OUR story on January 7 about a 'hit list' of top British Jews on the website Ummah.com was based on claims by Glen Jenvey who last week confessed to duping several newspapers and Tory MP Patrick Mercer by fabricating stories about Islamic fundamentalism.Following Mr Jenvey's confession, we apologise to Ummah.com for the article which we now accept was inaccurate.
In the pantheon of apologies, this is hardly the most contrite or convincing of ones. It also gives next to no context: what in the article was inaccurate about Ummah.com? The nearest suggestion we get is that Islamic fundamentalism was involved. Anyone wanting to know more would have to search or go to the Press Complaints Commission's site to find out what the actual complaint was about:
A representative of www.ummah.com complained that an article had inaccurately suggested that the website was a forum for Islamic extremists. The story was based largely on the views of a ‘terror expert' named Glen Jenvey who expressed serious concerns about the website. The piece quoted a number of comments posted on ummah.com and suggested that extremists were seeking to ‘target' well-known British Jews. The complainant said that Mr Jenvey's claims were unfounded and that there was, in fact, some evidence that he himself had posted the quoted comments in order to create the story.
The PCC's investigation, launched in January 2009, had to be placed on hold for a period of time because of a concurrent, related legal action. However, on 13 September, Glen Jenvey confessed publicly that he had, indeed, posted the comments on ummah.com which became the basis for the Sun's story. He admitted having deceived various media outlets, individuals and organisations. Mr Jenvey's confession was reported by the Sun on 15 September. In light of this development, the PCC re-opened its enquiries into the complaint from the representative of ummah.com. The complaint was resolved on 23 September when the Sun published the following apology under the heading ‘Ummah.com':
OUR story on January 7 about a ‘hit list' of top British Jews on the website Ummah.com was based on claims by Glen Jenvey who last week confessed to duping several newspapers and Tory MP Patrick Mercer by fabricating stories about Islamic fundamentalism. Following Mr Jenvey's confession, we apologise to Ummah.com for the article which we now accept was inaccurate.
The apology also appeared on the Sun's website.
In a way it's a shame that Ummah.com has accepted the Sun's apology, as the PCC will now consider the matter closed. Not accepting it and forcing the PCC to adjudicate and therefore comment further on the Sun's complete abandonment of normal journalistic practice, with the resulting adjudication then needing to be published in full by the paper would have been preferable, but it's understandable that Ummah.com didn't want to take it any further. One of the arguments that Graham Dudman used in his original letter to the PCC which completely defended the story was that Ummah.com in fact was, by anyone's standards, a "fanatics website", with a few select out of context quotes chosen to back up his allegation. Knowing the lack of backbone which the PCC repeatedly displays, they could well of taken this as a mitigating factor, even though the story turned out to be a tissue of lies and that all of Glen Jenvey's supposed credentials, which Dudman lists, were worthless.
The whole incident is though instructive of how the tabloids deal with such complaints. Even when an article which appeared on the front page and made such startling accusations and claims is shown to have been completely inaccurate, the only thing the paper has had to do in any form of reparation is publish the pathetic "clarification" at the top of this post, which was printed in the paper itself on page 12. Any casual reader would think that the Sun was the victim of Jenvey as much as Ummah.com was, when this could not be further from the actuality.
It remains to be seen where Alan Sugar's legal action against the paper will take us, although considering that they have now accepted that the "article was inaccurate", a settlement seems to be the most likely result. As for the others involved at the periphery, such as Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, Tim has just revealed information which shows despite Mercer's subsequent denials, his office had worked and was still working with Jenvey over a month and a half after the Sun's story was shown to most likely be Jenvey's own invention, this time attempting to get his handiwork into the People. The fallout from a front page tabloid newspaper story in early January seems likely to continue for some time yet.