Category Archives: Guardian

Nick Davies on phone hacking and the police – video

The Guardian’s Nick Davies, who has reported extensively on the phone-hacking scandal, gives his views on the Met’s evidence at the home affairs select committee

http://www.guardian.co.uk/video/embed

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Was this really in the public interest, Brooks and Coulson?

Articles Today from the News of the World:

‘July 4th, 2011

RUTHLESS lawyers will be banned from berating murder victims’ families in court in the wake of the Milly Dowler trial.
Tough new rules to be unveiled this week will protect their privacy and dignity – with judges forced to halt intimidating, humiliating or distressing questioning.
The safeguards come in a revamped courtroom code aimed at ending the nightmare ordeal faced by thousands of witnesses and innocent victims of crime.
It follows the shameful treatment of Bob and Sally Dowler by lawyers defending their 13-year-old daughter’s killer Levi Bellfield.
The distraught couple endured cruel questions about their sex life, Bob’s porn collection and letters which showed Milly was unhappy.
Such vicious cross-examinations will be halted under a charter of rights for witnesses drawn up by Victims’ Commissioner Louise Casey.
She wants to tilt the justice system back to give victims at least equal status with the rights of suspects.
She said yesterday: “I see lobby groups and campaign organisations in droves on the offender side. Yet victims struggle to get heard.”
Ms Casey will hand her 60-page report to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Wednesday.
Among its other proposals is one that courts should have flexible start and end times to make it easier for family members to give evidence. Another is that the bodies of murder victims should be returned to their families within a month.
The report is expected to be backed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who chairs the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee overseeing court practice.’

LOUISE CASEY writes for the News of the World


‘MANY of us felt such compassion for the brave family of Milly Dowler and anger at the way they were treated in court.

Sadly for me, although I was shocked and appalled, I wasn’t surprised.
When I started working for the rights of victims I thought I was unshockable. But what I have found over the last year has made my jaw drop.
Like most people I assumed that families who, like the Dowlers, have had their lives ripped apart by criminals, would get all the help they need. And that the criminal justice system would be on their side.
What I discovered is they are often not given the support, care or consideration they deserve. Many are still treated as if they are an “inconvenience”, and this can make their grief worse.
These families deserve not to have to sit next to an offender’s family in court listening to them laughing and joking. They deserve to be told that their rapist is going to be released before they bump into him in the supermarket.
They deserve to bury the body of their child without defence lawyers asking for autopsy after autopsy – in one case I know a 35-day-old baby only got to be buried by her family on what would have been her first birthday.
They deserve to not find out that the murderer of their husband is appealing by reading it in a newspaper. They deserve to be treated with humanity, dignity and most of all a bit of respect.
So when my report comes out about the treatment of families like these, I ask that you be shocked too. And then those in charge might sit up and listen.’

Reaction on Twitter was instantaneous and substantial. Many people are calling for Jeremy Hunt to reconsider his proposal to allow Rupert Murdoch to buy the remaining stock in BSkyB. Here is a small sample of the tweets:

“All you citizen journalists/bloggers – call the NOW newsroom on 0207 782 1001 email newsdesk@notw.co.uk to find out their views”

Nicky Campbell

my blood runs cold

Ladies and gentlemen, form an orderly queue:Hacked Off – campaign for a public inquiry into phone hacking: via

Will Straw

Staggering: Milly Dowler’s voicemail was hacked by News of World. Can Brooks & Coulson really claim they knew nothing?

Caitlin Moran

This Milly Dowler/Notw thing is the very worst. Listening to weeping relatives leaving messages to a dead girl – Jesus Christ.

If you want to make your thoughts heard re: & contact

Aditya Chakrabortty

Media studies: The Guardian, the BBC and the Telegraph all have the NOTW’s alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s mobile as their top story.
Here is a link to the key people in the phone – hacking scandal from the BBC News website and another to a timeline charting the main events.
Whatever unfolds in the next few days and weeks, surely Jeremy Hunt will seriously reconsider his decision to allow Rupert Murdoch’s acquisition of BSkyB?

