savayra Foundation.
Sayeeda is Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton, an Advisor to Georgetown University Washington DC and Visiting Professor at St Marys – the oldest Catholic university in the UK.
Baroness Warsi has consistently been voted one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre.
In 2017 March Baroness Warsi’s first book, The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain, billed as “a vital book at a critical time”, was published.