Hacked Off and anti-racism NGOs call for Society of Editors retraction

Hacked Off and several leading anti-racism NGOs have written to the Society of Editors, calling on them to retract their claim that the press is “not racist”.


The Society’s wholesale denial of racism in the press came after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle criticised racism in some parts of the press in their interview with Oprah Winfrey over the weekend.


Signatories to the letter include Hacked Off, Compassion in Politics, The Traveller Movement, NetPol, Race on the Agenda, MEND, Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign, the NUJ’s Ethics Council Chair Professor Chris Frost, the Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring and Sum of Us.


Commenting, Hacked Off Policy Director Nathan Sparkes said,

The Society of Editors’ failure to recognise racism in parts of the press risks undermining the fight against prejudice across the media.

Meghan Markle spoke bravely about the effect of press racism on her mental health during the course of her interview with Oprah.

The Society should have listened to Meghan and investigated her concerns.  Instead they have casually dismissed them, while lecturing her on what the Society’s Director, Mr Ian Murray, believes to constitute racism.

The Society must immediately retract and disassociate itself from these remarks and, if it is truly committed to the fight against prejudice in the press, apologise to Harry & Meghan and investigate the concerns they have raised.


Professor Chris Frost, Chair of the NUJ Ethics Council, said:

I understand Ian Murray feels it’s his job to defend tabloid editors, but he should consider persuading them to better quality journalism rather than defend bigotry.




For press inquiries:




Dear Mr Murray


Re: The response of the Society of Editors to allegations of racism in parts of the media


We were deeply concerned to see the Society deny the presence of any bigotry or racism in any parts of the “edited or regulated” press in a statement issued on 8th March 2021, and urge you to retract this statement.


In your statement[1], issued in response to allegations of press racism made by Meghan Markle and Prince Harry in their interview with Oprah Winfrey, the following remarks were made:


“The UK media is not bigoted”

“It [is] untrue that sections of the UK press [are] bigoted”

“The press is most certainly not racist”


This statement was issued without any suggestion of an investigation into the concerns raised by the Duke and Duchess.  Racism affects all aspects of society and the press is not immune from this.


On the contrary, there are many examples (see the attached) of racist and prejudiced reporting in national newspapers.


We consider that the Society’s wholesale denial of racism in the press damages the fight against prejudice within the industry and must be withdrawn immediately.


Further, the Society’s statement entails the casual dismissal of a woman of colour’s complaint of racism, and account of the serious impact it had on her mental health.  It is totally unacceptable for that complaint to be rejected out of hand, by an organisation which claims to represent the media industry.


We urge the Society to withdraw this statement and disassociate itself from the remarks therein.


Yours sincerely

Hacked Off

Compassion in Politics

The Traveller Movement


Race on the Agenda


Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign

Sum of Us

Professor Chris Frost, the Chair of the NUJ’s Ethics Council

Muslim Council of Britain’s Centre for Media Monitoring

[1] https://www.societyofeditors.org/soe_news/uk-media-not-bigoted-soe-responds-to-sussexes-claims-of-racism/


Some examples of prejudiced reporting in the press


  1. The MailOnline refers to Meghan Markle as “(almost) straight outta Compton”:



  1. The MailOnline refers to Meghan Markle’s “rich, exotic DNA”:



  1. Evidence of double standards between Meghan and her white counterpart, Kate Middleton:



More general examples:


  1. The Sun refers to mirgants as “like cockroaches”:



  1. The Sun uses a phrase used by the Nazi Party to attack Muslims:



  1. The Daily Mail’s cartoon referred to Muslims as rats:



Racist sentiment in the media has even resulted in international organisations criticising the UK press:


  1. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

UN rights chief urges UK to curb tabloid hate speech, end ‘decades of abuse’ targeting migrants



  1. European Commission against Racism and Intolerance:

“ECRI considers that hate speech in some traditional media continues to be a

serious problem”

Page 18: https://rm.coe.int/fifth-report-on-the-united-kingdom/16808b5758


Many more examples exist.


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Give now to support the campaign for a free and accountable press.


1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

March 9, 2021 at 7:51 pm

Why is the conduct of these newspapers legal, when the same comments by a regular member of the public – aimed at a minority – potentially result in police action?

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