The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) has ruled that The Times “distorted” coverage about a “white Christian child” who was placed with Muslim foster carers 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 stopped her from eating bacon, removed her crucifix necklace and confused her by speaking Arbaic.
The council complained to the Press watchdog, 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 chief executive of Tower Hamlets council, Will Tuckley, told the BBC that the council had complained because it wanted to defend its own foster carers.
He said: “From the start we had concerns about the validity of the allegations about the foster carers.
“For example one allegation was that they did not speak English, even though that is a prerequisite for any foster carer.
“The allegation that the foster placement was a bad choice by the council was also found by Ipso to be distorted information.”
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.”
Many from the third sector have welcomed the ruling, and have jointly issued a statement on the reporting of ‘Christian child placed into Muslim Foster Care’
“We are pleased that the regulators have decided to ask The Times to correct one of the four front page articles written on week commencing August 28th 2017 but we would also like The Times and related publications to note that hundreds of Muslim foster carers open their homes to both Muslim and non-Muslim children every year.
“These carers vary in terms of how they practice their religion, as do all carers of any faith group. Foster carers, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, work extremely hard in caring for children who are going through challenging times and as such, they are owed a great deal of respect and gratitude.
“It is wholly unacceptable that one of these fostering families was denigrated by The Times and related press outlets. We would encourage and welcome news outlets to use their resources to work with us to improve society, particularly for the most vulnerable, and to give credit to good work where it is due.” Read the statement, which was signed by many from the sector, which included humanitarian charity Penny Appeal’s CEO Aamer Naeem, CEO of Nationwide Association of Foster Providers, Harvey Gallagher and CEO Kevin Williams of The Fostering Network