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Column on Nice Attack journalist wearing hijab sparks 300 complaints

Kelvin MacKenzie.
Kelvin MacKenzie.

The press regulator has received more than 300 complaints about remarks by The Sun columnist Kelvin MacKenzie criticising Channel 4 News for using a journalist wearing a hijab to present a report on the Nice massacre.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said the complaints, which still have to be assessed, have related to accuracy, harassment and discrimination.

Mr MacKenzie, a former editor of the newspaper, had questioned whether it was right that Fatima Manji, a journalist who wears the traditional Muslim head covering, should have been allowed to appear on screen during Friday’s Channel 4 News programme.

Stating that he could “hardly believe my eyes” Mr MacKenzie asked in his Monday column: “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

French-Tunisian father-of-three Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel drove a hired lorry through crowds gathered on the the Promenade des Anglais in Nice to celebrate Bastille Day on Thursday. He killed 84 people and injured dozens more before he was shot dead by police.

In a statement Channel 4 News said: “The comments published in The Sun today by Mr MacKenzie are offensive, completely unacceptable, and arguably tantamount to inciting religious and even racial hatred.

“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.”

Former Conservative Party chairman and foreign minister Baroness Warsi wrote to The Sun’s editor in chief Tony Gallagher, branding it a “divisive column”.

In the letter, which she shared on Twitter, Baroness Warsi wrote: “Just as politicians should carry the responsibility for xenophobic and toxic campaigning that divides communities so journalists should be held accountable for ‘shock jock’ writing which simply perpetuates stereotypes, demonises and attempts to hold a whole community accountable for the actions of an individual.”

A spokesman for The Sun said it was making “no comment” on the issue.

The newspaper published an online article by Muslim writer Anila Baig. She reflected on Mr MacKenzie’s article which suggested the broadcaster had been deliberately provocative in putting Ms Manji in front of the camera on the day of the Nice attack.

Ms Baig described Ms Manji as “a professional who has been working for the programme for four years, not someone dragged in off the street just because she’s wearing a scarf on her head”.

Her article states: “The fact that Fatima can present a news bulletin and also wears a headscarf shows how great Britain is.”

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