27 Dec 2009

THE PCC's CODE OF CONDUCT

Every member of the press follow what is known as the PCC’s Code of Conduct. It sets out what press journalists should do in ethical situations and to maintain them to the highest professional standards possible.

It is essential that it is followed to the letter and honoured by those who follow the code. It is therefore the job of the editor to apply the code to any material they wish to publish either printed or online. They should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists.

Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.


1 Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.


2 Opportunity to reply

A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.


3 *Privacy

i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.

ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant's own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent.

Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.


4 *Harassment

i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.

ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them. If requested, they must identify themselves and whom they represent.

iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.


5 Intrusion into grief or shock

i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.

*ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.


6 *Children

i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.

ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child’s welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.

iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.

iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children’s welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.

v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life.


7 *Children in sex cases

1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.

2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -
i) The child must not be identified.
ii) The adult may be identified.
iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.


8 *Hospitals

i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.

ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.


9 *Reporting of Crime

(i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.

(ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.


10 *Clandestine devices and subterfuge

i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorised removal of documents or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.

ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.


11 Victims of sexual assault

The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.


12 Discrimination

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.


13 Financial journalism

i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.

ii) They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.

iii) They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.


14 Confidential sources

Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

15 Witness payments in criminal trials

i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness - or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness - should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or have entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.

*ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.

*iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement.


16 *Payment to criminals

i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates – who may include family, friends and colleagues.

ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.


The public interest

There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.

ii) Protecting public health and safety.

iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.

2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.

3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors to demonstrate fully that they reasonably believed that publication, or journalistic activity undertaken with a view to publication, would be in the public interest.

4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.

5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.

26 Dec 2009

Queen's threats to the papers

Last month the Queen threatened legal action against any paparazzi photos that would be published in newspapers of the Royal Family doing “private things” even if it is in public places. The story broke across the newspapers and television, and whilst listening to This Morning on ITV the threat sparked rumours that it was because the Royal Family wanted privacy so Prince William could propose to his long time girlfriend Kate Middleton. However, these rumours were rejected by those at Buckingham Palace as they said Kate would not be invited to dine with the Royal at Christmas and William’s military commitments meant proposals were out for this year. But could this threat now mean the Queen has jumped on the Human Rights wagon which so many celebrities have done the past few years; including Elton John and Max Mosley.

The Human Rights Act gives people the right too many things; section 8 concludes everyone has the right to privacy for his or her family life without intrusion – unless it breaks the law. The Daily Mail’s article said that there was growing concern that the Queen is attempting to obtain a privacy law ‘by the backdoor’. She believes that the family is constantly followed by a small group of paparazzi and that she should have the right to privacy even if she is the Queen.

What do you think? Should the Royal Family be allowed to have certain amount of privacy or do you think because they are the most famous people in the country they have a duty to accept they will be photographed? My opinion is that many of the royals were born in to the family and obviously have no say in how famous they could be. But i haven’t seen stories or photographs about many of the Royal Family in the newspapers for a very long time! So i am not sure why the Queen is threatening legal action against newspapers and photographers when her privacy is not broken all the time. As the Queen i think she should accept that there is a limit to the press wanting to be around her but i don’t think they are constantly there all the time.

The Human rights act is seeing its fair share in the spotlight as celebrities use it as a defence to stop the press from writing stories of photographing them especially when they have done something bad. But there are always two sides to every story. Many celebrities use the press to make them more famous (example Katie Price aka Jordon) but then when the press publish a negative story the celebrity throws a spanner in the works and tries to use the new Human Rights Act to push back the press. So what next for the Queen and the press? Could she refuse them entry to her anniversary next year using the defence of “your invading my privacy”?

13 Dec 2009

British people are become increasingly impatient!

A few weeks ago in the Daily Mail a came across an article, apparently Britons have become so impatient that an average person take only 8 minutes and 22 seconds to snap!

Research showed British people were so used to the high speed internet that when they have to wait for something many saw their blood boiling quicker than ever before. “70% of us see red if forced to wait longer than a minute for a web page to download” the article said. Thinking about the story it made sense as i began to decode my impatient nature i started to chuckle that i am most probably one of these ‘impatient’ average British people.

