Readers complained over a UK Telegraph cricket column saying Australia’s cricket team included a Pakistani player as an “experiment with their Asian immigrant population,” The Guardian reported. The player in question is Usman Khawaja, who The Guardian noted is a “Pakistan-born Australian batsman.”
The Telegraph column, by cricket columnist Scyld Berry, originally read (bolding added):
“Usman Khawaja will be roasted for the limp defensive prod that he aimed at Graeme Swann when Australia were 147 for one. He could well be replaced in the Oval Test by Phil Hughes and Australia’s experiment with their Asian immigrant population will be shelved.”
Readers found the characterization offensive, according to The Guardian, and the reference to “experiment with their Asian immigrant population” phrase was deleted from the online version of the Telegraph column. iMediaEthics notes that the column doesn’t disclose the controversy nor its remedy of deleting the offending phrase.
We couldn’t find an email address for Berry but tweeted him asking who decided to delete the reference from the original column and why.
@scyldberry Did you or the Telegraph delete the comments in question from your original article? Why?
— iMediaEthics (@imediaethics) August 15, 2013
Berry wrote another column August 14 in response to the criticism of his “Asian immigrant” comment. He defended his remarks as a comment on diversity and added that his wife of “almost 30 years” is “an Asian immigrant.” Berry’s column read in part:
“For those who think this is a racist comment and have taken umbrage at it, I warmly applaud both the sentiments and the strength of those feelings.
“If I may explain, however, it is an observation I made without any intent to disparage Khawaja, but as an attempt to portray the unique position in which he finds himself as the first Muslim to represent Australia – and, broadly speaking, the first non-white since Sam Morris in the nineteenth century.”
Despite his defense of his remarks, iMediaEthics finds it concerning that Berry wasn’t being transparent with readers that his defense did not prevent the newspaper from deleting his comments.
iMediaEthics wrote to the Telegraph for more information and received in a response the link to Berry’s August 14 follow-up column about the controversy. The newspaper hasn’t responded to our follow-up question asking who decided to delete the immigrant reference and why.