Sun forced to admit ‘1 in 5 British Muslims’ story was 'significantly misleading'

Regulator rules survey questions were 'ambiguous'

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The Independent Online

The Sun has been ordered to admit a controversial story that said one in five British Muslims had sympathy for Isis was "significantly misleading".

Press watchdog the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) received an unprecedented 3,000 complaints over the article, which was headlined: ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis.’

Accompanied by an image of British Isis member Mohammad Emwazi, also known as ‘Jihadi John, the story covered a survey of British Muslims conducted by The Sun shortly after the November Paris attacks.

It said "nearly one in five British Muslims has some sympathy with those who had fled the UK to fight for Isis in Syria".

But an Ipso spokesman said: "The newspaper had provided various interpretations of the poll result which conflated important distinctions between those travelling to Syria and those already fighting in Syria; between 'sympathy' for these individuals and 'support for their actions; and between individuals attracted by the ideology of Isis, and the ideology of Isis itself.

"The Complaints Committee deemed that the newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results, and as a result the coverage was significantly misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy)."

The Sun published the adjudication on page 2 of the paper on Saturday, as instructed to by Ipso.

The independent press watchdog has upheld a complaint over this headline (The Sun)

"The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results, and as a result the coverage was significantly misleading, in breach of Clause 1," The Sun admitted.

Published on November 23, 2015, the story was captioned: 'Support ... Brit Jihadi John who went to Syria'.

Ipso ruled the article breached Clause 1 of the Editor's Code, which relates to accuracy.

The story noted that the survey showed "a clear majority of the 2.7 million Brits who follow Islam are moderate".

The question about sympathy asked respondents about people "who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria".

Complainants argued that, as the question did not mention Isis, those who responded to the question might not have intended for their answers to be understood as relating to those joining Isis.

Some British Muslims have also left the UK to fight against Isis, or alongside anti-Assad forces or with various Sunni groups.

The Sun did not accept that the meaning of "those who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria" was ambiguous. It said that previous questions in the telephone survey had made explicit reference to Isis and the overwhelming majority of those who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria are joining Isis.

As the regulator received so many complaints, it chose a think tank named Muslim Engagement & Development (MEND) as the lead complainant and upheld the complaint after considering the coverage.

Ipso also upheld a complaint about the headline of an article in The Times which reported the Sun's survey with the headline "One in five British Muslims has sympathy for Isis".

Additional reporting by Press Association