The article continued that after 5 minutes of being kept on hold by a call centre many people throw themselves in to a rage. The research was carried out by the telecom giant TalkTalk who spoke to more than 2,050 people to see what makes them tick. Another interesting fact is that after receiving a text or voicemail message on your mobile phone the average person excepts a reply within 13 minutes, oh and if you are one of these great people who visit households for the reasons of fixing gas or electricity etc be warned; if you turn up more than 10 minutes and 43 seconds late you can surely expect a very angry person to open the front door!

The text message figure i believe to be quite true, even for me i am a very impatient person. I like to have things when i want not be left on hold, get a reply from the person i am talking to or i throw myself in to a mood! Yes unhealthy for myself? I gathered that. I must raise my own blood pressure and not these impatient situations. TalkTalk says that because of the speed we have with internet many people think that they should have the speed of internet in the normal lives; which obviously is impossible. But it makes you wonder what we are turning out lives into? Are we becoming so intertwined with faster technology that we are allowing it to make us angry people in the long run? ... Possibly. But as we are living in an age of technological advancements the worse culprits for expecting fast services are those 18-24 year olds who were brought up with internet. The research showed that they would only wait 10 SECONDS for a page to load up!!! That is by far extraordinary what we put ourselves through.

7 Dec 2009

Nature V's Nurture - Are Staffordshire Bull Terriers naturally born killers?

I always imagined walking a dog in the park with the sun beaming through the clouds and a cool breeze in the air as one of life’s favourite free luxuries, but getting slapped across the face by a lady as soon as I let my dog off the lead is defiantly one of my least favourites. Who nowadays expects to be attacked at mid day in the middle of a crowded park on the hottest day of the year? I didn’t either! But it happened; and to my astonishment I sit writing this now still shocked as the actions of this woman. Yet I am the type of person to wonder why, so I asked myself why she acted the way she did. I drew a blank until I read about a similar situation in the newspaper, it suddenly dawned on me that the reason she attacked me was because of the breed of dog I owned. She attacked me because of a Staffordshire bull terrier running around in a park? That is unreal to even consider but many people in society are so scared of these animals because they believe that they are vicious creatures that are so unpredictable it is likely to pounce or mule anyone who comes within five feet of it. I know from personal experience that this breed of dog isn’t as aggressive as people think it is. Society needs to understand the truth about Staffie’s and it is going to start here.

Staffordshire bull terriers originated in the 17th century when dog fighting suddenly becoming popular, a dog was needed which had more strength in its head then the Bull dog. Staffie’s (as they are now known) had a combination of Bull dog and terrier blood making it courageous and muscular. They were known for their ferocity in the fighting pit but their temperament made them excellent companions and brilliant around children, but not other dogs. In 1835 the Humane Act banned all dog fighting and a group of Staffordshire men fought to keep the breed alive by introducing it to the show world, and the Staffordshire bull terrier was born. The UK Kennel Club’s primary objective is “to promote in every way, the general improvement of dogs”, and they officially recognised the breed in 1935.

The Staffordshire bull terrier has retained its attribute passed down through years of dog fighting but is the ONLY breed to have the words ‘totally reliable’ in its breed standard and is only one of two dog breeds the Kennel Club sees as suitable and reliable with children. So why does the Staffie attack children nowadays and why does some newspapers print stories about this breed being unpredictable around children when behaviour experts have labelled them safe? There are a few factors as to why this could be; the nature verses nurture issue as I have already mentioned, it could be the media amplification of the attacks creating a moral panic in society – I think this is probably the reason why the lady hit me in the park! She assumed my dog would be vicious because she had read that the same breed attacked a two year old; it’s ridiculous you can’t draw an opinion on a breed of dog by focussing on several bad ones.