A link to the NUJ’s Code of Conduct : here

Members of the National Union of Journalists are expected to abide by the following professional principles: 


5. Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means
6. Does nothing to intrude into anybody’s private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest

Is this justification for deleting messages from the mobile phone of a missing child? Could it be considered in the public interest?

(If you would like links to many of the past articles and information concerning the phone-hacking/blagging scandal, click on the relevant tab above this post and there you’ll find everything you could want to know!)

Better late than never, Mr Cameron….?

 I sometimes wonder what this country would do without its whistleblowers…

Last night the news broke that a letter from an official in the Department for Communities and Local Government, with rather startling revelations about possible consequences of a Housing Benefit Cap proposed by the Government. 

Eric Pickles Warns Cameron of Rise in Homeless Families Risk – Guardian


Full Text of Letter from the Office of Eric Pickles – Guardian

Welfare cuts ‘could leave 40,000 families homeless’, Eric Pickles’ office warns

David Cameron has received a stark warning from within his own administration that the coalition’s plans to cut welfare payments risk making 40,000 families homeless.

The media have taken up the story and have wrung every last fact out of it. It is being discussed on internet fora, Facebook and Twitter and has the country in a proper tizz!

But why only now? The details have been there for all to see for nearly a year! First suggested in the Emergency Budget and then fleshed out in the Spending Review.

So why the uproar now? Why is this such a matter of concern today and not when it was announced initially?

Easy. 

The real hidden consequences were realised and pointed out by the Labour Party and many important charities such as Shelter, but uptake and publicity from major news outlets has been very small. 

I have spent an unproductive afternoon searching press and TV archives for any substantial coverage of warnings of an impending crisis. I scoured Hansard, charities’ websites and relevant blogs. 

In May 2010, Karen Buck MP, Labour, gave a speech in the House of Commons stressing that new benefit policy would cause great difficulties. A transcript of her speech can be found here .

So over a year ago, the Government were warned. 

On the National Housing Federation’s Website, I found this:

‘Helen Goodman, Labour’s frontbench spokeswoman on child poverty, childcare and housing benefit, said it was plain that the government had “rushed through the changes without thinking through the social consequences”. National Housing Federation Friday 23rd July 2010′

Further examples of articles and blogpieces expressing great concern:

This cut is certainly going to hurt, particularly as the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed today the new cap will apply nationally. Labour MPs warn of a housing crisis in London and the South East, where rents are higher. For example, in parts of Hackney, the maximum housing benefit is £1,000 a week for a four bedroom house. Losing £600 a week would mean families currently claiming housing benefit would have to move to cheaper parts of London. Anti-poverty campaigners say that will entrench the divide between the haves and the have nots.’ Ch 4 Factcheck 22nd June 2010

July 5th 2010

BBC News – Benefit Cuts: Your Stories 3rd Oct 2010

In his speech at the Conservative Party Conference George Osborne announced the proposed new cap on Housing Benefit as reported by Channel 4, complete with Video:

Osborne Imposes Cap on Family benefits – Video Channel 4 News 4th Oct 2010 

Perhaps it would not not have been unreasonable to expect a flurry of articles in the mainstream press as well as programmes on TV following such an announcement? 

Nothing could have been further from reality! Many of the local papers did carry short pieces assessing the implications for their own areas. There were, on Channel 4 and the BBC valiant attempts to flag up possible problems. But what are considered the right-wing papers remained mostly disinterested in the possibility of many of the poorer members of society, the vulnerable amongst us, losing their homes.


