Sun columnist cleared of complaints brought by Muslim presenter
Kelvin Mackenzie, the ex-editor who once green-lighted The Sun‘s front-page coverage of the Hillsborough fans as pickpockets and drunks on the day of the tragedy, has been found by the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) not to have breached the press code for an article he penned in July.
The article, published in the Murdoch-owned Sun newspaper, headlined ‘why did Channel 4 have a presenter in a hijab fronting coverage of Muslim terror in Nice’, criticised the publicly-owned TV channel for using presenter Fatima Manji (pictured below). She brought a complaint against the tabloid for breaches of accuracy, harassment and discrimination.
The regulator was unequivocal about the article:
There can be no doubt that this was deeply offensive to the complainant and caused widespread concern and distress to others.
But found that it did not breach the code:
While the columnist’s opinions were undoubtedly offensive to the complainant, and to others, these were views he had been entitled to express.
Free speech campaigners argue that this is the right outcome. Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, told Legal Cheek:
It was the right decision. Kelvin Mackenzie was expressing his opinion. However offensive that may be, if the complaint had been upheld it would have introduced the scope for censorship of any opinion in future that might be perceived to cause offence. Freedom of expression includes the right to offend, shock or disturb.
Manji herself took to the airwaves and Twitter to express her views on IPSO’s findings:
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) October 20, 2016