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Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

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Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.12.09 7:55

Late yesterday I received by e-mail the text of the decision of the Press Complaints Commission regarding complaints we made about coverage in the 'Daily Star' of 15 August 2009 (the 'sickos' article) and 16 August 2009 (the 'stalker' article).

It must be remembered that despite the hostile tone of these two press articles, and a similar article in 'The Sun', the Madeleine Foundation received hundreds of thousands of extra hits on our website in the days following those news reports, numerous compliments about the '30 Reasons' article on our website, and a surge of orders for the now-banned '60 Reasons' booklet.

Here is the e-mail and the Press Complaints Commission judgment:

From: Scott Langham <scott.langham@pcc.org.uk>
Subject: 093429 / 093527 Sunday Express / Daily Star
To: "ANTHONY BENNETT" <ajsbennett@btinternet.com>
Date: Tuesday, 22 December, 2009, 17:19

By email

Our references: 093429 / 093527

22 December 2009

Dear Mr Bennett

Further to our recent correspondence the Commission has now made its assessment of your complaint under the Code of Practice.

The Commission members have asked me to thank you for giving them the opportunity to consider the points you raise. However, their decision was that there was no breach of the Code and a full explanation appears below.

If you are dissatisfied with the way in which your complaint has been handled - as opposed to the Commission ’s decision itself - you should write within one month to the independent Charter Commission er, whose details can be found in our How to Complain leaflet or at http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/process.html

Thank you for taking this matter up with us.

Yours sincerely

Scott Langham
scott.langham@pcc.org.uk

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=

Commission’s decision in the case of Bennett v Sunday Express/Daily Star

The articles reported that the Madeleine Foundation had distributed copies of their leaflet ‘What really happened to Madeleine McCann? Ten key reasons which suggest that she was not abducted’ in the McCanns’ home town of Rothley , Leicestershire.

The articles variously referred to the leaflet as a “hate leaflet” and “highly inflammatory”, claiming that it contained “despicable lies” and that it was part of a “smear campaign”. The articles also claimed that the McCanns had been targeted by “sickos” and that the Chairman of the Madeleine Foundation was a “stalker”. The complainant said that all these claims were inaccurate and misleading.

In this case, it was clear to the Commission that the references to a “hate leaflet” and to the leaflet being “highly inflammatory” represented the newspaper’s robust position on the content of the literature being distributed by the complainant and his organisation, which could reasonably be described as controversial. The newspapers had the absolute right to do so, within the parameters of the Code of Practice.

Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Code states that newspapers must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact. The Commission considered that – given the nature of the references, which were plainly subjective – readers would have understood that they related to the newspapers’ own views of the leaflet, which they were entitled to take. Equally, the Daily Star had been perfectly entitled to offer its opinion of the individuals behind the campaign (“sickos”) which, it was said, had caused distress to the McCanns. It was difficult to see how such a subjective term could have been interpreted as verifiable fact. The complainant may have disagreed with such a description, but this did not make it inaccurate in breach of the Code. Similarly, the Commission was satisfied that the newspaper had been entitled, in the circumstances, to refer to the leafleting as part of a “smear campaign”, or, by extension, “stalking”. Both terms clearly represented the newspapers’ opinion of the activities of the organisation. The reference to “despicable lies” had, in addition, been attributed clearly to a “source close to the couple”, in the case of the Sunday Express, and a “family pal” in the case of the Daily Star. There was no breach of the Code on these points.

The complainant had also claimed that the circumstances of the leaflet drop had been misrepresented. In the Commission’s view, however, the question of when the leaflets were distributed – at night-time or between 3pm and 6pm – and how many people were involved was immaterial to any general understanding of the matter. These references certainly did not amount to a significant inaccuracy under the terms of Clause 1 (ii). Finally, the complainant had said that it was not the case that the Madeleine Foundation had sent the leaflet to Brian and Janet Kennedy. Given that he had stated that he was unaware of their address, it was difficult to see how he knew that this was the position. In any case, there had been no complaint from Kennedys on the point.