There were a few journalists with an eye for balance and honesty who did occasionally try to highlight what may be about to happen:

South London Press Today – News – MP Warns More People Face Becoming Homeless – Chuka Umunna MP, Labour  – 5th Oct 2010

In its Spending Review last week, the government announced major changes to housing benefit – including cutting it by 10% for the long-term jobless.
Labour has offered to join forces with Lib Dem backbenchers to force the government to rethink the policy.  BBC News –  25th October 2010

‘These measures, taken together with the removal of caps on the amount of rent housing associations can charge, has led critics to claim thousands of people will be made homeless across the UK.
‘Scaremongering’ Labour has warned the moves – which represent the biggest shake-up in housing policy in decades – are unfair and could lead to an increase in support for far-right groups.
Ministers have conceded that some families will have to move to less expensive areas – but have angrily rejected suggestions by London Mayor Boris that it could lead to “social cleansing” of poor families with long-established roots in the capital to the suburbs or the south coast of England.’

BBC News – 29th October 2010
 

BBC News – MPs Reject Labour Call for Housing Benefit Rethink (Video) 9th Nov 2010

Independent on Homelessness Housing Benefit Homelessness 19th November 2010
‘Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “Labour will maintain the pressure for further changes to this ill-thought through housing benefit package, not least their plans to punish people who have been unable, despite their best efforts, to find work for a year by cutting their housing benefit by 10%.”‘
BBC News  – 30th Nov 2010

Other journalists however were not so scrupulous and continued to grind their political axes at the expense of the truth both before and after Osborne’s speech:

It beggars belief: How the fake homeless are raking in more than £20,000 a year
By Claire Ellicott

Last updated at 2:13 PM on 16th August 2010

For over a year, the facts about the proposals for capping the housing benefit have been suppressed by many of the right wing papers.
The public have been denied information which would have sparked discussion and debate. Instead it is left with a feeling that light-impenetrable wool has been well and truly pulled over the nation’s eyes!
The nagging doubts remain, however…..what else is being kept from us?

Labour ‘Big Beast’ mauls the Sunday Times!

 There is no definite dawn on Twitter. Today seemed perfectly ordinary until this tweet appeared on my timeline at about 8 a.m.:


John Prescott
I see there’s a quote purporting to be from me in the Sunday Times. It’s completely made up. An absolute lie. Let me explain what happened..
Thus began a very interesting, very gratifying morning!
As the morning wore on, more and more ‘tweeters’ became involved in an attempt to put right an inaccuracy in the Sunday Times featuring John Prescott in particular.
The article was part of what seemed to have been a veritable and sudden onslaught by much of the press against the Labour leadership, beginning on Thursday in the Daily Telegraph :
 

“Labour coup: Ed Balls and his five fellow plotters

Ed Balls is exposed in the documents uncovered by The Daily Telegraph as the key figure in the plot to oust Tony Blair and replace him with Gordon Brown.”

The story was taken up by most of the papers but without the ‘secret’ documents, written five years ago and ‘given’ to the Telegraph by an unnamed donor. These were said by Ed Balls to have been taken from his desk when he left the Education Department after the general Election. There is now an investigation, headed by Gus O’Donnell, underway to see if there has been any breach of security and in an attempt to find whoever was responsible for removing the papers.

Since the Telegraph’s ‘bomshell’, the media have run with similar stories including one from the Guardian of the acceptance speech David Miliband would have given had he won the Labour leadership election, and a ‘Brothers at War’ frontpager today in the Independent:

Independent on Sunday – 12th June 2011

Little wonder, then, that by this morning many Labour supporters were feeling jittery and wondering what had hit them! Once most of the articles had been read and discussed on Twitter and those wide-awake enough had written their thoughts in their blogs, the general consensus was that most of the content was supposition, guesswork and ill-informed trouble-making! 

Quotations were not, on the whole, attributed to anyone in particular, but gathered from a great many anonymous ‘friends’, ‘senior MPs’, ‘frontbench’ sources. Some of the least convincing were from well-known Conservative political pundits…..

