The Press Complaints Commission has dismissed a complaint by Stephen Gately’s partner about a Daily Mail column on the Boyzone singer’s death. The watchdog argued reprimanding Jan Moir for the beliefs expressed in her article ‘would be a slide towards censorship’
A record 25,000 people complained about the Jan Moir comment piece, which many considered to be homophobic, but the press watchdog has rejected their grievances arguing that to censuring Moir for her ‘uncomfortable’ opinions would represent censorship.
Extracts from the decision are below or you can read the judgment in full.
Clause 5 – Intrusion into grief or shock
[T]he Commission did not consider that the publication of the article had breached Clause 5 of the Code. To rule otherwise would be to say that newspapers are not entitled to publish certain opinions (which may be disagreeable to many) on events that are matters of public discussion. This would be a slide towards censorship, which the Commission could not endorse.
None of this meant that the Commission sought to deny the validity of the strong reaction against the article or of the notion that the article could be held to be in questionable taste. It was indisputable that the article had caused the complainant great distress, as it had many others.
Cause 12 – Discrimination
The Commission made clear that this part of the Code was not designed to prevent discussion of certain lifestyles or broad issues relating to race, religion or sexuality. There was a distinction between critical innuendo – which, though perhaps distasteful, was permissible in a free society – and discriminatory description of individuals, and the Code was designed to constrain the latter rather than the former.
The Commission may have been uncomfortable with the tenor of the columnist’s remarks on the topic; it did not consider, however, that the column had crossed the line on this occasion such as to raise a breach of the Code.