Sunday Times editor admits report on media coverage of Islam has ‘valid criticisms’

Emma Tucker welcomes report from Muslim Council of Britain and says paper needs to hire more diverse staff

The editor of the Sunday Times has said British newspapers have made mistakes in their coverage of Muslims, ahead of the launch of a report that concludes the British media is highly critical of Islam.

Emma Tucker, who took over as editor of the newspaper last year, said she welcomed the report by the Muslim Council of Britain “in the full knowledge that it contains criticisms of the press, my own paper included”.

She said: “Some of those criticisms are valid. Some I would respectfully disagree with. All, though, are useful. To move forward in serving that broad readership, we want to hear views from every part of it.”

Tucker, tipped as a potential successor to John Witherow as editor of the Times, said her newspaper needed to hire more diverse staff to ensure it improved its coverage of Islam while making clear “sometimes we will just see the issues differently”.

She also avoided criticising her predecessor, Martin Ivens, who edited the Sunday Times during the period covered by the survey. She said: “By its nature, a report like this must focus on the past. My job is to focus on the future. I want our news coverage to be fair but fearless, and our commentators to be robust but responsible.”

The report was produced by the Centre for Media Monitoring, a project of the Muslim Council of Britain. After analysing 48,000 online articles published between late 2018 and 2019 by British-based news providers, its researchers concluded that 59% associated Muslims or Islam with negative behaviour or qualities.

In general, rightwing outlets were more critical about Islam than left-leaning publications. The Spectator had the highest proportion of articles about Muslims classed as “antagonistic”, with 37% of pieces thus categorised. The New Statesman had the highest proportion of articles considered to be “supportive” of Muslims, at 16%.

The Centre for Media Monitoring was founded by Miqdaad Versi, who has spent years pushing the British media to change the language it uses to describe Muslims. He regularly uses press regulator Ipso to push for corrections to stories about Islam and recently launched libel proceedings at the high court against the writer Ed Husain.

Earlier this week, the Spectator columnist Charles Moore criticised Tucker for agreeing to speak alongside Versi to promote the report. Moore claimed that Versi “lobbies for special treatment of Muslim subjects” and is trying to “make a free press impossible” by controlling what can be written about Islam.

The report’s authors said they did not want uncritical coverage of Muslims, but sought to improve the quality of reporting in the British media. They said: “Even stories which report on a Muslim having achieved something noteworthy are framed by their supposed embrace of western liberal values whilst breaking free of the shackles of their own faith or tradition.”

The Spectator has been approached for comment on the findings.


Jim Waterson

The GuardianTramp

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