John Prescott had been credited with a comment about Ed Miliband in this morning’s Sunday Times. He said:

John Prescott
Sunday Times called our home in Hull on our ex directory number. No journalist has it. Caller told Pauline she was Deputy Editor…

John Prescott
When pressed she admitted she was from The Sunday Times. It was Political Editor Isobel Oakshott. I spoke to her & asked how she got number

John Prescott

Oakshott had no opportunity to ask a question as I told her never to call the number again and put the phone down on her.
Sunday Times – 12th June 2011
 
 
John Prescott
I know Murdoch’s News International doesn’t like me, having admitted hacking into my phone messages. But his papers are now making up quotes

John Prescott
It’s pointless going to the PCC so I thought I’d share it with you to show what Murdoch papers and their journalists are really like
Finally, at around midday, came the following:
 

Sunday Times News
Due to a prod error a quote was wrongly attributed to . We apologise for the confusion & are happy to set the record straight

 To  which John Prescott responded, adding a link to the part of the article where his name is clearly shown:

John Prescott
You’ll see the quote is attributed to me. It’s’hilarious’ you don’t read your own paper

John Prescott
Typical of Murdoch newspaper to blame a production worker not the journalist. My name was used to justify big beast headline..
Hopefully, the Sunday Times will also print an apology to John Prescott in a prominent place in next week’s edition. What will be much more difficult to put right is the damage done to a newspaper’s credibility. If a misattributed quote has found it way into one article, how many others have slipped through and caused damage in the wider world?

If the ‘victim’ in this case hadn’t been a well known politician with a great many ‘followers’ on
Twitter, would an apology have been forthcoming without recourse to the courts?

One last point, why are so many people convinced that to report a case like this to the PCC would be a futile exercise?

Update #1

An article has appeared on the Guardian’s online site: Sunday Times Apologises to John Prescott Over Wrong Quote  

(‘Wrong quote’?- He didn’t give one at all to the Sunday Times…)

“He added: “I refuse to accept this mealy-mouthed apology. I want a front page retraction – due prominence – in next week’s Sunday Times.”
Prescott, a potential victim of phone hacking by an investigator working for the News of the World, another Rupert Murdoch paper, has been one of the most vociferous critics of the handling of the hacking scandal by News International and the Metropolitan police.”

Perhaps the ‘mauling’ hasn’t ended quite yet…? 

Update #2:

13th June 2011:-

Full Fact Promoting accuracy in public debate

PCC should investigate Sunday Times

‘John Prescott’ quote

                                                       The following is a letter sent by Full Fact to the PCC today:

Letter to PCC from FullFact.org

Richard Peppiatt’s Resignation from the Daily Star

Late yesterday afternoon, the Guardian reported a remarkable resignation here. A journalist working at the Star newspaper wrote an angry and scathing letter, here , to Richard Desmond, owner of the Daily Star, giving the reasons for his leaving what must have appeared secure employment with the paper.

The journalist, Richard Peppiatt,admitted in his letter that he had been guilty of submitting stories about celebrities which were untrue and concocting others which had no basis in fact whatsoever. 

Kelly Brook, often the subject of articles in the Daily Star, once asked where the stories came from. Peppiatt in his missive to Desmond says:

“Maybe I should answer that one. I made it up. Not that it was my choice; I was told to. At 6pm and staring at a blank page I simply plucked it from my arse. Not that it was all bad. I pocketed a £150 bonus. You may have read some of my other earth-shattering exclusives.”

To many of us , this admission is remarkable. 

We may have suspected the dearth of veracity in some of the articles we read in such papers, but to have our suspicions confirmed in such a powerful way in Peppiatt’s letter leaves us sighing ‘At Last! One of them has held up his hands and told the truth!’

