Channel 4 News’s fact-checking arm has dismissed claims that the “mainstream media” did not report on Jeremy Corbyn winning a peace prize because of their bias against him.
The Labour leader was a joint recipient of the Sean MacBride Peace Prize on Friday at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland. The award was presented by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and World Democratic Forum.
Corbyn received the award “for his sustained and powerful political work for disarmament and peace”, according to the IPB website.
A report the following day by left-wing independent news website Skwawkbox claimed that the “‘MSM’ [mainstream media] have been largely silent” on reporting the fact.
In a story on 11 December, the Impress-regulated website pointed a finger at the BBC, which it said “did not mention” the award and “remains resolutely silent on the issue”.
The media silence line was also pursued by Russian and Iranian state-funded media outlets.
According to Channel 4 News Factcheck, which was asked to look into why so few journalists covered news of Corbyn’s award, the peace prize has typically not been widely reported in the past.
Factcheck said the prize was named after the former chairman of the IPB, who also held the post of chief of staff of the IRA in the 1930s before serving as Ireland’s foreign minister and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.
“Critics have noted that the International Peace Bureau effectively awarded the prize to itself last year,” said Factcheck. “They named their own secretary-general, Colin Archer, as the winner.”
“We’re not really in a position to say whether winning a Sean MacBride Peace Prize is or should be considered a major achievement: it’s a matter of opinion.”
But, the fact-checking service did confirm that a search of press archive Factiva for mentions of the prize in the UK media since 1992, when it was established, resulted in just two mentions.
The first was in the Sunday Times in 1994 “about activists trying to hand over the award to the Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu” and the second in the Guardian in 2013 “about a former winner – the Irish president Michael D Higgins”.
Factcheck said: “We can’t find a single example of a British or Irish newspaper covering the announcement of the winner as a newsworthy event in itself – as, say, the identity of the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is usually reported every year as a news story.
“A Google news search shows a similar general lack of interest in the Sean MacBride prize from the online news media. Again, we can’t find even one example of a major media outlet covering the prize as a news story in itself in previous years.
“We can’t be sure that the searches we’ve done cover every single story ever published in newspapers or online, and they certainly don’t cover broadcast news. But they do suggest that – rightly or wrongly – the British media doesn’t tend to report on the awards.”
Factcheck also noted that the story of Corbyn’s win was months old, with the news having been announced via press release in September before the ceremony this month.
In conclusion, it said: “It’s true that there was little media interest in Mr Corbyn’s peace prize. Is this a sign of institutional bias against him? Probably not.
“We know that the media aren’t ignoring the Labour leader in general. His speech to the United Nations in Geneva last week was widely covered by media outlets.
“But it seems from our archive searches that the media generally pays little attention to the Sean MacBride Peace Prize. The prize has not historically been viewed as a particularly newsworthy event in the British media.
“That may be fair or unfair, but it offers a more straightforward explanation than a nefarious media conspiracy of why Mr Corbyn’s win got little attention.”
Picture: Reuters/Pierre Albouy