The broadcast regulator Ofcom has censured Channel 4 News for incorrectly identifying Abu Izzadeen as the Westminster attacker.
On March 22 Khalid Masood drove a van into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge killing five people. He also murdered a policeman using a knife before being shot dead by security services.
A few hours after the attack the Channel 4 News journalist Simon Israel briefed the show’s editor that there was “strong speculation that the suspect may be Abu Izzadeen,” Channel 4 News told Ofcom. Subsequently the 7pm news bulletin ran with the story.
Presenter Jon Snow stated that: “The attacker is a man called Trevor Brooks, better known as Abu Izzadeen, a well-known member of the now disbanded British Islamist group, Al Muhajiroun.”
Simon Israel then confirmed the news, stressing the suspect’s “long history of association with Islamist extremism.” Later, archive footage of Abu Izzadeen was broadcast together with a history of his deemed extremist activities.
But by 7.45pm, a journalist in the newsroom spoke to Abu Izzadeen’s brother who stated that he was still in prison.
Ofcom said: “We considered that by incorrectly stating that Abu Izzadeen was responsible for multiple killings, murdering a police officer and carrying out the attack, and reprising that theme throughout the first 35 minutes of the program, the licensee had broadcast a significant inaccuracy.”
Ofcom stressed that, in the light of the program’s prominence, and the high audience expectations, the error was very significant.
A Channel 4 spokesperson acknowledged Ofcom’s ruling, emphasised how seriously this was taken and promised to review and improve their existing editorial and oversight procedures.