Without contacting him before publication, The Mail Online and the Sun both reported that Robert Boaler is an “Islamic extremist rapper” who wanted Queen Elizabeth to be beheaded.
The two news outlets could have learned his defense and avoided complaints and unpublishing if they had contacted Boaler for comment and verification before publication. But, Boaler told iMediaEthics neither outlet did. iMediaEthics has written to both outlets to confirm.
The Sun went so far as to allege Boaler, who is white and also goes by Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah, was an “ISIS-supporting rapper.”
But, Boaler argued to the press regulator Independent Press Standards Organisation, he is not Muslim. And his comments about the queen and others were made in a music video that the news outlets reported on as real.
Both sites have now unpublished their stories on Boaler after he complained to IPSO about errors and discrimination.
In an e-mail to iMediaEthics, Boaler denied being satirical, stating the religious beliefs of his self-created religion “Zebaism.”
In his complaints to IPSO, the press regulator said Boaler explained, “He is a performance artist, a satirist and creator of the religion ‘Zebaism’. The complainant said that this video was satire and not intended to be interpreted as his calling for the beheading of the Queen or Nigel Farage,” IPSO reported.
“If people want to label me satire so be it,” he e-mailed iMediaEthics. “But do not use me to spread fear on innocent people, they punished Islam because of my song even when it is clearly stated in the chorus that it’s Zebaism.”
He further argued the news outlets wanted to “take a narrative that suits them” by falsely calling him a Muslim extremist to “tar Islam.” Boaler told IPSO that after the articles, he received death threats and public complaints to his children’s school and social services.
Boaler told iMediaEthics that IPSO was “extremely helpful” in handling his complaints. He noted that his video was not labeled satire.
Boaler also was concerned the news outlets’ reports discriminated against him and against Muslims.
The local police in Kent, England, told news outlets at the time they were “aware of” and “reviewing” his video. iMediaEthics contacted the Kent police, whose spokesperson said the video “has been reviewed and officers found there was nothing that constituted a substantive criminal offence.”
Both publications said they didn’t find the video obviously satirical but admitted not having any evidence for claiming Boaler was Muslim. As such, both agreed to unpublish and published clarifications to resolve Boaler’s complaints.
The Mail Online‘s Oct. 1 headline was “’Off with their heads’: Islamic extremist rapper calls for death of former Ukip leader Nigel Farage and labels the Queen a ‘w****’ in vile video.” Its clarification stated:
“An article published on 1 October 2016 reported on a video made by performance artist Robert Boaler, who also calls himself Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah and runs a satirical political party. The article incorrectly interpreted the contents of the video and referred to Mr Boaler as an ‘Islamic extremist rapper’. We are happy to clarify that we have since been made aware that Mr Boaler’s material is intended to be satirical and apologise for any distress caused.”
The Sun‘s Oct. 10 headline was “OFF HIS HEAD: White Muslim convert who rapped about beheading the QUEEN is being probed by police.” Its apology stated:
“In a story, ‘OFF HIS HEAD White Muslim convert who rapped about beheading the QUEEN is being probed by police’ (10th October), we incorrectly stated that performance artist Robert Boaler, whose professional name is Prophet Zebadiah Abu-Obadiah, was a White Muslim convert. We are happy to clarify that he is not and that his performances are meant to be satirical.”