Tuesday 25 October 2011

Mail 'sets the record straight' on another Littlejohn column

On 5 August, Richard Littlejohn wrote:

From time to time I may have written about both asylum seekers and wheelie bins. But never before in the same sentence. Until now.

Six illegal immigrants have been detained by a border patrol in Calais. The four men and two women, all from Vietnam, were discovered hiding in a consignment of wheelie bins bound for Britain. They were detected stowed away in the back of a Polish-registered lorry by a vigilant sniffer dog called Jake.

Asylum seekers hiding in wheelie bins in a Polish lorry. What a perfect metaphor for modern Britain.

On 16 August he returned to the same story:

Another snapshot of modern, multicultural Britain, coming hard on the heels of the story about those Vietnamese asylum seekers caught hiding in wheelie bins in a Polish lorry.

There was no evidence these six people were asylum seekers, having been caught in France before they reached the UK. The UKBA news report certainly never called them asylum seekers but 'would-be illegal immigrants'

But Littlejohn called them 'illegal immigrants' and 'asylum seekers' interchangeably. The PCC's guidance on refugees and asylum seekers states that journalists should be:

mindful of the problems that can occur and take care to avoid misleading or distorted terminology.

A complaint was made to the PCC asking that they look into Littlejohn's use of these terms. It was sent on the evening of 15 August, after Littlejohn's second article had been posted online.

By 19 September the complainant had received no reply from the PCC or the Mail. So he contacted the PCC again, asking what was happening.

On 23 September - nearly six weeks after the original complaint was made - the Mail finally responded with a letter from Managing Editor Alex Bannister.

The Mail had acted to correct the error, replacing 'asylum seekers' with 'illegal immigrants' in each article, and marking the archive with a note. Bannister said he had reminded 'Littlejohn and our other reporters' of the need to avoid such 'confusion'. He also apologised for the delay in replying, but gave no explanation for it.

The complainant said he would like some explanation for it and also asked for the Mail to admit in print it had corrected the articles.

Bannister's reply came through on 7 October. He said he had been away on annual leave and then had much to catch up on his return but admitted this was 'no excuse'. He also offered to print a clarification.

The complainant accepted the wording of the clarification that was offered and said he looked forward to seeing it in the Mail's new corrections column soon.

On 18 October, around 6pm, the Mail sent a revised wording to the PCC which was sent on to the complainant.

Before he could reply, he received another email at 7:46pm, in which the Mail explained it was hoping to run the clarification on Wednesday and they had changed the wording again.

Fifteen minutes later, another email from the Mail and yet another amendment to the wording.

The complainant agreed to this and so on Wednesday 19 October, the Mail published this:

Commentary articles on 5 and 16 August referred to six individuals apprehended in France who were attempting to enter Britain in wheelie bins on a lorry as asylum seekers when they should have been described as illegal immigrants.

We are happy to set the record straight.

By this time, the Daily Mail's 'Clarifications and corrections' column had been running for three days and this was the second clarification for something Richard Littlejohn had written.

It is also the second time this blog has covered a complaint about a Littlejohn column that has been met with a month-long silence from the Mail.

1 comment:

  1. Smellyface a reporter? I think Mr Bannister has been overdoing the wine gums.


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