The Sun and Telegraph both claimed that a married couple were part of a “Trojan horse” plot to take over a local school, Clarksfield Primary School. The two UK newspapers published their false claims in February 2017, alleging the couple, Nasim Ashraf and Hafizan Zaman, were undertaking a “campaign of intimidation,” with the husband holding “Islamic teaching sessions” and the wife telling “staff to wear the veil.”
Now, both papers have admitted their stories were inaccurate and they are paying the couple to settle libel lawsuits. Ashraf told the Guardian last year that he and his wife had complained about the school’s standards, which resulted in a teacher complaining they were harassing her. After his complaints, the UK Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skill investigated and agreed that the school did have low expectations and training, according to the Guardian. iMediaEthics has written to that office, Ofsted, to confirm.
In statements on the couple’s lawyers website, Ashraf said in part, “We are living in times where anti-Muslim hate and discrimination are increasing day by day and the Muslim community is constantly on the receiving end of false allegations. Unfortunately, the media has played a role in this which in turn only serves the interests of the far right, neo conservatives and those that wish to create division, rather than mutual respect and unity within our diverse communities in the UK.”
A statement from their lawyers at Rahman Lowe Solicitors explains the newspapers’ claims were apparently based on a “leaked report from Oldham Council.” iMediaEthics has written to the firm to ask if there are any other lawsuits against media for this reporting.
iMediaEthics wrote to the Sun and Telegraph to ask if either had contacted the couple before publication, to confirm the article in question was unpublished, and ask about the settlement; a Sun spokesperson pointed iMediaEthics to the newspaper’s apology. The Sun’s Feb. 19 apology reads:
“Articles on 20 February 2017 suggested Nasim Ashraf and Hafizan Zaman were involved in an alleged ‘Trojan horse’ plot to take over Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham.
“We said this involved violence and threats, that Mr Ashraf held Islamic teaching sessions, and Mrs Zaman told staff to wear the veil.
“We now recognise these allegations are unfounded, and they were not involved in any alleged Trojan Horse plot.
“We apologise to Mr Ashraf and Mrs Zaman for the distress caused.
“We have agreed to pay substantial damages and their legal costs.”
The Telegraph’s Feb. 15 apology reads:
“An article published on 20th February 2017 may have suggested that Mr Nasim Ashraf and Mrs Hafizan Zaman were responsible for a ‘Trojan Horse’ plot involving an Islamist campaign of intimidation to take over Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham with the aim of imposing an aggressive and separatist agenda on the students. We accept that such allegations are unfounded. We apologise to Mr Ashraf and Mrs Zaman for any distress caused and have agreed to pay them damages and costs.”
Hat Tip: Press Gazette