21 March 2013

Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words ..?

I watched every minute of every day of the Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the press.

I listened to evidence from politicians, journalists - national and regional - editors, owners of papers, union members and leaders, photographers, representatives of the Police service and Justice systems, people from fact-checking internet sites, celebrities and ordinary men and women from all strata of society.

Some of the testimonies I heard made me angry, sceptical or downright suspicious.

Occasionally, I was very impressed by the obvious honesty and integrity many of the participants showed; at times I was utterly repelled by the arrogance, carelessness and refusal of the few to co-operate with the process.

One group of witnesses reduced me to tears.

This group was made up of people who have always been the subject of tabloid (usually, but not exclusively) articles deliberately written in such a sensationalist way as to appeal to the baser emotions of hatred, contempt or revulsion of their readers.

One particular group of people is supported by Trans Media Watch and their website can be found HERE.

The evidence Trans Media Watch gave at the Leveson Inquiry was for me at once upsetting, moving and compelling - but was barely covered by the press or wider media. This is a transcript of the evidence they gave. 
This submission gives details of many of the articles found in the tabloid press and the terrible impact on people involved.

There is a section in the document which describes the response, or lack of response, of the press regulator, the Press Complaints Commission.

Two days ago, a transgender teacher was found dead in her home. She is reported to have taken her own life. Some details have been reported in the New Statesman.

On December 20th last year, Richard Littlejohn got wind of this story and wrote an article about the teacher in the Mail. The article, after the news of the teacher's death broke today, has been altered to remove reference to the teacher by name. Too late.

The reasons for someone taking their own life are always complicated and I in no way suggest that Mr Littlejohn's words encouraged this woman to end hers, indeed there is no certainty at this stage as to how she died - but to have her private life exposed in that way and held up for public comment and disapproval cannot have helped her at an extraordinarily difficult time.

We have this past week witnessed the unedifying spectacle of the battle raging between elements of the UK national press, desperate to retain free rein to print whatever they like, and those who believe that tighter regulation of the behaviour of the papers is needed.

Is the case of Lucy Meadows further evidence that the recently agreed draft Royal Charter is the answer?

The Leveson Inquiry was not set up solely to deal with the outrageous phone-hacking scandal (phone-hacking is illegal anyway) but also to identify why phone-hacking went unreported, uninvestigated for so long. Lord Justice Leveson's remit also covered the ethics of the press and why the Press Complaints Commission seemed so inept at ensuring the privacy, reputation and human rights of individuals Like Lucy Meadows were kept sacrosanct.

The voices of many so regularly brutally used by certain newspapers and 'journalists' like Littlejohn to sell copies still go unheeded.

The Death of Lucy Meadows - Jack of Kent

Samaritans Website