Media campaigner Brian Cathcart lambasts The Times for “journalism abuse”

Professor Angela Phillips and Professor Brian Cathcart. Pic: Nafeesa Zaman.

The Times newspaper committed a “grotesque abuse of journalism” with a series of stories about Muslims, according to the prominent press reform activist Professor Brian Cathcart.

Cathcart, who campaigns for press reform, told students at Goldsmiths University of London at a Media Forum event last night that “The Times newspaper has an anti-Muslim agenda, and will develop stories which will portray Muslims in a bad light.”

Cathcart’s comments follow the publication of Unmasked, an investigative report that he produced with Paddy French this year, challenging three series of articles that The Times newspaper published over 15 months between 2017 and 2018 that, he says, portrayed Muslims as threatening.

Cathcart’s investigated each case and believes the allegations made in the articles, written by Andrew Norfolk, the chief investigative reporter of the Times, can be fundamentally questioned.

At the event chaired by Goldsmiths’ Professor Angela Phillips, he told the crowd: “Norfolk produced front-page, highly dramatic stories, creating noise and drama, but they were all demonstrably false. And proving them fundamentally wrong was not difficult.”

In his talk last night, Cathcart reiterated his belief in Norfolk’s lack of responsibility by stating “How does he get so much wrong? How does the Times allow him to do it three times? I will demonstrate the wrongness that Norfolk did and in Unmasked, we established without any doubt the inaccuracies of Norfolk’s stories.”

He then told ELL: “He (Norfolk) published these stories at a time when hate crimes against Muslims in the UK were at an all-time high. He knew this because even the Times published it. And in his stories, he never interviewed a single Muslim. It is grotesque and extraordinarily revealing.”

Cathcart, who is a professor of journalism at Kingston University, appeared before the Leveson Inquiry twice, and was a specialist adviser to the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport when it was investigating press standards and the phone-hacking scandal.

He is also founder and first director of Hacked Off, which is an organisation who seek to uphold ethical press standards.

Brian Cathcart addressing students at Goldsmiths University last night. Pic: Joshua Statter.

Cathcart sent his publication Unmasked to various media outlets, as well as politicians, but had very little response. He believes that it shows grave problems in the journalism industry.

He said: “The most sinister aspect of all is that we sent Unmasked to every MP in hardcopy and electronically, all the peers of the House of Lords, 250 leading journalists across the country in broadcast and in print, addressing them personally. I can tell you that not one word has been written by anybody in the UK media about this. That is totally a failure of journalistic honesty.”

He believes that the unveilings of Unmasked are “a composable scandal and yet no one will respond to it.”

When probed by Goldsmiths students as to what he does want done in response to Unmasked, he said: “There should be an independent investigation, to verify it, commissioned by the Times. I would be quite happy to see Norfolk never work in journalism again.”

Cathcart, previously a journalist for Reuters, New Statesman, and the Independent where he was senior editor for the end of his 11-year spell at the paper, was hosted at Goldsmiths by Phillips, author, professor of Journalism, and founder of East London Lines.

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