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IPSO rules against Daily Mail over multiple inaccuracies in report claiming 300,000 illegal migrants lived in one French suburb

The Daily Mail has been forced to publish a correction over an article which claimed up to 300,000 illegal migrants lived in a single Paris suburb.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation ruled that the newspaper had breached Clause 1 (accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice with the double-page feature published on 28 July last year.

The spread (pictured) was headlined: “Powder keg Paris”.

The online article was removed after a Twitter thread by Marwan Muhammad, a former director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, alleging more than a dozen inaccuracies in the text went viral.

The feature was a first-person account from journalist Andrew Malone who spent five days staying in Seine-Saint-Denis – inaccurately named Saint-Denis throughout the article – just outside Paris after a French parliamentary report raised concerns of serious crime in the suburb.

Filing the complaint, Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain, told IPSO Malone had “misinterpreted what he had seen during his visit to Seine-Saint-Denis to fit a false and damaging narrative”, and that his views had been presented as fact.

The Daily Mail told IPSO its claim that there are “around 350 known jihadists living in Saint-Denis” had come from comments from an anonymous official who told another publication there were an estimated 30 possible terrorists living in Seine-Saint-Denis, and about 300 extremists who would support them.

But the press watchdog said the newspaper had failed to justify the figure and presented it as established fact, meaning the article had “failed to make clear to readers the source of the claim, nor had it been made clear that it had not been based on any official figures”.

IPSO added that the claim that 1,700 jihadists had returned to France after fighting for IS in Iraq and Syria, when the estimate in fact referred to the number that had left France to fight for the terror group, was a “significant inaccuracy as it concerned a central thrust of the piece”.

Another significant inaccuracy, IPSO said, was the claim in the headline of the article’s online version that “300,000 illegal migrants are living in one French suburb” – although the subheadline of the print article made clear the figure was an estimate.

The figure was based on a French parliamentary report estimating that the area was home to between 150,000 and 400,000 illegal immigrants. But, IPSO said the report had not adopted a specific figure within this range, or claimed it was accurate, so it was wrong to give the 300,000 figure as fact.

A number of other aspects of Versi’s complaint were not found in breach of Clause 1 (accuracy) but were nonetheless included in the Daily Mail’s correction, published on page 2 of the newspaper today.

After setting out the three biggest inaccuracies, the correction said: “We are also happy to clarify that the reference to 160 ‘mosques’ should have been to ‘mosques and prayer rooms’; the French veil ban was introduced for reasons of security as well as integration; Mireille Knoll was murdered in a different part of Paris; Yasser Louati no longer works at French anti-Islamophobia group CCIF; and Christian de Moliner is a teacher, not a professor. We apologise for any confusion.”

Versi said: “This article is an example of the worst type of journalism – a reporter doing a hatchet job on Muslim immigrants in a fearmongering double-page spread replete with factual inaccuracies.

“The press regulator requires the burden of proof to be on the complainant, meaning that even more false statements about Muslims were not corrected.

“I can only hope that the new editor of the Daily Mail [Geordie Greig] recognises the serious dangers of such irresponsible reporting which is – as was the case here – shared by the far-right to support their narrative. This cannot happen again – although I fear it will.”

IPSO upheld accuracy complaints against the Daily Mail on three counts in relation to the feature article.

Read the full IPSO ruling here.

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