Scott Langham
Head of Complaints
Press Complaints Commission

Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD
Tel: 020 7831 0022
Website: www.pcc.org.uk

The PCC is an independent self-regulatory body which deals with complaints about the editorial content of newspapers and magazines (and their websites). We keep industry standards high by training journalists and editors, and work pro-actively behind the scenes to prevent harassment and media intrusion. We can also provide pre-publication advice to journalists and the public.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by vaguely on 23.12.09 8:41

Do you have the site stats for the individual extra visits? Were they mostly UK do you know?

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Site stats no longer available

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.12.09 8:52

@vaguely wrote:Do you have the site stats for the individual extra visits? Were they mostly UK do you know?
These are held by our former webmaster Steve Marsden ('Stevo') who has been out of contact with us since early November.

I referred to 'hundreds of thousands' of extra hits. Steve said there were 'millions' of hits on the former Madeleine Foundation website during the four weeks after the articles appeared.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Get'emGonçalo on 23.12.09 9:10

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@vaguely wrote:Do you have the site stats for the individual extra visits? Were they mostly UK do you know?
These are held by our former webmaster Steve Marsden ('Stevo') who has been out of contact with us since early November.

I referred to 'hundreds of thousands' of extra hits. Steve said there were 'millions' of hits on the former Madeleine Foundation website during the four weeks after the articles appeared.

I can well believe that because my own sites had many thousands of hits searching for the Madeleine Foundation - and my 'Truth about the Lie blog' had many thousands of hits when the McCanns went to Portugal for the libel trial. Each 'McCann' event drives people to the internet in search of the truth rather than just reading what's in the newspapers. People aren't stupid, they know something's not right, so why should this country treat us like mushrooms?

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Guest on 23.12.09 9:30

@vaguely wrote:Do you have the site stats for the individual extra visits? Were they mostly UK do you know?

That is an interesting question, also, has this added attention resulted in many more membership applications world wide?

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Old Nick on 23.12.09 9:47

Tony, you may now officially be termed a sicko by the press but you'll always be a hero to me.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by vaguely on 23.12.09 9:48

I was just ponding on the correlation between millions of hits, and stevo disappearing.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Guest on 23.12.09 10:26

Oooh I would have been counted in those hits but of course I went because I half expected legal action to be taken.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by preciousramotswe on 23.12.09 10:32

I think it's wishful thinking to assume that all of the hits are from McCann-sceptics.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by DCB1 on 23.12.09 10:38

Is the "hard cow" photo complaint still outstanding?

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Visit Twitter for your answer

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.12.09 11:08

@DCB1 wrote:Is the "hard cow" photo complaint still outstanding?
You'll have to ask Debbie Butler. I believe details of how to contact her are on her 'Twitter' site: 'IWILLNOTGOAWAY'

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by DCB1 on 23.12.09 11:17

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@DCB1 wrote:Is the "hard cow" photo complaint still outstanding?
You'll have to ask Debbie Butler. I believe details of how to contact her are on her 'Twitter' site: 'IWILLNOTGOAWAY'

I think I'll pass on that TB !

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by vaguely on 23.12.09 12:59

Molly wrote:Millions of hits, hundreds of thousands of hits?

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/http%3A%2F%2Fmadeleinefoundation.org%2F?p=tgraph&r=home_home

What does 0.0002 mean?

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These data are not relevant

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.12.09 13:01

Molly wrote:Millions of hits, hundreds of thousands of hits?

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/http%3A%2F%2Fmadeleinefoundation.org%2F?p=tgraph&r=home_home
Er, those data refer to a period AFTER Stevo shut down the site I believe on or about 7 November 2009.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by vaguely on 23.12.09 13:01

@Tony Bennett wrote:
Molly wrote:Millions of hits, hundreds of thousands of hits?

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/http%3A%2F%2Fmadeleinefoundation.org%2F?p=tgraph&r=home_home
Er, those data refer to a period AFTER Stevo shut down the site I believe on or about 7 November 2009.

You can scroll back through it - there's a box underneath it. thumbsup

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2 parts in every 10,000

Post by Tony Bennett on 23.12.09 13:02

@vaguely wrote:
Molly wrote:Millions of hits, hundreds of thousands of hits?

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/http%3A%2F%2Fmadeleinefoundation.org%2F?p=tgraph&r=home_home

What does 0.0002 mean?
2 parts in every 10,000

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by vaguely on 23.12.09 13:03

Thank you. Should have listened in math big grin



ETA, I'm confused between the traffic and the rank - one lot of figures are very high, and one very low.

