Clauses Noted: 1
Publication: Daily Star
Mr Adam Sheppard complained to the Press Complaints Commission that an article headlined "Muslim-only public loos", published in the Daily Star on 15 July 2010, was inaccurate and misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors' Code of Practice.
The complaint was upheld.
The front-page article reported that a Rochdale shopping centre had installed "Muslim-only squat-hole loos", and that the local council had wasted "YOUR money" on them. The complainant - who did not represent Rochdale Council or the Rochdale Exchange Centre, neither of whom had complained to the Commission - said that it was inaccurate to say that the toilets were "Muslim-only": the facilities, which were common to many countries, would be available to all. In addition, the decision to pay for the ‘nile pans' was taken by the shopping centre itself, rather than the local council. It did not therefore involve taxpayers' money.
The newspaper said that - while non-Muslims could have used the loos - they were designed with Muslims in mind. Nonetheless, it accepted that the headline was inaccurate in that non-Muslims would be free to use the toilets. It also accepted that the loos were paid for by a private developer. It suggested the publication of the following correction on page 2, in addition to the removal of the article from its website:
Our 15 July article said that squat style loos at Rochdale Exchange Centre were for Muslims only and were a waste of the council's money. We are pleased to make clear that the loos may be used by non-Muslims and that they were paid for by the developer.
The complainant asked for the newspaper to publish an apology.
In this prominent story, there were two clear errors of fact which, in the circumstances, would have misled readers in a significant manner: the toilets could not be described as "Muslim only"; and were not paid for by the local council. While the newspaper had accepted that the article was wrong - and offered to correct the item - the Commission was particularly concerned at the lack of care the newspaper had taken in its presentation of the story. This led to a breach of Clause 1 of the Code which makes clear that newspapers must "take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information". The complaint was upheld.
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