Daily Mail gratuitously highlights “orthodox Jewish” faith of Londoners accused of assault

The discrimination clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice states:

Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

This is the context which prompted UK Media Watch to complain earlier today to Daily Mail editors over the following story:

The Nov. 15th article describes a trial involving four “orthodox Jewish” men who allegedly “attacked a traffic warden…after he ticketed their Lexus” in London earlier in the year. The fact that the men accused of assault are orthodox Jews is noted several times in the article, including in the following photo caption:

Though the question of who initiated the attack is in dispute, there’s no suggestion in the article that there may have been a religious motivation for the violence.  So, while some on social media may have casually referred to the incident as “an orthodox Jewish attack”, editors should have at least put ‘scare quotes’ around the words to indicate that they are not endorsing this characterisation.  Would the Daily Mail ever describe an attack in London by black men on a Jewish man as a ‘black attack’ or highlight the attacker’s skin colour in the headline?  Unless there’s recently been a spate of such acts of violence in London by orthodox Jews, we fail to see why the religion of these alleged attackers is pertinent to the story at all.  

Moreover, beyond the narrow question of whether the reference to the faith of accused men violates the Editors’ Code, their editorial decision represents another example of the media’s tendency to focus on the ‘bad behavior’ of religiously observant Jews – both in Israel and the diaspora.  

Followers of this blog may recall that, in 2011, UKMW prompted a correction to a Guardian article about the London riots which included an extremely gratuitous reference to Jews allegedly involved in the rioting. 

Though we of course can’t know the DM editor’s motivation, the focus on the alleged assailant’s Jewish faith – as well the curious detail in the headline concerning the Jewish man’s expensive luxury vehicle – raises some troubling questions.

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