As the Express continues to cement its reputation as the most overtly racist tabloid in the country (it's been working on that since at least 2007, with it's story 'Ethnic baby boom 'crisis'), I'm reminded of the paper's disgraceful behaviour in the past by 'Council doesn't 'force' schools to do anything about Ramadan' at TabloidWatch and 'It's tabloid correctness gone mad!' at Liberal Conspiracy. The stories are about how schools are being forced to rearrange exams and cancel things to avoid offending Muslims. They're quick to strike at any vaguely perceived slight, those Muslims. Like cobras.
Of course, the truth is that some schools have been sent guidance on how to make life a bit easier for Muslim pupils who have to go to school during Ramadan and their parents. Schools don't have to follow the guidance if they don't want to. Muslims haven't, en masse, said they're offended by having a swimming lesson during Ramadan. Have a look at TabloidWatch and Liberal Conspiracy for more.
As Tabloidwatch points out, these guidelines are either based on or include copies of guidance produced by the Muslim Council of Britain back in 2007, which I blogged about at the time. The Express must have found it particularly easy to misrepresent these new guidelines, since the paper did the same with a front page splash about the original MCB guide that included such ludicrous misrepresentations as stating that boys should be covered from navel to neck while swimming.
So bad was the article that I took the time to make a complaint to the PCC. My complaint stretched to 8 pages long, containing bullet points of each misrepresentation in the original article, both paper and online versions. It was rejected because I didn't represent the MCB, and they had sent in a complaint of their own.
The PCC found in favour of the MCB, pointing out examples of where the Express really had crossed the line, and the paper admitted some 'mistakes' like the 'navel to neck' howler. However, the PCC proved its utter uselessness by only making the judgement that the paper had to print a letter from the MCB. If I recall correctly, the paper had said it would make amendments to the most obvious mistakes.
The MCB declined the offer of writing a letter, probably reasoning that it would do more harm than good, which meant that the paper had to do absolutely nothing. As long as the MCB didn't sue the paper, that was the last of it. It could say nothing about the ruling and leave an online article that the PCC had ruled was misleading completely as it was. Hurrah for honesty.
The thing is, the paper didn't leave the story as it was. I don't mean that it went ahead and amended the most obvious howlers. It didn't bother with that. You can still see the 'navel to neck' claim if you have a look at the story on the website (link to follow shortly, be patient).
It made two changes to the story that actually made it more misleading, and both seem to reference things the MCB and I said in our complaints to the PCC in a way that looks quite deliberate.
One of the things in my complaint was that the headline of the online version 'Muslims: 'Ban' un-Islamic schools' was misleading for a couple of reasons. Obviously, Muslims hadn't said any schools (or anything else) should be banned, but I also said that saying 'un-Islamic schools' gave the impression that the article was talking about 'non-Islamic schools', meaning schools that aren't specifically Muslim schools.
Some time after the PCC adjudication, the headline to the online version was changed to 'Muslims: 'Ban non-Islamic schools' - it now contains the very phrase I'd mentioned in my complaint to describe the false impression the old headline could create.
Much of the MCB's own complaint focused on the paper pretending its guidance had called for swimming to be banned. If I remember correctly (I didn't keep a copy of the adjudication), this is one of the areas that the PCC ruled specifically was misleading.
Some time after the PCC adjudication (I certainly don't remember seeing it before), the online version was changed and a pull out quote box was added, saying ""Swimming lessons should be banned during Ramadan" - Muslim Council of Britain". One of the main things the MCB had complained about for being misleading has at some point been given its own pop-out box, put in quotation marks and attributed to the MCB. Have a click around the Express website. How many other pull-out quote boxes do you see? Email me if it's more than 'none', because I've never seen any. Looks as though the Express has gone out of its way to highlight something the PCC ruled was misleading.
This is how effective the PCC is. Articles that are found to be misleading can actually be made more so in a way that looks completely deliberate and spiteful if the complainant doesn't think the judgement is good enough.
Good luck if you want to complain about todays disgraceful headline (more on that at Enemies of Reason, No Sleep 'til Brooklands and TabloidWatch - I'll try to follow it up here).