Respect MP George Galloway and the party's leader, Cllr Salma Yaqoob, have today called for an urgent investigation by the Press Complaints Commission into "reckless, inaccurate and inflammatory" claims by several newspapers about the provenance of the gunmen who were responsible for the atrocities in Mumbai, India, last week.
"In the midst of the unfolding tragedy in Mumbai," says Galloway, "A large section of the British press disgraced itself by publishing as fact the baseless claim that some of the terrorists responsible hailed from Britain.
"On Saturday morning [29 November] the Times, Telegraph, Sun, Mirror, Express and Star all prominently reported at least some of the terrorists were British Pakistanis, with headlines such as 'Butchers of Mumbai are Brits' and "British Muslims have become a mainstay of the global 'jihad'". The number was reported as between two and seven, and the cities they were said to hail from were variously Bradford, Leeds and Hartlepool.
"But on that same day the British government and its agencies strongly rejected any claim that British nationals were responsible. So too have the Indian authorities.
"The press, however, has cast a pall of suspicion over the Pakistani populations of these three cities. Potentially most damaging is the impact on Hartlepool. The Asian, and Pakistani, population there is very small. They have been made more vulnerable still by reckless claims that someone from their midst was part of committing this atrocity.
"Predictably, there was no apology of correction on these titles' websites or in their sister publications. So Salma Yaqoob and I have written today to the Press Complaints Commission asking them to investigate as a matter of urgency this flagrant breach of clause one of their code of practice, on accuracy."
Salma Yaqoob, who comes from Bradford and is a councillor in Birmingham, adds:
"Incendiary reporting like this threatens to bring deeper division and mistrust between the varied parts of our community. It has made British Pakistanis in places such as Bradford feel vulnerable and scapegoated. The world is rightly calling for the Indian and Pakistani governments to tread carefully in their response to this terrorist attack. If it's right not to inflame feelings and communal hatred in the sub-continent, then it's surely right for the British media not to do the same at home."
Below are the grounds in the PCC code for complaint.
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
Send a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission to email@example.com