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Open Letter to the Daily Mail — Everything in your paper is wrong.


My fact-checking of the Daily Mail’s latest article on “illegal migrants in Saint Denis”. Spoiler: at least 15 mistakes, lies and inaccuracies in one single article.


Dear Daily Mail, I have read your “devastating” article on “illegal migrants in Saint Denis”. We too, in France, have tabloids who couldn’t care less about the truth, but I really have to say: you are in a league of your own! Everything in your paper is wrong.



Daily Mail

A fact-check:


Mistake #1.

From beginning to end, your reporter confuses “Saint Denis” (the city) and “Seine-Saint-Denis” (the département). There is a huge difference between the two: “Seine-Saint-Denis” includes 40 cities and is over 236 km₂. A simple look at a map would have saved you the trouble.



Mistake #2.

Your reporter misinterprets the facts. In France (it might be useful to know this, as a ‘journalist’), it is forbidden to use and disseminate pictures of someone in public spaces without their explicit consent. This is punishable by law, with fines up to 45,000 euros. In private spaces, consent is also required for the capture.

[Post-GDPR, collecting/processing someone’s personal data (i.e. a photo) without (a) consent, or (b) a defensible legitimate interest or (c) a covering Article 85 derogation.]


Daily Mail

Also, Saint Denis includes over 90 different nationalities (which also includes — presumably — white people!), so the “odd looks” your reporter refers to have nothing to do with his skin colour, but rather (if they are true) with his stalking and impolite attitude toward the residents (as we will later see...).


Mistake #3.

Your reporter claims that the area is more difficult to “sell” for real estate agents. A quick look at this website demonstrates that buying/selling in Saint Denis is as dynamic as anywhere around Paris. There are loads of new building programs.


Daily Mail

Mistake #4 (the worst).

Your reporter claims that there are “as many as 300,000 illegal immigrants” in Saint Denis, “according to French parliamentarians”.


Daily Mail

The Parliamentary Committee actually say the exact opposite: “The only thing we are sure about is that the State does not know how many illegal immigrants there are in Seine-Saint-Denis.”


Comité d’évaluation et de contrôle des politiques publiques sur l’évaluation de l’action de l’état
dans l’exercice de ses missions régaliennes en Seine-Saint-Denis. / Assemblée nationale.


Now, let’s look at the population in Saint Denis. Since 1968, the population has only increased by 11,5%, reaching 110,733 in 2014, so please, do explain to us (with all due respect to elementary arithmetics), how could 300,000 of these 110,733 human beings be illegal immigrants?


So, where did your reporter get his fake story of hundreds of thousands illegal migrants in Saint Denis? Simple: on right-wing conservative magazines and far-right websites who are well-known for inventing statistics, spreading fake news and stigmatising communities. They have been punished by courts numerous times for incitement to racial hatred.


Right-wing conservative magazine Valeurs Actuelles.


Far-right website Riposte Laique.

Mistake #5.

There are no religious courts in France (unlike other countries) and no shari’a council (except in the mind of the worst islamophobes). The same laws apply everywhere in France, to everyone (except maybe in some president’s entourage...). So, where, PRECISELY, have you seen this?


Daily Mail

Click here!!


Mistake #6.

Your reporter refers to the 2010 ban of the niqab as a law “promoting integration”. There is absolutely no such mention in the law, which can be found here.

It focuses only on security. And has produced the exact opposite impact in society.


Daily Mail

Mistake #7.

The word ‘cleary’ covers no fact. What evidence does your reporter provide to substanciate his claim that these items were stolen? Suburbs around Paris have dozens of markets (sometimes informal ones) where these items (mostly second hands) are sold. And yes, SOME are stolen.


Daily Mail

Mistake #8.

Your reporter presents the fact that police officers are armed and several of them present in the vehicle as something exceptional. This is standard procedure. They are by teams on patrol. Carry their weapon is standard policy in France, when they are on duty (unlike in the UK).


Daily Mail

Mistake #9.

There is a dozen mosques in Saint Denis, not over 160. If you have the list of the mosques you have visited, please share. I am sure Muslims in Saint Denis would love to enjoy new places of worship, unbeknownst to them so far... And thanks for the discovery (or the creativity)!


Daily Mail

Mistake #10.

There are no ethnic/religious statistics in France (least related to criminality), so where did you get this quantitative assessment of drug-related criminality in Saint Denis?


Daily Mail

Mistake #11.

You suggest in your article that somehow, Christmas is cancelled in Saint Denis. Here is the Christmas market in Saint Denis, right in front of the city hall, where everybody can come. There are dozens of activities during the same holiday period, all across the city.


Daily Mail

Christmas Market in Saint Denis / Aiman Saad Ellaoui

Christmas festivities in Saint Denis / Aiman Saad Ellaoui

Click here!!


Mistake #12.

You also suggest in your article that the average pattern for Muslim women to wear the hijab is for safety reasons. A 2016 study by liberal thinktank Institut Montaigne shows that 35% of Muslim women in France wear it. Are the 65% others in serious danger? As for those who wear it, they do so for religions motivations.


Daily Mail

Mistake #13.

You quote Yasser Louati of the Collectif contre l'islamophobie en France (CCIF). Mr Louati has stopped working for this organisation in June 2016 and has started another NGO since, Comité Justice et Liberté (CJL). Hit refresh on your computer and respect both entities, by properly crediting them.


Daily Mail

Mistake #14.

You imply that Jean-Louis Borloo is a “left-winger”. He is a very well known politician in France... from the center right! A simple visit to his wikipedia page would have saved you this one...


Daily Mail

Mistake #15.

Your reporter claims that, after a week in Saint Denis and dozens of interviews, only ONE person accepted to shake hands with him. Others consistently “offered their wrist (because he is) an infidel”. I was dead laughing when I read this part. Why? Let me explain...


Daily Mail

There is absolutely no such thing in Islam as (hardcore invented hardliner voicemode activated): “Don’t shaaaake hands with the kuffaaaaar. But you can still offer your wrist to Daily Mail no-go zone reporteeeers”. At least when you invent a lie, try to make it look credible!


Conclusion.

So, basically from the very first line to the last, your article is a sum of lies, inaccuracies, factual mistakes and data/quotes with no sources. If this is your definition of journalism, then don’t be suprised when people call you a racially-obsessed tabloid, with no ethics.

The social media campaign Stop Funding Hate (rightfully) continues to call for brands to withdraw their financial support to the Daily Mail. As responsible consumers, I personally think we should support this effort.🔷



FOLLOW UP:

Sadly, it seems Andrew Malone, the Daily Mail ‘reporter’ has deleted/suspended his Twitter account. What a shame! I would have loved to see more of his creative work. I hope this piece has been useful to you, guys. And thank you Miqdaad Versi (Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain) for bringing this to my attention.

The Daily Mail have also now removed the story from their website, ‘for investigation’. A source at the Daily Mail told The Guardian the article “has only been taken off the site temporarily and the intention is to restore it after considering the complaints and correcting where necessary”. They also admitted the journalist “may have confused the population of Saint-Denis with that of the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, where 1.6 million people live”.

“The article is a very strong article written by somebody who has reported from the Middle East, a student of Arabic,” finally said the source. But what does it have to do with anything? The only Arabic the journalist had to translate was “la la la la la”.


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Embed from Getty Images


(This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected.)


(Cover: Dreamstime/Wenling01.)


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Author and statistician. I do maths and punchlines for a living.
Paris, France.

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