Case for third-party press complaints
The Guardian, Letters,
The need to permit third-party complaints on behalf of minority groups, including disabled people, will be key to addressing what Leveson describes as a “significant tendency within the press which leads to the publication of prejudicial or pejorative references to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical or mental illness or disability“ (Report, 5 December). Disabled people, alongside many other minority groups, have experienced sustained levels of misleading, hostile and discriminatory reporting in the press. Headlines such as “75% on sick are skiving” (Daily Express, 26 January 2011) are inaccurate and dangerous. Recent research by Scope found that almost half of disabled people said that attitudes towards them had got worse over the past year, with many reporting that they are increasingly confronted by strangers questioning their right to support. Hostile and inaccurate press coverage was cited as the chief cause of increasing negative attitudes.
Disabled people, as a group, are not protected by the editors’ code or the right to make a complaint to the PCC. Leveson’s recommendations to allow third-party complaints and extend the editors’ code to outlaw prejudicial or pejorative references to minority groups, as well as individuals, are critical to ensuring a right of redress and a voice for minority groups. This is not a slippery slope to the press being “hijacked” by “sinister” pressure groups‚ as Tory MP Conor Burns suggests. Implementing these recommendations will give those who are so often the victims of sensationalist and prejudicial headlines the basic right to make a complaint.
Tracey Lazard CEO, Inclusion London
Kirsten Hearn Chair, Inclusion London
Tara Flood CEO, Alliance for Inclusive Education
Linda Burnip Disabled People Against Cuts
John McArdle Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign In Defence of Disability Rights
Katharine Quarmby Journalist
John Pring Journalist, Disability News Service
Mo Stewart Disability researcher
Dr Stephen M Carty Medical adviser, Black Triangle
Simone Aspis Changing Perspectives
Eleanor Lisney Sisters of Frida
Stephen Brookes Co-ordinator, Disability Hate Crime Network