Thursday, 29 July 2010

The hunger striker and the imaginary burgers.

(Hat-tip to MacGuffin.)

There is, very occasionally, a price for churnalism, albeit one that won't make much (if any) material difference to the Sun. Without bothering to check whether the Daily Mail's original article claiming that Parameswaran Subramanyam had eaten burgers while conducting a public hunger strike in Parliament Square was accurate, something the Metropolitan police had apparently picked up on "specialist monitoring equipment" which they had trained on him, a "Staff Reporter" merely repeated the allegations.

It was strange in the first place that it was almost six months later before the police suddenly decided it was time to inform the press of what Subramanyam had been doing, supposedly having decided not to confront him at the time for fear of starting a riot, and at the same time as the cost emerged of policing the Tamil protest outside parliament. Surely it would have made a much better story much nearer the time of the demonstration? Indeed, why would the police decide to provide someone else to focus the blame on for the "excess" cost? It couldn't have been something to do with what the Mail described in the article as an "overtime bonanza", could it?

However the fantasy came to be implanted in the mind of Mail journalist Stephen Wright, it's one that's cost the paper £47,500 in damages, while the Sun has agreed to stump up £30,000, with both also having to pay Subramanyam's legal costs. As he was represented by Carter-Fuck (sorry, Carter-Ruck) that definitely won't have come cheap. Was copying and pasting and slightly altering the text really worth the wages of a junior hack for a whole year?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Homophobia? It's only a joke...

This post is reproduced with kind permission from No Rock and Roll

This is tiresome:

Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie, or Louise as I like to call him

Do you see? Because he's gay, Gordon has given him a woman's name.

Yes, that's tiresome. But this is unacceptable:

Bender it like Beckham

You can't throw a word like "bender" into a headline about a gay man. Not in a newspaper that still pretends it has any sort of standards. Homophobic name-calling isn't the same as a witty headline.

(XRRF has lots more about the quality reporting of Gordon Smart)

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The release of Learco Chindamo.

[by Septicisle]

Back in 2006, the Sun was tipped off that the killer of headteacher Philip (see comments for the cock-up previously here) Lawrence, Learco Chindamo, was being allowed out for a day unsupervised from his open prison, part of the usual program of preparing prisoners for their eventual release, of which Lawrence's widow had been informed, if not told of the exact nature of his day out. Their article, headed "OUTRAGE", was under the by-line of John Kay, the Sun journalist convicted of killing his wifein a failed murder-suicide pact. Despite describing him as "not having a care in the world" and "swaggering" he was in fact pursued at length by the paper's team, even though they got the shots which would be used as he had first emerged from Ford open prison.

Today the paper splashes on his release from prison, having served two years more than the minimum which was recommended for his offence. The article, in many ways, is remarkably similar. Probably realising that they couldn't have gotten away with one killer calling another "evil", it this time fell to Anthony France to write the article, headlined "HEAD'S EVIL KILLER FREED". The pattern is exactly the same: his every move over the weekend was monitored, right down to the truly thrilling detail that he found himself on the wrong train platform and had to sprint to the right one. This time, rather than "swaggering" he was instead "strutting", although a "source" declared he was "strolling along enjoying the sunshine as if he didn't have a care in the world".

All of which is, it should be noted, with the exception of the description of him as "evil", is fair enough. The release of a notorious killer into the community is undoubtedly a matter of public interest. Far less fair are the same inaccuracies which almost always feature in any report on Chindamo. Firstly, that his appeal against deportation to Italy was granted on human rights grounds when it was not. The Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's decision was in fact based on the 2004 EU citizenship directive, and the government's appeal was rejected on the grounds of a subsequent 2006 EU immigration regulations, where the judge decided that Chindamo did not pose a "genuine, present and sufficiently serious threat" to society. It was in any case perverse that Chindamo could have been deported back to Italy - he arrived in London when he was 6, could speak no Italian and had no actual family connections in that country. He was a product, of this country and while he was responsible for his actions he should also be considered our responsibility, not that of a country he left as a small child.