I'm not cut out for technicalities.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Guest on 23.12.09 16:07

badmanners wrote:I think it's wishful thinking to assume that all of the hits are from McCann-sceptics.
I think you may be right, the Flat Earth society also gets a lot of visits, but not generally by people who agree with them. Regardless of how many hits there have been, there is now a former Chairman having been branded a Stalker in the national press and now Sickos has been added to the list. From a PR point of view, even with the best will in the world, I just can't see how that result can be hailed as a good thing. But maybe that's just me.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Slartibartfast on 23.12.09 16:10

According to Alexa the largest activity by far was from the Autumn of 2008 until January 2009 probably on account of traffic from the building of the site.
Who knows?
There is a smaller spike around August and September of this year.
I think the hundreds of thousands of hits is somewhat hyperbolic.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by preciousramotswe on 23.12.09 19:24

@Tony Bennett wrote:
@DCB1 wrote:Is the "hard cow" photo complaint still outstanding?
You'll have to ask Debbie Butler. I believe details of how to contact her are on her 'Twitter' site: 'IWILLNOTGOAWAY'

It is being claimed on JATYK by someone who appears to know Mike Gunnill that there never was a complaint made about him.
This ruling by the PCC covers both the Star and the 'stalker' front page headline and article by the Sunday Express, so basically the 'hard cow' matter would seem to be at an end. The PCC have rejected the complaint, and that's an end to it.

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Guest on 23.12.09 19:26

badmanners wrote:
@Tony Bennett wrote:
@DCB1 wrote:Is the "hard cow" photo complaint still outstanding?
You'll have to ask Debbie Butler. I believe details of how to contact her are on her 'Twitter' site: 'IWILLNOTGOAWAY'

It is being claimed on JATYK by someone who appears to know Mike Gunnill that there never was a complaint made about him.
This ruling by the PCC covers both the Star and the 'stalker' front page headline and article by the Sunday Express, so basically the 'hard cow' matter would seem to be at an end. The PCC have rejected the complaint, and that's an end to it.

Did Mike Gunnill not bring a complaint against the Madeleine Foundation for the hacking enterprise?

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by DyDy on 23.12.09 19:37

JATYK


PCC ruling covers Sunday Express too...


The PCC ruling is good to hear. It should be remembered that the complaint was just about the headline & story. There was NO complaint against the photographer Mike Gunnill. This despite posted items which were pure fiction and Bennett, Butler & the one handed* Stevo knew this. Especially Bennett & Stevo, since revealed as Stephen B. Marsden took their dirty little campaign and continued to harass the photographer. Note the fake web site ( mikegunnill.info ) which still carries details that have now been proved to be fiction-and this is the polite term. One handed* Stephen B. Marsden has posted several items in a number of forums over the months which were and are - just from his imagination, made up for effect.

Stevo, Stephen B. Marsden is full of his own importance and now the restriction while the PCC sat in judgment has been removed, a new chapter can begin. Actions have already started in the USA against Marsden and these are not idle threats or remarks as time will tell. Helped by several British MP's, documents have been filed within the American legal system which will highlight web hate crimes. Residents in the USA will no longer be able to hide behind freedom laws and they will no longer be able to abuse the American Constitution.

Finally remember what was said about this case, the Sunday Express and the two who covered the story. The flack they had to take from people who didn't know what they were talking about. Some people took all this in, as the truth. Now look and read what is continued to be told by Bennett & one handed Stevo, Stephen B. Marsden. Can you trust them to speak any truth at all? The remarks by Bennett & Marsden are worth nothing, the books produced by Stevo under what ever name he wants to use, mean NOTHING.

Both Mike and James Murray are very grateful to this forum for their support and assistance. The story is far from over, just entering a brand new positive phrase.

Peter.

There was NO complaint against the photographer Mike Gunnill.???????????


Care to explain Tony?

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Re: Daily Star justified in calling Rothley leaflet distributors 'sickos' - Press Complaints Commission decision

Post by Guest on 23.12.09 19:45

So am I right in thinking that the hundreds of thousands of hits was a huge, huge exageration? Could even be seen as a lie.

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