Kelvin MacKenzie cleared by press watchdog over attack on Fatima Manji wearing a hijab during Channel 4 report

Press regulator rules controversial former editor of The Sun was 'entitled' to express his opinion in column criticising Channel 4 for allowing a reporter to present news of the Nice terror attacks while wearing a hijab 

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The Independent Online

A press watchdog has ruled Kelvin MacKenzie was “entitled” to attack Fatima Manji for wearing a hijab during a report on the Nice terror attack.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) has ruled the comments made in a column by the former editor of The Sun did not amount to religious discrimination. 

In the piece, MacKenzie said he “could hardly believe his eyes” that the person presenting coverage of the Nice truck attack in July “was not one of the regulars…but a young lady in a hijab”.

Manji had been rostered to work on that day 10 days before the Nice attack. 

He also asked whether it was “appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim”.

His column, published in The Sun, was reported to Ipso by both Manji and ITN bosses, who claimed his article breached accuracy, discrimination and harassment clauses set out in guidelines by Ipso. 

The press regulator also received more than 1,700 complaints from members of the public. 

In her complaint, Manji claimed she was targeted deliberately, but The Sun argued their column was not a direct criticism of her and instead discussed the issue of public figures wearing religious garments in a story with an unavoidable religious angle. 

In its ruling on Wednesday, Ipso said: “While the columnist's opinions were undoubtedly offensive to the complainant, and to others, these were views he had been entitled to express.

“The article did not include a prejudicial or pejorative reference to the complainant on the grounds of her religion.”

The media watchdog Ofcom received 17 complaints about Fatima Manji presenting news of the massacre, which were rejected. 

Ben de Pear, the editor of Channel 4 News, said the broadcaster was dismayed by Ipso’s decision not to uphold the complaint. 

“Whilst we agree that freedom of expression is a fundamental right, we do not believe that it should be used as a licence to incite or discriminate," he said in a statement. 

“At Channel 4 News we employ reporters based on their journalistic skills, not their ethnicity. We see no reason why a Muslim journalist should be prevented from covering any story and Fatima will continue to report and present the news on the issues of the day with impartiality and depth.

"We are grateful for all the support shown to Fatima during this difficult time.”