The second inaccuracy is the continued assertion that Chindamo was still considered a threat back in 2007, not just repeated in the Sun's article and its leader comment, but also in the Telegraph. It's true that in the Home Office's submission to the immigration tribunal it says that "the appellant’s crime is of such severity that he will always continue to be a threat to the community such that his release on licence would be on the basis that he might be recalled to prison at any moment for any breach of his conditions". This however is the regime which all those sentenced to life in prison find themselves under when they are released on parole; they are on licence for the rest of their lives and any breach of their conditions, if considered serious enough, results in their instant return to prison. The other parts of the paragraph which are less willingly recalled directly contradict the claim that he still poses a threat:
In the revised reasons for deportation letter it is noted that it is unlikely that the appellant will re-offend, and that he accepts his responsibility for his offences and has undertaken courses for anger management


In this regard though we must bear in mind the point to which we were referred by Mr Scannell that that assessment was not made on account of the appellant being a threat to the public but because of the likelihood of media scrutiny and/or public interest. The letter does note that risk factors might increase because of media and public scrutiny that the appellant might receive. It also comments that the OAsys report notes that there are occasions where the appellant has overacted to situations and there are severe concerns with finding him appropriate accommodation on release if allowed to remain in the United Kingdom. He would need to be excluded from certain parts of the country, community integration would be a problem on release and he might suffer a backlash. The letter states that the appellant’s notoriety might make him feel excluded from society as he had been before and there was a significant risk that his previous disregard for authority and the law might resurface and result in him coming to adverse attention. As a consequence it was considered that he posed a continuing risk to the public and that his offences were so serious that he represents a genuine and present and sufficiently serious threat to the public in principle such as to justify his deportation.
In other words, the Home Office was not justifying his deportation on the grounds that he himself was a threat, but rather of what might increase the risk should he be released, which unsurprisingly is the media following his every move as it has so far done. If anything, it seems to be suggesting that the problem might be if he is forced to defend himself; far easier to dispose of him to Italy where no one would recognise him then have to draw up effective and also expensive plans to potentially protect him. It also has to be remembered that this was part of a letter putting forward the case for his deportation, where the argument was always likely to put as forcefully as possible. In any case, the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal at the time rejected it, and the parole board would have heard exactly the same arguments before making its decision, again obviously rejected, with any threat or risk decided to be manageable.

The Sun does at least at the end of their story give space to the statement issued by Chindamo's solicitor, which outlines his remorse and gives an indication as to how he intends to continue to atone for his crime. It doesn't however make mention of the how the deputy prison governor at Ford considered Chindamo to be one of the very few prisoners he had encountered who had genuinely made a change for the better, who if given a chance "would prove himself worthy of trust", probably for the reason that he tried to get the hearing held behind closed doors because of the press coverage of his day release.

The paper's editorial tone has also somewhat changed from back in 2007 when it declared he should not be released, although not by enough, and which again repeats the inaccuracies dealt with above. It also mentions another comment made, dealt with myself again at the time:
One fellow con said he showed not one ounce of remorse - quite the opposite, in fact.
The fellow con was Mark Brunger, and his comments were based on how Chindamo supposedly was while at a young offender's institution. Back in 2007 at best he had not had any association with Chindamo for 3 years - and at worst anything up to 7, and that's if we believe him.
That was just three years ago.

We can only pray that letting him loose is not a gamble with someone else's life.
And the Sun, as the Home Office set out, is doing its part perfectly.

All the signs are however that Chindamo is that rare thing - a truly reformed character. Giving a convicted killer the benefit of the doubt is always going to be difficult, even when Frances Lawrence has herself apparently now forgiven him and magnanimously hopes for the best. Chindamo has to live up to what is expected of him, but to do that others have to take him into their confidence as well. The Sun, the rest of the media, and the public should now give him the opportunity and the space to do just that.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Cheryl Cole - An apology

No, Cheryl isn't apologising for crimes against music, the Sun is for, contain your surprise now, making things up.

