Guardian cleared of 'jeering Jews' report

By Marcus Dysch, October 6, 2011
Fanning rioters’ flames: Tottemham’s Jews were singled out of the crowd

Fanning rioters’ flames: Tottemham’s Jews were singled out of the crowd

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected complaints that a Guardian story about the London riots unfairly singled out Chasidic Jews for allegedly "jeering at police".

In a report published online on August 7, the Guardian described how a double-decker bus had been set alight and local businesses broken into, and noted that teenagers were wandering the streets with stolen goods.

It went on to claim that "families and other local residents, including some from Tottenham's Hasidic [sic] Jewish community, [also] gathered to watch and jeer at police".

The article was later amended to state that those jeering had included "black, Asian and white" local residents, as well as the Jews.

In response to Hendon MP Matthew Offord, who complained about the singling-out of the strictly Orthodox Jews in the initial article, the PCC said it did not believe the Guardian had breached clause 12 of the PCC code. The clause states "that newspapers must avoid reference to an individual's religion unless it is genuinely relevant to the story".

The PCC acknowledged Mr Offord's concerns, but said that because the article had referred to a group of people, rather than individuals, the comment was not in breach.

Mr Offord said: "This is a typical toothless response from the media's most ineffectual watchdog.

"How is it acceptable that the article, which doesn't mention the race, ethnicity or religion of the rioters, needs to determine the religious beliefs of some of those who allegedly gathered to jeer the police?

"Even the Guardian's own Code of Ethics dictates that the religious beliefs of witnesses to the troubles are irrelevant."

Manchester's Jewish Representative Council had led the complaints to the Guardian in August.

Lucille Cohen, president of the Rep Council, said the "irresponsible reporting could lead to increased antisemitism and even to physical attacks on the Jewish community nationally".

Prior to the PCC decision, the Guardian said its independent readers' editor would consider the complaints.

Last updated: 2:09pm, October 6 2011