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Sun's Kelvin MacKenzie reported to press watchdog for 'religious discrimination'

Published 22/07/2016

Mr MacKenzie questioned whether a Christian journalist would have been able to display their religion so prominently
Mr MacKenzie questioned whether a Christian journalist would have been able to display their religion so prominently

ITN and a Channel 4 News reporter have made complaints to the press regulator over Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie's "religious discrimination".

In his column on Monday, the former editor of the tabloid newspaper questioned whether it was right for correspondent Fatima Manji to appear on screen wearing a hijab to present a report on the Nice massacre.

He has since defended his "reasonable" criticism of Channel 4 News in Friday's column, arguing that the hijab was a "religious statement" and questioned whether a Christian would be able to wear a cross prominently on television.

In response, Ben de Pear, editor of Channel 4 News, said Ms Manji had been the victim of "religious discrimination" and revealed that complaints have been made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso).

He said: "Yesterday Channel 4 News correspondent Fatima Manji made an official complaint to Ipso following Kelvin MacKenzie's column published in The Sun on Monday.

"ITN believes the article was in breach of a number of provisions of the Editors' Code, in particular discrimination, harassment by intimidation and inaccuracy.

"A further complaint was also made by ITN CEO John Hardie, which fully supports and endorses the grounds and reasoning of Fatima's complaint.

"ITN accepts and understands that our reporters and presenters are in the public eye and can expect criticism and comment from many quarters, including newspaper columnists. What it cannot accept is an employee being singled out on the basis of her religion.

"We are not going to simply stand by when an employee is subject to an act of religious discrimination."

Monday's column by Mr Mackenzie sparked more than 1,700 complaints to Ipso and drew scorn from MPs in the House of Commons.

In his column he claimed "I could hardly believe my eyes", and asked: "Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?"

At the time Channel 4 described his comments as "offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred".

But in his latest column published on Friday, Mr MacKenzie said his question was a "simple" one.

He wrote: "A reasonable inquiry, you would have thought, with the sensitivities that currently exist in this nation and the rest of Europe. Then the Twerperati got involved and it became a national debate with a record number of complaints to the press regulator Ipso."

Mr MacKenzie goes on to ask Ofcom, the television regulator: "Should presenters be allowed to wear artefacts which advertise their religion? If, for instance, one of the regular presenters was a Christian (I'm joking since at C4 you wouldn't get an interview), would they be allowed to wear a huge cross outside of their shirt or blouse to the same prominence as a hijab?"

He added that wearing a hijab was "a matter of choice" for Western women.

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