The much loved pet is Britain’s fifth most popular dog and now has been labelled ‘aggressive’, ‘unreliable’ and ‘vicious’ producing a stigma which is hard to removed. Debbie Gross, 45, and per partner Mark Hawes, 38 have owned a Staffordshire bull terrier for ten years and are disgusted that people could think this animal is dangerous:“Bounty is very loyal, playful, affectionate, loving, excellent with people and just a loving dog” says Debbie. “She likes to go to people in the park and be pampered, just like a little girl she loves getting attention and being stroked.” “It’s the way I brought her up to be good and not vicious”, adds Mark who brought the dog at jus six weeks old. “If you bring them up and treat them right they are loving, gorgeous loyal dogs; but if you have a Staffie and you wanted it to be vicious then you will teach it to be vicious. But with my experience with Bounty we have brought her up to be loving, kind and gentle dog which she is; she was only a pup when I had my daughter they were both babies together and I can honestly say I was never once scared that she would do anything to harm her” says the mother of two from Enfield.

In 2008, the BBC wrote an article concerning the increasing ‘rough deal’ being given to the Staffordshire bull terrier breed. In the article it highlights that somehow the canines are being outcasted by a large section society which was once a nation of dog lovers. Breeder Veronica Brown says: “Because of their appearance, certain types of people think they’ve got themselves a fierce dog and in fact they’d far rather be in front of the fire having their tummy tickled.” The media have not facilitated in the situation regarding Staffordshire bull terriers, in all honesty they have made the situation worse; they print the most unpleasant stories and use them to create a moral panic in society over the so called ‘vicious and dangerous’ Staffie’s.

Newspapers sole function is to inform the public but another objective is to sell newspapers, and bad news sells because it makes the audience feel better about their own lives. “The press would rather go for the negative story then the positive story, when do you see a positive story on the front any newspaper, there all the negative things and perception amongst the press is that negative stories and sensationalism that sells newspapers”, says Chris Laurence, Director of Veterinary at Dogs Trust in London. “I don’t think Staffie’s are aggressive at all, dogs behave in the way they are trained and reared”, he also believes that social groups are keen to own bull breeds like the Staffordshire bull terrier because they believe it is a status symbol one lad said this to him at an RSPCA centre in London: “I got a dog for my protection. If I carry a knife I can be arrested by the police”. It is these types of irresponsible dog owners that are create a “dangerous” label of Staffie’s because they make their dogs become aggressive. “Its nurture not nature that makes Staffie’s attack, you can train any dog to be aggressive. Even a Golden Retriever” says Chris.

You the audience allow the media to inject their opinions into your minds by showing you negative images of Staffie and you believe they are all vicious. The constant bombardment of negative press on Staffordshire bull terriers means society has misconceptions on the animal and has become so scared they are abandoning the dogs in record numbers, according to experts at Dogs Trust. “It’s the dogs that suffer at the end of the day as they become expendable. If you look at the numbers of dogs that go in to Battersea dogs home as being abandoned, in London about 50% of them are Staffie’s under the age of six months old”.

To think that someone could buy a puppy and abandon it at a road side or throw it out of a moving car window is sickening yet it is how some people in society get rid of unwanted items, the worst cases are they kill these dogs because they are not what they imagine them to me i.e. vicious. So why does society still believe that these great family pets are vicious? Is it because they have hurt or killed in the past? If you look at the numbers it is only a rare number of people have been serious hurt or killed by Staffie’s and even those most probably have attacked because of the way they had been trained to by their owners. How is a dog supposed to understand that biting someone is wrong when is the only thing it has ever been taught by its human trainer? Shouldn’t we blame the owner for its behaviour; you can’t judge a breed of animal by the actions of a few rouge dogs. But we do. We continue to believe that Staffordshire bull terriers are aggressive when experts who have researched and tested the dog say the complete opposite.

The theory of whether nature of nurture is the factor behind Staffie’s attacking humans cannot be proven or disproven, but the evidence but the article you have just read provides clear evidence from experts that Staffordshire bull terriers are only aggressive when they are taught to be not naturally. So as you take your children down to the park remember that us as humans make our own choices and form our own opinions. When you next see a Staffordshire bull terrier in the park, don’t become like the lady who attacked me in the park. Remember what you have read her, and understand that animals only know how to behave through the way we teach them.