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‘Offensive, unacceptable and wrong’ – C4 News responds to Kelvin MacKenzie criticism of hijab-wearing presenter

By Dominic Ponsford

Channel 4 News has hit back at former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie over his “offensive” comments about hijab-wearing reporter Fatima Manji.

MacKenzie questioned in his Sun column yesterday whether it was appropriate for her to present the news on the day it carried reports of the terrorist attack in Nice in which a Muslim man killed 84 people.

A spokesperson for Channel 4 News said last night: “The comments published in The Sun today by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred.

“It is wrong to suggest that a qualified journalist should be barred from reporting on a particular story or present on a specific day because of their faith. Fatima Manji is an award-winning journalist.

“We are proud that she is part of our team and will receive, as ever, our full support in the wake of his comments.”

The National Union of journalists has also attacked MacKenzie’s column and pointed out that “journalism in the UK remains overwhelmingly white”.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “To suggest that a journalist is incapable of reporting on a terrorist outrage because of…her religion or the clothes that she wears says all you need to know about the contemptible views of Kelvin MacKenzie.”

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She added that his “feigned moral outrage is the language of…bigotry, and sadly just the latest incoherent ramblings of a pundit who should have been put out to pasture a long time ago. Journalism in the UK needs more diversity, not less.”

The Sun tweeted a link to the story but later deleted it.

Kelvin_MacKenzieKelvin MacKenzie.JPGMacKenzie asked in is column whether it was appropriate for Manji
“to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim”.

He said: “Was it done to stick one in the eye of the ordinary viewer who looks at the hijab as a sign of the slavery of Muslim women by a male dominated and clearly violent religion?

“Would the C4 editor have used a Hindu to report on the carnage at the Golden Temple of Amritsar? Of course not.

“Would the station have used an Orthodox Jew to cover the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Of course not.

“So why did they do it? The suggestion is that Ms Manji, left, who I don’t blame as she is just a pawn in this TV news game, had been rostered on some time ago and presumably the C4 twerps felt to remove her would cause a bigger row.

“On that basis why didn’t they send her to Nice instead of Snow? Of course, there was a very good reason for that.

“The people of Nice, and the people of France, would view a foreign reporter wearing a hijab in these tense times as massively provocative.

“I’m not sure Muslim reporters in secular France are even allowed to wear headscarves on screen.”

The Sun has declined to comment.

Press Gazette understands that MacKenzie, as a columnist, does not speak for the paper but represents his own views.

Last night The Sun published an article about the story by Muslim columnist Anila Baig, who has herself worn the hijab.

She said: “…to accuse her of being representative of ALL Muslims – including mentally ill ones who commit abhorrent heinous acts – is ridiculous. We all know that one person cannot represent an entire religion.

“Presenting a live news broadcast is not easy and not something an ‘enslaved Muslim woman’ terrorised by men would be able to do. It’s hard-hitting and relentless and you have to have guts and brains.

 “…I think the fact that Fatima can present a news bulletin and also wears a headscarf shows how great Britain is in accepting people of all faiths and backgrounds.”
The Independent Press Standards Organisation has received over 300 complaints about the article.
Clause 12 of the Editors’ Code states:

“i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s, race, colour, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

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