Toronto: The Ontario Press Council has upheld complaint against the Ottawa Citizen over a headline “Sikh could be extradited to Canada,” although it rejected a Suggestion that the newspaper is biased against Sikhs.

The headline, which brought a complaint from Bikramjit Singh of Ottawa, appeared on a Feb. 6 story from Coventry, England, about an extradition hearing for Inderjit Singh Reyat, wanted in Canada in connection with a bomb that exploded at Tokyo’s Narita Airport in June 1985 killing two Japanese baggage handlers,

The Council said it recognizes that identifying a subject by nationality or religion may be relevant in some stories but it found The Citizen careless in this case because nothing in the body of the article demonstrated why Inderjit Singh Reyat should be identified as a Sikh.

Ajit Singh Sahota, The complainant’s uncle who appeared at a Council hearing on his behalf, emphasized that Sikh community of Canada.

Suggesting the newspaper is biased against Sikhs, he said “the stereotype of the Sikh terrorist is ‘one of the most harmful and dangerous racial slurs to threaten our multicultural society in recent times.”

The Citizen said it has been extremely supportive of the majority of the Sikh community in Canada. It cited examples of stories to back that claim, including one entitled “Don’t send the Sikhs home.”

The newspaper said that while its policy is not to identify people by race, creed or religion unless it is pertinent to the story, it felt that use of the term was justified in this case.

It conceded that background which would have shown why the term Sikh was pertinent to the headline was missing from the story but maintained that such background had been contained in stories before and after this particular article.

Text of the adjudication: “The Press Council rejects any Suggestion that the Ottawa Citizen is biased against Sikhs.

“It recognizes that identifying a subject by nationality or religion may be relevant in some news stories. But it finds the Citizen was careless in publishing the headline, “Sikh could be extradited to Canada.’ The story lacked specific background to show why it was pertinent that Inderjit Singh Reyat should be so identified and, in fact, did not even identify him as a Sikh in the body of the article.

“The Complaint is upheld.”

Article extracted from this publication >> July 22, 1988