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June 28, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:24am

Times and Mail Online apologise to BAFTA chairman after Noel Clarke link libel

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Times and Mail Online have apologised to the chairman of BAFTA after falsely claiming he had “close links” with shamed actor Noel Clarke.

Days after the Guardian revealed accusations of groping, harassment and bullying against Clarke by 20 women in April, the Times followed up the scoop with a story claiming BAFTA’s Krishnendu Majumdar had worked closely with Clarke on diversity issues.

The story suggested this could have hampered the UK film and TV charity’s response to the allegations.

According to BAFTA, the article implied that the fact Majumdar (pictured) and Clarke are both men of colour influenced the decision to award the actor with the Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema award in March.

The Mail Online repeated the Times story’s line that the men had “close links”.

BAFTA made a legal complaint to both newspapers and told other titles it would take further action if the claims were repeated.

It said Majumdar had never met or worked with Clarke outside BAFTA and that they are not friends or business associates. Its steering group on diversity led by Majumdar consisted of 13 people including Clarke, and all their meetings were conducted on Zoom.

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It also complained that the Times’ story had a racist element.

Both newspapers have now published apologies and removed the original articles, accepting the suggestion of “close links” between the men was untrue.

The Times has agreed to pay damages and legal costs and BAFTA said Mail Online was “expected to follow suit”.

A statement from BAFTA said: “It is important to BAFTA that these defamatory and untrue articles have been removed and apologies published as they were very seriously damaging, undermining the very good work BAFTA has done as an arts charity on diversity and inclusion, as well as the proper manner in which it conducted itself in respect of the Clarke matter.”

[Read more: Press Gazette libel archive]

The Times correction said: “There are no close links between the men. BAFTA’s response to the allegations was delegated to a group deputed to deal with the issue.

“BAFTA has explained that the matter was determined by the lack of evidence it had at the time of having to make its decision on whether to proceed with presenting Mr Clarke with an award. We apologise to Mr Majumdar and BAFTA for the distress.”

Mail Online said: “BAFTA say their decision to allow Clarke to receive a previously announced award was taken by a group and determined by the lack of evidence it had at the time. We are happy to make this clear and apologise to BAFTA and Mr Majumdar.”

Picture: Harry Richards/Bafta

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