A press watchdog has ruled that The Times “distorted” coverage about a “white Christian child” placed with Muslim foster parents in east London.
The newspaper ran three front page stories in August 2017 about a five-year-old girl “taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer” under the orders of Tower Hamlets council.
The Times alleged that the foster parents had refused to allow her to eat bacon, had removed her crucifix necklace and had encouraged her to speak Arabic, claiming that the child had said the carers “don’t speak English”.
The council complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) that the story published on August 30, ‘Judge rules child must leave Muslim foster home’, had broken the Editor’s Code regarding rules around accuracy.
The press regulator upheld the council’s complaint that the paper had implied a judge had ordered the girl to be removed from her foster carers’ home to live with her grandmother.
In fact, it was Tower Hamlets council who had sought to place the youngster with her mother’s family.
The girl’s grandmother was later revealed to be a “non-practising Muslim” who did not speak English.
In Wednesday’s edition of The Times, the Ipso ruling was mentioned on the front page, with the decision printed in full on page two.
“Ipso’s Complaints Committee found that the article gave the impression that the judge had found that the placement was a “failure” by the council; and that this was why she was “removing” the child from her current foster carers, and placing the child with the grandmother,” the ruling read.
“The Committee ruled that this was a distortion. The complainant had been in the process of assessing the grandmother, and when those assessments were complete, it applied to the court for the child to be placed with her.”
The Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the ruling, adding that it believed it was the first front page note on a Muslim-related story.
Harun Khan, the council’s secretary general, said: “The Times should be forced to apologise for promoting what was widely known to be an inaccurate, misleading and bigoted narrative about Muslims.
“The story aided the hate-filled agenda of far-right extremists such as Britain First and the EDL.
“We hope that this front-page note will mark a turning point in the tolerance The Times has shown for anti-Muslim bigotry in its coverage and commentary,” he added.