Telegraph wrongly claimed 50% of UK’s imported COVID-19 infections from Pakistan

The Daily Telegraph has been forced to publish a correction after it wrongly claimed that half of UK’s imported COVID-19 infections were from Pakistan.

The Muslim Council of Britain complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) that the right-wing newspaper had breached the Accuracy clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice in the article published on June 26.

The article reported that “half of Britain’s imported coronavirus cases originate from Pakistan”, a country which was “reporting 4,000 Covid-19 cases a day and has seen a new spike in the disease.”

It stated that “data from Public Health England showed 30 cases of coronavirus in people who have travelled from Pakistan since June 4, which is understood to represent half of the incidents of imported infection”.

The article’s first paragraph mentioned that “more than 65,000 people have travelled to Britain on 190 flights since March 1 from Pakistan.”

The original article

The MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring (CFMM) said the article gave the impression that half of all the UK’s imported COVID-19 cases originated in Pakistan during the period of the pandemic as a whole, but this was not the case as far more COVID-19 cases originated in other countries over this period, particularly in Europe.

The CFFM accepted that the body of the article made clear that the headline figure related to the period since June 4 (which it agreed was an accurate representation of statistics released by Public Health England), but did not consider that this mitigated the inaccurate and misleading impression given by the headline.

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It also considered a tweet by the newspaper, which contained only the headline claim, was incorrect as it contained no reference to the timeframe to which the statistic related. The CFFM also expressed a concern that the article was racist in singling out Pakistan and blaming Pakistanis for the public health situation.

In response, the Daily Telegraph accepted that the headline was potentially misleading but said that readers would be aware that the reference was to a specific time period, and that the article as a whole made clear this was the period since June 4.

But an IPSO committee found that both headlines gave the strong and misleading impression that half of all Britain’s imported coronavirus cases had originated in Pakistan. This was compounded by the opening sentences of the article which repeated the statement.

The publication of the headlines amounted to a clear failure by the newspaper to take care not to publish misleading or distorted information, ISPO said.

The regulator therefore required the Daily Telegraph to amend its article and publish a tweet making clear that the IPSO committee had found the original tweet to be misleading and setting out the correct position.

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