Cheryl Cole - An Apology...

AS part of our coverage of the break-up of Cheryl and Ashley Cole's marriage we reported on March 4 that the singer would fly to France to meet her estranged husband who was texting her lines from her songs.
We accept Cheryl did not fly to France, no such texts were sent and she denies saying she was scared of life as a single girl as we reported on March 1.

We are happy to set the record straight and apologise to Cheryl.

No flight, no texts, not scared. No truth.

The sun seemed so happy to set the record straight that the apology had to be negotiated through the PCC.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Jon "Nazi" Gaunt Invokes Arch-Enemy in Failed Effort to Save His Own Ass

You couldn't make it up.

It's hypocrisy gone mad don't you know.

Jon Gaunt, if you don't no, is a monstrous tit and an awful bore of a man, a vile mouth on a stick perpetuating myths and faux man-in-the-street bigoted ideologies and passing them off as entertainment. He also works for the Sun, on their Sun Talk radio station, which is billed as, I fucking kid you not: "The home of free speech."

What kind of home I wonder? A care home? A mental home? Anyway, I digress...

Back in 2008 he called a Redbridge councillor a Nazi and was sacked, something that surprised and upset him a great deal, indeed he was so vexed he came over all bemused by it all. The daft racist, being a sore loser and no doubt believing his listeners fevered sycophancy awarded him some kind of special status, decided to challenge the ruling and failed.

Not one to be deterred, Gaunty (as the rabid bigot is jauntily titled) went to the High Court in order to challenge the OFCOM ruling, perhaps rightly sniffing some sort of martyrdom status amongst the particularly thick and myopic individuals that make up his fan base.

Jon Gaunt was crying freedom of speech and here is where the hypocrisy comes in.

His defence of his ridiculous outburst was centred on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a piece of legislation created by the Council of Europe, a precursor to the very European Union that Gaunty despises and a body that strives for similar goals with regards to European unity and integration. Goals that Jon Gaunt spends a great deal of time frothing at the mouth at and hectoring.

So let me get this straight Mr. Gaunt. You hate Europe with every inch of your corpulent frame but when it suits your own aims, you thrash about in its legislation like an oil stricken whale?

You'll be glad to know that he lost the case but no doubt, hiding behind yelps about freedom of speech, he will keep appealing.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

"Gay illegals" to stay.

Compared to the Express and Star, as covered so amply elsewhere, the Sun's coverage of yesterday's ruling by the supreme court that gay asylum seekers cannot be sent back to their home countries on the basis that they won't be persecuted if they're "discreet" about their sexuality was mild.

The headline to their article however is dead wrong. Not only were the two appellants not illegal immigrants, having applied for asylum when they entered the country, but they are most certainly not going to be "illegal" in any shape or form as the ruling almost certainly means they will be given asylum. They were never illegal immigrants; if your asylum application is rejected then you're a failed asylum seeker, not a "bogus" asylum seeker, as they were often previously referred to or an illegal immigrant.

While I'm here, let's also clear up the much quoted paragraph about gay people having the right to enjoy Kylie and multi-coloured cocktails. The judge was in fact being deliberately stereotypical to make his point, probably not a good idea when you can be so wilfully misquoted:

In short, what is protected is the applicant's right to live freely and openly as a gay man. That involves a wide spectrum of conduct, going well beyond conduct designed to attract sexual partners and maintain relationships with them. To illustrate the point with trivial stereotypical examples from British society: just as male heterosexuals are free to enjoy themselves playing rugby, drinking beer and talking about girls with their mates, so male homosexuals are to be free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts, drinking exotically coloured cocktails and talking about boys with their straight female mates. Mutatis mutandis – and in many cases the adaptations would obviously be great – the same must apply to other societies. In other words, gay men are to be as free as their straight equivalents in the society concerned to live their lives in the way that is natural to them as gay men, without the fear of persecution.

Which is actually a brilliantly argued and concise summary of the entire ruling.