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April 9, 2001updated 17 May 2007 11:30am

NUJ: NoW sex offenders campaign was ‘cynical’

By Press Gazette

Anna Wagstaff

The News of the World’s move to "name and shame" sex offenders was condemned by delegates.

They backed a motion which described NoW editor Rebecca Wade’s campaign as "a cynical exercise that owed more to the circulation war than any war against child abuse".

Anna Wagstaff (Oxford) claimed naming and shaming had skewed the issue of child abuse by creating a lynch-mob mentality and giving the impression that abusers were mad individuals unknown to their victims.

All pictures courtesy of Dobson Agency

The reality, she said, was that abuse mostly happened in the home by people known to the child. "I don’t think naming and shaming helped at all. It raises the pressure, it makes it harder for children to come out and say, ‘this is what my uncle is doing; this is what my teacher is doing’.

"It was never designed to create a culture where children would come forward. It was entirely done for the purposes of circulation."

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But Tina Calder (Belfast) defended the NoW’s campaign and claimed the motion was an attack on the tabloids.

She said: "If Megan’s Law had been introduced in the UK and Ireland this situation would not be occurring and the press would not have to do the job of the Government.

"Whether or not the naming and shaming campaign was to do with circulation figures doesn’t matter; it brought it to the public’s attention. This sounds to me more like an attack on the tabloid media rather than a fight for the rights of the child."

In the motion, delegates supported the idea of a code of practice on naming and shaming but said they had no confidence that the Press Complaints Commission was capable of determining and policing such a code.

lDelegates backed a motion which condemned "the racist tone" of some reporting on asylum seekers and instructed the executive to give the NUJ’s full support to any member disciplined at work for breaking the union’s guidelines on race reporting.

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