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UK rejects complaints against hijab-wearing TV presenter Fatima Manji

world Updated: Aug 22, 2016 21:45 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times
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File photo of Channel 4 News journalist Fatima Manji.(Twitter)

Britain’s communications regulator Ofcom on Monday rejected complaints that it was inappropriate for a hijab-wearing Channel 4 News journalist to present reports of the Bastille Day attack in France that killed 84 people.

A suggestion in a column in the mass circulation tabloid The Sun that it was not right for a Muslim presenter wearing a hijab to report the incident set off a storm and prompted hundreds of complaints to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).                    

However, Ofcom received 17 complaints about the channel using Fatima Manji to convey the news. She was scheduled to present the news on the day before the attack.

Ofcom said it assessed the complaints but deemed there was no ground to launch a full investigation into any potential breach of the broadcasting code.

An Ofcom spokesman said: “We received a small number of complaints that it was inappropriate for a presenter wearing a hijab to present a report on the attack in Nice.

“We won’t be taking the matter forward for investigation. The selection of a presenter is an editorial matter for the broadcaster, and the way in which the presenter chose to dress in this case did not raise any issues under our rules.” 

In The Sun column, former editor Kelvin MacKenzie wrote that he “could hardly believe my eyes” when he saw Manji on screen. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?” he said. 

He added: “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?”

IPSO is yet to rule on hundreds of complaints it received against MacKenzie’s column.

Channel 4 News said MacKenzie’s comments were “offensive, completely unacceptable”, and “arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred”. 

It said in a statement: “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.”

During the attack in the French Riviera city, a man drove a truck through crowds and killed  84. The attack was claimed by the Islamic State.