Journalism regulators in the United Kingdom are proposing rules that critics say would favor Islam over other religions.

The aim of the rules apparently is “to respect ‘sensitivities’ and avoid causing offense – not the factually correct reporting of newsworthy events,” wrote Judith Bergman, a lawyer, political analyst and senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

“It does appear to be the case that what is uppermost in the minds of the drafters of the guidance is not so much factually accurate reporting, but concerns of a far more political nature, namely those of accommodating religious and cultural ‘sensitivities’ and avoiding the causing of any offense.”

She was discussing a report by the British think-tank Policy Exchange called “Eroding the Free Press.”

It addressed a leaked draft of a document called “Guidance for Reporting on Islam and Muslims” by the Independent Press Standards Organization, the nation’s press regulator.

According to the Policy Exchange report, the draft IPSO guidance states: “Journalists should be aware that their content can have an impact on the wider community and on how minority communities are treated. Inaccuracies and insensitivities can damage communities and prevents their accurate representation. They can also contribute to members of communities feeling divorced from, or misunderstood, by the media. Finally, inaccuracies and unbalanced coverage can work to increase tension between communities, which can make harassment more likely.”

But Policy Exchange said that approach is imbalanced.

“In all of this, there seems to be a suggestion that journalists should take a different approach to covering Muslims than that employed towards other faith groups. This all seems remarkably ill-conceived. If we ruled out reporting on matters specific to Muslims not only would we miss some big issues – not least the threat from Islamist extremist terrorism, which continues to dwarf other global terrorist threats – but we would also be unable to report properly on discrimination against Muslims. More generally, we must ask: is it really the role of journalists to consider community cohesion before truth and accuracy? And what are the potential consequences of such an ethos?”

Bergman explained the draft report also addresses “accuracy,” suggesting that reporters must provide “contextualizing information” and “present more than one opinion.”

She wrote that it’s more disturbing that the draft explains: “Identifying the ‘right’ person to speak to can be extremely challenging and journalists should be aware that individuals and organizations may have different interpretations of a particular belief. Journalists may find it helpful to consider the expertise of the person/organization, their background and any previous comments on the issues, in deciding who to approach for comment.”

She noted the Policy Exchange critique said: “One might ask whether the IPSO ‘guidance’ process is being used to advance the kind of ‘anti-Islamophobia’ agenda promoted by the APPG on British Muslims… despite the fact that the government has deemed that definition not fit for purpose… one of the things that makes the APPG’s attempts to institutionalize an illiberal definition of Islamophobia so unpalatable, is the fact that it resembles a form of blasphemy law, protecting Islam specifically, implemented by the back door.”

Policy Exchange said: “Taken as a whole, the IPSO guidance document seems to mark a decisive shift in the purpose of the regulator – which takes it beyond considerations of accuracy or discrimination, as per the Editor’s Code. Instead, it is moving into the realm of ‘insensitivities’ and ‘unbalanced coverage’ – elastic and subjective terms.”


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