Rebekah Wade and the PCC’s decision

This entry was posted on
Wednesday, January 18th, 2006
at
9:41 am and is filed
under Rupert ‘The Evil One’ Murdoch.

The contents of my Inbox this morning make it clear why the PCC took so long to address our complaints regarding Rebekah Wade and her 90-day detention inventions (though they very kindly kept me informed of ongoing progress); the PCC clearly wanted to address all complaints at once, as everybody I’ve heard from received the final decision on their complaint in yesterday’s mail.

For now, I’m only going to post the details of their decision, highlight two passages of interest, and close with some words from The Scum:

Commission’s decision in the case of
Ireland v The Sun

The Commission noted that the complainant had raised concerns over the newspaper’s coverage of the ninety day detention legislation. The complainant raised the following points: that the newspaper had contended that the ninety-day legislation enjoyed widespread support when in fact only around 3% of readers phoned to register their support; that the newspaper had sought to distort the data in its favour by only offering readers the opportunity of registering support for the law; that the newspaper’s coverage of the issue – despite the outcome of the vote – had increased the threat of a terrorist attack; that the newspaper had sought to undermine the democracy of the country in its encouragement to readers to lobby their MPs; and that the newspaper had falsely branded those MPs who had voted against the law as “traitors”.

The Commission firstly emphasised that it could only reach a decision on those matters relating directly to the Code. It could not – therefore – comment on the complainant’s views on the increased risk of a terrorist attack, television footage relating to the article, or his contention that the newspaper had sought to undermine democracy in its actions.

The Commission considered the complaint under Clause 1 (Accuracy), which states that the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted material. It also emphasises that newspapers are entitled to be partisan but must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Turning first to the complainant’s concern over the support that the newspaper had claimed existed amongst the population for the introduction of a ninety day terror suspect detention law, the Commission noted the complainant’s view that 100,000 only amounted to a small proportion of the newspaper’s readership. However, in considering this aspect of the complaint, the Commission also noted the following: that 100,000 readers had indeed phoned to register their support; that the newspaper had quoted other sources – including David Davis – who had claimed that the vast majority of the population supported the introduction of the law; and that the newspaper had not contended that there were no members of the public who were opposed to the law. In these circumstances, the Commission’s view was that the newspaper was entitled to claim that Tony Blair had public support in the manner which it had. It did not consider that readers generally would be misled into believing that there were not many who were opposed to the law, or that there was no alternative view on the matter. On this point, it was satisfied that no breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) had been established by the complaint.

The next task for the Commission was to consider the complainant’s concern that the newspaper had distorted the data, as it had only provided readers with a means of registering support for the introduction of the laws. However, given that the newspaper had encouraged readers to phone “if you back the 90-day law”, the Commission’s view was that readers would have been aware that opposition to the law could not be registered, and that any results published by the newspaper would be on this basis. It therefore considered that the newspaper had not misled readers in a manner which would establish a breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy).

The Commission finally turned to the complainant’s concern over the reference to MPs who had voted against the laws as “traitors”. However, in this instance, the Commission’s view was that “traitor” was the newspaper’s term of description for those MPs who had opposed the bill, which it was entitled to publish in the manner which it had. It did not consider that readers generally would be misled into believing that the named MPs were disloyal to their country, or that there was no alternative view on the matter. The Commission was therefore satisfied that no breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) had been established by the complaint.

There was no breach of the Code.

Printed in The Sun on November 10: TREACHEROUS MPs betrayed the British people last night by rejecting new laws to combat terror. They IGNORED the wishes of the vast majority of Britons…








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