The Australian Press Council has considered a complaint about a headline, Court theatrics sees Islam rear its ugly head again, above an opinion piece on the Herald Sun's website on 23 June 2011. The article commented on a confrontation outside a court between the media and supporters of a woman acquitted of making a false allegation against a police officer.
Dr Zachariah Matthews from Just Media Advocacy (and a close relation of the woman) complained that the headline implied that the behaviour of a minority of Muslims should be regarded as typical of the religion itself and its followers. He said that this implication conveyed an inaccurate and unfairly negative stereotype of Islam and Muslims.
The newspaper said that the headline and article referred solely to Islam's "distasteful side" and not to the religion as a whole. It said that, when the headline and article were read together, it is clear that those followers of Islam singled out for criticism were only those people who display its "ugly head". It was therefore a fair headline and it fairly and accurately represented the article that it headed.
The Press Council considers that the headline conveys an implication that Islam, in itself, is inherently responsible for the behaviour which is being criticised in the article and for behaviour of a similarly “ugly” kind. By contrast, the article itself attributes the behaviour to “radical Islam” showing “its distasteful side”.
The Council has concluded, therefore, that the headline is inaccurate and unfair in itself and also does not fairly reflect the tenor of the article (which expressed a robust viewpoint without breaching the Council’s Standards of Practice). Accordingly, the complaint is upheld on these grounds.