Press Complaints Commission rule Telegraph blog posts on Tower Hamlets Mayor misleading

Lutfur Rahman pic: Charles Alderwick

Reports on the Daily Telegraph website about the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman were ‘inaccurate and misleading’, the Press Complaints Commission has ruled.

The posts, which were published on the blog section earlier this year and written by the Telegraph’s London Editor, Andrew Gilligan, were headlined “Lutfur Rahman councillor charged with fraud” and “Lutfur Rahman: all his controversies in one place”.

The first post reported on a Tower Hamlets councillor being charged with fraud, and claimed Rahman had been accused of failing to declare substantial donations from local businessman Shiraj Haque, who was under investigation for an alleged scam involving selling fraudulent wine. This, the article said, would be a criminal offence under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.

Rahman complained that the newspaper did not subsequently report on the fact that a police investigation into Haque in February 2011 concluded that there was no case to answer.

The Mayor also noted that he had not been contacted before publication of the post.

Gilligan’s second post, in which he likens Rahman’s mayoralty to a “slow-motion car crash”, repeated the misleading information of the first.

With regards to this complaint, the PCC said: “Under the Editors’ Code, the newspaper was also required to take care not to present the allegations in a manner which would be inaccurate or misleading to readers. This included reporting the outcome of the relevant police investigation… by failing to include this information, readers would have been misled into believing that the investigation was ongoing.”

The Telegraph has since published a clarification at the bottom of the piece from April but the paper “stood by the statement that the complainant had been accused of failing to declare substantial donations.”

A statement from the paper added that the allegations had been reported in various blogs last year, and the accusations continue to be levelled against the Mayor by some who believe the police investigation was “inadequate”.

In a reaction to the PCC’s decision, a spokeswoman for Tower Hamlets Council said: “While the council welcomes the decision by the Press Complaints Commission to uphold its complaint against The Daily Telegraph in relation to publishing misleading information, the council still has concerns regarding the other points raised.”

The Mayor was unavailable for comment. The full PCC adjudication can be read here.

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