Sun & Daily Mail accused of Islamophobia after misreporting Spanish gunman story
Both papers have spent the last few weeks deriding ‘fake news’ and in particular the media outlets which reported on the unverified ‘dirty dossier’ on Donald Trump allegedly compiled by a British spy.
But when it comes to checking their own sources it seems the tabloids are not quite so thorough.
On Thursday both titles lifted reports from local Spanish newspapers which stated an armed man entered a supermarket in the small Galician city of Ourense, allegedly shouting: “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).
Without further confirmation other than one supposed witness, the story ran in the Sun as: “Supermarket horror: Gunman ‘screaming Allahu Akbar’ opens fire in Spanish supermarket while ‘carrying bag filled with petrol and gunpowder.’”
It later removed references to the Islamic cry.
The story, however, spread across world news in its incorrect form, and featured on major channels like Fox News.
Australian website News.com.au even reported the incident as “Gunman wearing suicide vest opens fire in supermarket in Spain,” followed by a mention of the shooter shouting “Allahu Akbar.”
That same day the Sun’s editorial accused news website BuzzFeed of making “a mockery of journalism with false Trump allegations.”
Reacting to the false news report, Islamophobia awareness group Tell MAMA director Iman Abou Atta told RT: “For years, in some press sources, it has been less about facts and more about an agenda based on sales through sensationalism.
“Some of these stories have been factually inaccurate and sometimes of no news value apart from pandering to fear and insecurity about other communities, such as Muslims as a whole.
“We know firsthand how such stories impact on lives and community relations. It is imperative that going forward, we challenge and hold to account fake news stories that are promoted as fact. Such blurring of lines will have impacts on the way social values are constructed in the future.”
Spanish police and the supermarket chain deny the perpetrator shouted “Allahu Akbar.”
No one was hurt in the incident.
On Friday Labour politicians called on tech companies and the media to do more in the fight against ‘fake news.’
Former Shadow Culture Secretary Michael Dugher penned a piece in the Guardian arguing that tech giants like Facebook and Google had a “greater responsibility” to weed out misleading reports.
He suggested the government should consider changing the law to curb tech monopolies in the same way it once did with newspapers.
“We have a responsibility to stand up for good journalism everywhere,” he wrote. “It is an essential part of our free speech and our democracy. The old adage that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes has never been more true. The growing risks posed to our democracy mean we can no longer ignore the threat from the proliferation of false news stories.”
Dugher is currently leading a Labour inquiry into “the changing way news is consumed and shared online, and at the practical, political and ethical issues raised by fake news.”
A final report is due in the spring.