Saturday, 1 December 2012

Leveson on the 'clear evidence of misreporting on European issues'

Last month, the Mail claimed the EU was planning to ban Famous Five books from schools. The story was fiction and described as 'nonsense' by the EC in the UK. But when an MEP sent a letter to the readers' editor at the paper, he refused to publish it on the grounds that the original report:

may not have suggested in so many words banning books (that might make it look very unpopular) but it has criticised them

In fact, it didn't suggest banning books in any words - the report didn't include the word 'book' at all.

This is the latest thing the EU has been accused - wrongly - of wanting to ban. See also jam jars, selling a dozen eggs, cars from town centres, milk jugs, classic cars, shopping bags, Britain, kids from blowing up balloons and so on. It's not just non-existent bans - it's also half-truths about flying flags and pouring dead bodies down the drain.

When Express editor Hugh Whittow gave evidence at the Leveson Inquiry, he stated firmly:

we don't twist anything. We just present the news of the day.

When asked about a front page story '75% say: 'Quit the EU now'', Whittow accepted they did twist things. Robert Jay QC asked if the headline was misleading given that the 75% who apparently say 'Quit the EU now' included 47% saying renegotiate membership. Whittow replied:

I accept that from what you say.

Almost exactly one year before Leveson's report was published, Patrick O'Flynn, the Express' chief political commentator, claimed:

Over the course of the past year every criticism we levelled against the EU has been justified.

Lord Justice Leveson says in his report (p.687):

Articles relating to the European Union, and Britain’s role within it, accounted for a further category of story where parts of the press appeared to prioritise the title’s agenda over factual accuracy.

He concluded:

there is certainly clear evidence of misreporting on European issues...

The factual errors in the examples above are, in certain respects, trivial. But the cumulative impact can have serious consequences...

there can be no objection to agenda journalism (which necessarily involves the fusion of fact and comment), but that cannot trump a requirement to report stories accurately. Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code explicitly, and in my view rightly, recognises the right of a free press to be partisan; strong, even very strong, opinions can legitimately influence the choice of story, placement of story and angle from which a story is reported. But that must not lead to fabrication, or deliberate or careless misrepresentation of facts. Particularly in the context of reporting on issues of political interest, the press have a responsibility to ensure that the public are accurately informed so that they can engage in the democratic process. The evidence of inaccurate and misleading reporting on political issues is therefore of concern. The previous approach of the PCC to entertaining complaints only where they came from an affected individual may have allowed a degree of impunity in this area.

(Hat-tip to Gareth)

1 comment:

  1. Stonyground says:

    From Heresy Corner:

    "Leveson almost entirely dismisses of the internet as a source of news, although he seems to make a bizarre exception for Mail Online, which he thinks "legitimately proud" of its large international readership, most of whom are there to gawk at celebrities' fashion faux-pas and suggestive pictures of under age girls."

    How out of touch with reality do you have to be to take the Daily Mail as a reliable news source while dismissing the entire web out of hand?


Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

Comments are moderated - generally to filter out spam and comments wishing death on people - but other messages will be approved as quickly as possible.