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April 17, 2018

Manchester attack victims’ families urged to complain to press regulators so media intrusion claims can be investigated fully

By Freddy Mayhew

Families of the Manchester Arena bombing victims who spoke of press intrusion in the aftermath of the terror attack have been urged to make official complaints to press regulators.

The Kerslake Report found “most” families of those killed and injured in the explosion on 22 May last year had had negative media experiences.

It highlighted “intrusive and overbearing” behaviour from journalists, including one incident in which a child was offered condolences by a reporter on the doorstep before official notification of her mother’s death.

However, News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore has raised questions over the evidence behind these claims in a letter to report author Lord Kerslake, which has been seen by Press Gazette.

Dinsmore, former editor of the Sun and current chief operating officer at News UK, said that only one complaint was made to the Independent Press Standards Organisation, which regulates the vast majority of the UK press.

“This does not point towards press intrusion or failings on a scale indicated by your report,” he said.

“The newspaper industry has, in recent years, improved its policies and procedures when dealing with sensitive issues while still allowing journalists to do their vital job.

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“The extreme types of behaviour described would undoubtedly lead to disciplinary procedures and dismissal and is certainly not something that I recognise from newspaper employees, or indeed other UK media.

“We would also urge you to take the matter up with the appropriate regulator (IPSO for the press or Ofcom for broadcast media) and encourage families who have experienced the type of behaviour described to make a complaint to IPSO or Ofcom so that they can be fully investigated.”

Dinsmore said the media plays a “critical and crucial role in reporting terrible events like those in Manchester” and that it was “essential to the functioning of society that the full scope of events is covered, from the human tragedy to the geopolitical ramifications.”

He said: “Every member of our industry is acutely aware how challenging it is for those suddenly thrown by circumstance into the public eye, often while they are dealing with tragedy.

“We work hard to report accurately and sympathetically, respecting the feelings of those most directly affected.”

The Editor’s Code of Practice outlines the standards against which IPSO members are held. Included in the 16 points of code are clauses on harassment, intrusion into grief or shock, and reporting from hospitals.

Regional daily newspaper the Manchester Evening News was praised in the Kerslake Report for its coverage of the attack. Editor-in-chief Rob Irvine said it proved the press can play a “positive role”.

The MEN also raised a total of £2.5m for victims’ families.

The NMA represents national, regional and local news media organisations in the UK. Its members publish about 1,000 titles across the UK, reaching some 47.8m people every month.

Picture: Reuters/Peter Nicholls

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