What seems to have been the straw which broke Peppiatt’s journalistic back was his being ‘forced’ to write articles denigrating Muslims and aimed at a faction of the public only too willing to believe the worst of this group in our society. He writes in his letter to Desmond:

“The decision came inside my local newsstand, whilst picking up the morning papers. As I chatted with Mohammed, the Muslim owner, his blinking eyes settled on my pile of print, and then, slowly, rose to meet my face.
“English Defence League to become a political party” growled out from the countertop.
Squirming, I abandoned the change in my pocket and flung a note in his direction, the clatter of the till a welcome relief from the silence that had engulfed us. I slunk off toward the tube.
If he was hurt that my 25p had funded such hate-mongering, he’d be rightly appalled that I’d sat in the war cabinet itself as this incendiary tale was twisted and bent to fit an agenda seemingly decided before the EDL’s leader Tommy Robinson had even been interviewed.
Asked if his group were to become a political party I was told the ex-BNP goon had replied: “Not for now.”
But further up the newsprint chain it appears a story, too good to allow the mere spectre of reality to restrain, was spotted. It almost never came to this. I nearly walked out last summer when the Daily Star got all flushed about taxpayer-funded Muslim-only loos.
A newsworthy tale were said toilets Muslim-only. Or taxpayer-funded. Undeterred by the nuisance of truth, we omitted a few facts, plucked a couple of quotes, and suddenly anyone would think a Rochdale shopping centre had hired Osama Bin Laden to stand by the taps, handing out paper towels.
I was personally tasked with writing a gloating follow-up declaring our postmodern victory in “blocking” the non-existent Islamic cisterns of evil.”

Many of us interested in daily news outlets had been aware for some time that the mood and direction of the Daily Star had (not so subtly) changed and that the Editor or Desmond himself had decided to throw their support behind the EDL and redouble efforts to stir up public antipathy against Muslims. 
As Peppiatt himself states:

“Our caustic “us and them” narrative needs nailing home every day or two, and when asked to wield the hammer I was too scared for my career, and my bank account, to refuse.”

Is this not what many of us had suspected all along? 

To be so overtly supportive of such a movement is unusual for a British daily, and it will be interesting to see whether the stance of the paper changes now with Peppiatt’s revelations.

The Guardian also prints a reply from the Daily Star:

“Richard Peppiatt worked purely as a casual reporter at the Daily Star for almost two years. Recently he became unhappy after he was passed over for several staff positions. He refers to a Kelly Brook story: in fact, he approached and offered the newspaper that story, vouched for its accuracy, and then asked for and received an extra freelance fee for doing so. Since he wrote his email we have discovered that he was privately warned very recently by senior reporters on the paper after suggesting he would make up quotes. Regarding the allegations over the paper’s coverage of Islam, he was only ever involved in a very minor way with such articles, and never voiced either privately or officially any disquiet over the tone of the coverage. For the record, the Daily Star editorial policy does not hold any negativity towards Islam and the paper has never, and does not endorse, the EDL.”

Is this a suggestion that the revelations in Peppiatt’s letter of resignation are simply bitter vitriolic outpourings from what is a ‘rogue reporter’?

Where have we heard that before, News of the World?

In an ideal world, Peppiatt would be the first of many journalists grafting for these papers to come to their senses and rediscover the ethos and principles they must have had when rookies. They owe it to the rest of us.


Healthy democratic choice in any country is completely dependent on the truth. Facts must be presented honestly to the public for an informed choice to be made. 

Update March 9th:

As well as new links to this story under the ‘Journalists’ tab on this blog, I have come across this recent podcast which adds more detail in an interview with Sean Ellis.

“Ex Daily Star journo Rich Peppiatt” speaks to the Pod Delusion: here 

 A podcast in which he offers further, more detailed reasons for the tone of his resignation letter. 

A fascinating insight, perhaps, into the way papers like the Daily Star operate…. 

Rosie Robertson

News From Nowhere – How the Papers got Their Stories – BBC Radio 4, Thurs. 24th Feb

This saga, long running, some believe, because of poor investigative rigour and lack of will, for whatever reason, on the part of the Met. police force to pursue many strong leads and a welter of evidence, rumbles on.

Recently, thanks to dogged work to keep the story alive by the Guardian, Independent, Channel 4 Dispatches, concerned Bloggers and ‘victims’ from all walks of life, it appears that the feeble flame is at last showing signs of bursting into the roaring fire it should have been at least six years ago.

