Clauses Noted: 1
Publication: Folkestone Herald
Harman and Harman, Solicitors, of Canterbury, Kent, complained that an article published in the Folkestone Herald on May 20 1999 headlined "The frontline in Folkestone" was misleading in breach of Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code of Practice.
The complaint was upheld
The article, accompanied on the front page by a large picture of police in riot gear, reported that police had raided a house and arrested six refugees. It said that local residents had questioned whether asylum seekers in Folkestone were genuine and that local people were being burdened by the presence of refugees.
The complainant said that the use of the photograph was misleading as, by the confession of the newspaper on an inside page, it had been taken at a separate incident and not when police were called to the house. The entire tone of the article was a deliberate attempt to foster prejudice. The complainant further questioned how those quoted in the article could have known whether or not the asylum seekers were 'genuine' or not.
The editor said that a genuine picture of the event would probably have been even more dramatic. He said that he had interviewed residents whose strength of feelings had been reflected in the article. However, he also pointed to previous coverage in the newspaper which was sympathetic to refugees.
It is not the Commission's task to restrict a newspaper's right to comment on an issue of local controversy and concern such as this or to report the views of local people. Although the editor had highlighted other more positive articles written about refugees, the Commission considered that in this case he had, in publishing the photograph prominently with no corrective caption, breached the Code. The impression given on the front page of the newspaper, and only corrected on an inside page, was misleading.
The Commission took the opportunity to remind editors of their responsibilities in covering such topics and of the danger that inaccurate or misleading reporting may generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility which is not borne out by the facts.
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