Quis custodiet IPSO?
I must start by paying respects to the fallen in the horrific attacks in France yesterday and today. All of the victims, be they journalists, cartoonists or police officers, simply turned up for work. All expected to go home – none of them did.
There is no justification for what happened at all and I am deeply saddened by the event.
As a fellow police officer, I pay tribute to the bravery of the murdered officers who went to defend freedom and the public and paid with their lives.
Although I am a nobody I send my sincere condolences to all of the victims’ families and indeed to the nation of France.
Many of us were appalled yesterday by the UK newspapers’ front pages which showed a balaclava wearing gunman approaching a wounded French policeman lying, in surrender, on a Paris pavement.
The picture was from video footage taken of the incident which was, unfortunately, circulating within minutes of the event on social media.
In the frame or two after that image that police officer was shot dead. Murdered in cold blood along with 11 other victims of what appears to be an extremist attack.
Many people were offended by the use of that picture which seemed to be insensitive, unnecessary and heartless. The editors didn’t even have the common decency to pixelate the officers face. I cannot imagine what his family must think or feel.
So offended were some of us that we complained to the body which supposedly investigates complaints against the press.
We have all received the same reply today.
As we are not a family member of the murdered victim or directly affected – they will not look into our complaints.
Below is the email I received back from them today and my subsequent response.
I expect it to achieve nothing.
UPDATE: it did achieve nothing – their final response was so short it fitted into one Tweet. It is now included at the end.
On 8 Jan 2015, at 17:03
I write further to our earlier email.
IPSO is able to consider complaints from an individual who has been personally and directly affected by the alleged breach of the Editors’ Code of Practice; complaints from a representative group affected by an alleged breach where there is a substantial public interest; and complaints from third parties about accuracy. In the case of third party complaints, we will need to consider the position of the party most closely involved.
In this instance, the concerns you have raised relate directly to the family of the victim. It would therefore appear that we are unable to consider your concerns further.
However, if you believe that you fall within one of the above categories of complainants, I would be grateful if you could respond to this email, briefly explaining why you believe we are able to consider your concerns further. We will then be happy to make a further assessment about whether we are able to proceed.
If we have not received a response within the next seven days we will assume that your complaint does not fall within one of the above categories, and will close our file on this matter.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you for the reply. The complaint is centred entirely on the fact that The Sun (and others) chose to publish a photograph of a wounded policeman seconds before he was murdered in cold blood.
I cannot lay any claim to being related to the victim in this case but found the use of this picture to be offensive, unnecessary, heartless, brutal and wholly without purpose other than to sensationalise the terrible event.
The fact is that this picture will have been clearly visible on newsagents stands all over the country. Clearly visible to children who, frankly, do not need to see this. If it were a shot from a film it would be appropriately rated.
This was a picture taken seconds before a murder. The victims face can be clearly seen. His hands in surrender.
It is interesting that the BBC chose not to use any of these front covers during their usual paper reviews on television news today. Why might that be?
They have exercised editorial control in a manner which most of the paper press have chosen not to.
You are telling me that I can only register a complaint if I am related to the victim.
This is a pretty useless complaints system. How does one register a complaint when one finds something so utterly reprehensible that it needs challenging.
Basically what this means is that the press can do what they like irrespective of the fact that many people have complained to you about this today. Clearly there is public sentiment that this was not an appropriate picture to have used. This, I assume, will be completely ignored because it doesn’t fall into the very tight criteria by which one can make a complaint.
This is hardly the openness and transparency or the ability to hold others to account that the press so often demand.
Your reply, though gratefully received, is basically legalese and a polite way of telling me that “the computer says no.”
Much has been said over the last couple of days about censorship and the rights to free speech.
I am grateful that I live in a country which does not censor and allows the right to free speech.
I am ashamed to live in a country where a newspaper editor CHOOSES to use a picture like that.
I am also disappointed that there is absolutely no way of challenging this or, at the very least, seeking an explanation from the editors as to why they felt this was justified.
Updated with their final response:
I am sorry to hear that you are unhappy with IPSO’s remit.
Please do not hesitate to contact IPSO in the future if we can be of any assistance