After waking up to the news of yet another attack on pedestrians by a van driver, this time in Finsbury Park, North London, my heart felt heavy and my stomach uneasy. One dead and eleven injured. How much more news like this can we take?
Like many of you, I get my news from social media and like many people I was horrified at how the MailOnline had reported the story. The blaring headline read: “White van driver ploughs into and hurts at least 10 people outside well-known Finsbury Park Mosque in new London ‘terror attack’ before Muslims finishing evening prayers tackle suspect to ground.”
How dare they describe the attacker as a “white van man” and not a terrorist. The publication had no problem calling the Islamic attackers at Westminster and London Bridge ‘terrorists’ moments after the attack unfolded. What makes this one different? Because the driver was white and he targeted Muslims breaking iftar? It felt like they’d softened the wording to suit the colour of his skin.
Celebrities like Harry Potter author JK Rowling and Great British Bake Off presenter Sue Perkins pointed this difference out in disgust. I was just about to give in time my raging frustration and hit the retweet button when my media law training kicked in.
‘In defence of the Daily Mail’ is not something I write lightly, but this is why they didn’t call attacker Darren Osborne a terrorist:
If the press named him guilty of terrorism, they would be inciting ‘trial by media’. The judge would conclude that a jury cannot possibly be neutral after being exposed to those accusations and therefore Osborne could not possibly be given a fair trial, as he is entitled to under Article 6 of EU Human Rights law. If the MailOnline had called the attacker a terrorist, Darren Osborne would have walked free without a trial.
He would have walked free.
The colour of his skin and the ethnicity of the victims wasn’t the only thing that set this attack aside from the horrors of Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, it’s the fact that the attacker is still alive. That’s what makes reporting this one different. Osborne has been arrested on suspicion of murder, attempted murder and terrorism offences and detectives continue to question him, but he’s still entitled to human rights.
What the MailOnline should be held accountable for is the second part of their headline, which linked the two mosques with dangerous radicals that had nothing to do with the incidents of 19th June 2017.
The national online newspaper did apologise and issued a statement after changing the headline. That being said, what’s done is done. And as we all know, nothing is gone forever once it’s been on the internet.
The full MailOnline correction in full:
“An earlier version of this article bore a headline which stated the victims had been attacked outside the Finsbury Park Mosque, where Abu Hamza once preached. This was based on initial reports from reputable news agencies, although it has since been clarified that the attack took place closer to the Muslim Welfare House. It is also the case, as we made clear in a subsequent article, that in recent years the Mosque has become known as a beacon for community relations and that the Abu Hamza connection is therefore purely historical. We are happy to make this clear, and apologise for any contrary impression given.”