A leading activist in George Galloway’s Respect Party and in the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe, Abjol Miah, has lost his complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about the Telegraph’s description of him as an activist in the IFE.
Mr Miah, Respect’s leader on Tower Hamlets council, is no longer a councillor, and his party was all but wiped out, after he was exposed as an IFE activist by the Telegraph and Channel 4’s Dispatches. We also played the viewers a secretly-recorded tape of Mr Galloway, you might remember, saying that his election to Parliament in 2005 owed “more than I can say, more than it would be wise for me to say, to the IFE.”
Mr Miah complained about an article headlined “Is Respect the stupidest party in Britain?” He claimed that we had said that he was a member of the IFE, something he denied. Not so; we said he was an activist – as we have said many times before – and we produced what the PCC called “a substantial amount of on-the-record corroborative evidence” to prove it. Such as, for instance:
– the fact that he was one of only four main presenters on the IFE’s radio station;
– that he was described as a “member of the IFE” by John Rees, the former secretary-general of Respect;
– that he was a former office-holder or senior figure in three IFE-linked organisations, the Young Muslim Organisation (the IFE’s youth wing), Blyda, and Elite Youth.
The PCC ruled: “The Commission did not consider that the complainant [Mr Miah] had been able to establish that the article had been significantly misleading or inaccurate on this point such that it warranted correction or clarification under the Editors’ Code.”
Both in our approaches to Mr Miah before publication, and in his initial complaints to the PCC, he carefully denied something – membership – that we never actually alleged. Activity in an organisation does not necessarily have to mean membership, as the dictionary will show. Later Mr Miah changed his denial to a denial of activism too, something we offered to add to the bottom of the story online. Mr Miah refused this offer, demanding an acknowledgement from the Telegraph that his denial should have been included in the original article and that it should have put evidence to him to back up its claim.
I did, of course, through Channel 4, put our evidence to Mr Miah. The PCC has rejected his demand for a retraction or correction, and said our offer of adding the denial is enough. The story stands – and can be seen here, here, here and here. We say again: Abjol Miah is an activist in the IFE. But we can still put your denial on, Abjol, if you like.
PS – Mr Miah and Respect have now greeted their defeat with what we might call the Lee Jasper approach – simply pretending that they in fact won and that we have been “slammed” by the PCC over our “slur.” The briefest reading of the PCC’s decision shows this to be a fantasy.
PPS – I have a slight feeling that Mr Miah will be receiving a bit more bad news very soon. Watch this space!