On our Blog, #PRESSREFORM, here, are links to many articles and comments made about the whole affair over the past years. An example of these would be this :

Secret Phone-hacking Documents – Guardian

We seem now to be moving ever deeper into the murky world of (questionable at best and corrupt at the very worst) news story information gathering.

Today’s Radio 4 programme, News from Nowhere – How the Papers got Their Stories, with presenter Jon Manel, sought to show that the methods of collecting details and information on personalities in the public eye were not merely confined to phone-hacking. Listen here.

It illuminated the way newspaper journalists used private detectives to gain access to medical records, addresses from phone numbers, details about and information from friends and relatives of targets, vehicle registration numbers, ex-directory numbers and so on. The PIs were skilled in the art of ‘Blagging’ and could elicit very personal details of a target’s life from receptionists, office clerks etc. 



The programme suggested that the illegal practices employed by journalists and sanctioned by their editors were not confined to the News of the World, nor did they cease when the Private Investigator Glen Mulcaire was sentenced to prison. There is evidence that the practices still go on today….which goes some way to explain why most of the media have failed to publicise this whole affair properly.

Have editors, journalists and newspaper proprietors bitten their tongues, squeezed their eyes tight shut and held their breath in the hope that they could delay the inevitable, put off the reckoning which edges ever closer? 

Rosie Robertson

Incitement to Hatred?

Once gain we note the blatant misreporting and manipulation of statistics in very similar articles to be found in yesterday’s Daily Mail and Daily Express.

In a previous blogpost, I showed how some of the tabloids use exaggeration and distortion of facts in an attempt to influence public opinion.

Here, below the headline:

75% ON SICK ARE SKIVING

is The Daily Express piece. Its opening paragraph states in bold print:

THE welfare mess left by Labour was exposed last night after figures suggested three-quarters of sickness benefit claimants are fit to work.’


The article, quoting from a report carried out by the Department of Work and Pensions, states that out of all of those claiming incapacity benefit of whatever type, 39% were deemed fit for work, another 36% :

abandoned their claims as soon as they were told to undergo new work capability assessments introduced to weed out scroungers.

The total figure of 75 per cent was released by the Department for Work and Pensions yesterday following a review of almost half the 2.1 million people on incapacity benefit.’

So from 1.05 million people already tested, we are led to believe 75% are ‘scroungers’. By my calculations, the reality is that following an assessment, only 39% of a total of the 1.05m people could be considered as claiming a benefit they were not entitled to.

Even this assertion would be challenged by many of those who have undergone one of the tests and found them unfairly conducted and dubious in their validity.

But the article in the Daily Express is mild in its condemnation of disability benefit claimants compared to what is to be found in the Mail Online!

400,000 ‘were trying it on’ to get sickness benefits: 94% of incapacity claimants CAN work

This time, we are given a figure of 94% of benefit ‘scroungers’!

Both articles are full of contemptuous language and thoroughly judgemental. Both articles misuse data in an effort to confuse and hoodwink the reader.

To what end? Well, scandals and shocking facts sell newspapers! Words which denigrate the subjects of such articles may incite hatred, or at the very least, dislike. Could it also be that by whipping up a storm of indignant feeling against a certain group in society, support for potentially unpopular policies being put forward by the government of the day might be increased?

As Nick Angel wrote of the Daily Mail in an article in the Guardian on 20th August 2007 :

‘A month spent reading the nation’s leading mid-market newspaper took me into a terrifying, depressing world, filled with suspicion.’

You can find the rest of that piece here : For me, it says it all!

Someone else who speaks with more honesty than could be found in either of the two articles I’ve highlighted today can be seen and heard in this clip posted by ‘peekaypurr Shame on you Prime Minister. I know you know better.” , @BendyGirl on Twitter.

Update: Factcheck have just posted a link to their site, where they’ve been working on the veracity of the data given by Mail.

Rosie Robertson