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Yorkshire Post Editor: “At a stroke, the system can kill you. Parliament. MPs. Lazily, and easily.”

mitchinson

“I’ve fought for fairness, equality of opportunity. I’ve battled to keep children’s hospitals open, community centres, hospices. But at a stroke, the system can kill you. Parliament. MPs. Lazily, and easily.”

This is part of the online response from James Mitchinson, the Editor of the Yorkshire Post to allegations that his paper “led to abuse” directed at former Yorkshire cricketer, Azeem Rafiq.

Rafiq told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee that he’d been “driven out of the country” due to “threats and abuse” after he spoke out about racism at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

He told MPs that he was “fearing for his life.”

Furthermore, he stated that the Yorkshire Post “should be held responsible” for the abuse directed at him and his family ever since he reported the “institutional” racism at the club.

“Every time there’s an article it’s created a wave of online abuse,” he told the committee.

“I don’t feel like at any point they have had any balance. If I was to pick one reason why all this has happened, unfortunately I would have to say it is the Yorkshire Post’s writing.”

In a written statement to the Committee, Mitchinson stated:

“From a personal perspective, one that I was not afforded the privilege of airing to the DCMS, I know I will be able to look back with absolute conviction that on every step of the way, we as a team have sought to tell everyone’s truth when others have not given them that opportunity.

“I have to say, I am disappointed – but not surprised – that The Yorkshire Post’s brand of fearless journalism, editorially courageous even in the face of deeply contentious and complex issues, has been attacked by powerful people today.

“Those who believe in a free press, empowered to always get to the truth, should be deeply worried by the unsuccessful attempt to undermine The Yorkshire Post.

“Finally, I want to reassure Mr Rafiq that I could not have taken more ownership of nor applied more due diligence to editing this story, and I remain committed to listening to and telling all sides of it with honesty, integrity and impartiality.”

Chris Waters, the Post’s Cricket Editor wrote in the paper yesterday:

“I don’t want racism. I don’t want people being forced to leave the country. I don’t want threats made against them or their families. I don’t want people defecating in their gardens. I don’t want people circling their houses with what look like chains in their hands. I don’t want any of those things.

“And yet all of those consequences and more were laid at the door of The Yorkshire Post on Tuesday – and, by definition, at myself, the newspaper’s cricket correspondent – at the latest DCMS hearing into racism in cricket, where we/I were publicly denounced as ‘the voice of the racist’.”

He continued:

“George Dobell, the senior correspondent at The Cricketer, and also the chairman of the Cricket Writers’ Club, dismissed me as ‘out of my depth’ and said that we/I had ‘intimidated and bullied’ Rafiq and Lord Kamlesh Patel, the Yorkshire chairman, and made ‘no attempt to even try and understand’ the story.”

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Waters added that he did “reflect on this story – every day” but explained that as a journalist he didn’t want to be a “cheerleader” but instead to “examine all aspects of a story.”

“We have actually given voice to the other voiceless in this wretched business – the 16 Yorkshire staff sacked by Patel, for example, summarily dismissed for signing a letter that questioned Rafiq’s character and motives and warned of his so-called “one-man mission to bring down the club,” he continued in the comment piece.

“Dobell told the DCMS it’s ‘incredible that anyone thinks they shouldn’t have been sacked’, despite simultaneously decrying the Squire Patton Boggs report upon much of which Rafiq’s claims to whistleblowing are based.

“But what if those staff were right?

“Kunwar Bansil, the former physiotherapist and a British Asian, said that he saw and experienced no racism at Yorkshire. Dr Mark Nesti, the club psychologist, said he thought that Rafiq had deliberately tried to ‘destroy the club, or certainly wreck it’.

“Intelligent, respected people with counter opinions.

“That is how The Yorkshire Post has undertaken its journalism since 1754, and I am committed to its historic high standards.

“Of course, on Tuesday, there was no mention of the allegations made about Rafiq’s personal behaviour, most recently two counts of indecent exposure raised in High Court documents relating to the case of Wayne Morton, the sacked head of sports science and medicine.

“What are we supposed to do, ignore them?

“Pretend that they don’t exist?”

Water speculated that the DCMS “its credibility at stake, its reputation on the line, seemed to be more concerned with trying to hurt The Yorkshire Post – perhaps smarting from more than one occasion when our fearless journalism has held the powerful in Westminster to account – than to eliminate racism.”

Overnight the paper’s editor, Mitchinson wrote on Twitter:



He also answered questions from Sanjay Bhandari, the Chair of Kick It Out on Twitter, which can be viewed below, it was a thread also recommended by the Cricketer’s Dobell, who’d earlier told the DCMS Committee that the Yorkshire Post was “the voice of the racist.”

 


You can read Water’s full comment piece on the Yorkshire Post website and watch a replay of the Committee appearances here.

Yorkshire is now allowed to hold international cricket matches again, having undertaken structural reforms at the club.

The changes, carried out by new chair, Lord Patel, were hailed at the time as “a big opportunity to show the world what can be achieved when you have strong leadership and good people” by Rafiq.

He added that he was “relieved to see Lord Patel’s reforms backed today and that Yorkshire members chose a bright, inclusive future for my club.”

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