PCC receives complaints over media coverage of gay asylum case

PinkNews Staff Writer July 15, 2010
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The Press Complaints Commission has received a number of complaints over newspaper coverage of a Supreme Court decision on gay asylum seekers.

A PPC spokesman confirmed this afternoon it had received 72 complaints against the Daily Express and three against the Daily Mail.

He added that the body would consider whether the complaints fell within the remit of its its editors’ code of practice, which includes discrimination and accuracy.

A protest is due to take place outside the Express’ office in London this evening.

The case centred on two gay asylum seekers, from Iran and Cameroon, who had been told they could return home if they kept their sexuality secret.

The court ruled that they could not reasonably be asked to hide their sexuality. In the judgment, Judge Rodgers said that gay men must be “free to enjoy themselves going to Kylie concerts” and drink “exotically coloured cocktails”.

Reporting the decision last Thursday, the Express used the headline “Now asylum if you’re gay” and quoted from Judge Rodgers’ bizarre statement in its standfirst.

The Daily Mail’s headline was “What planet is he on?”, referring to the judge, while the Daily Star said there was “no room for gays”.

A number of protesters, including National Union of Journalists chiefs Jeremy Dear and Michelle Stanistreet, wrote to the Guardian today to complain, accusing the newspapers of stirring up “hatred”.

They wrote: “The only motivation in these tabloid articles is to whip up hatred and division. They want to create scapegoats and undermine opposition to the Tories’ cuts. They also risk intensifying homophobia in Britain. The murder of Ian Baynham last autumn is a terrible reminder of where this can lead.”

Other signatories to the letter were Green MP Caroline Lucas, Labour MPs Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and gay campaigners Mark Healey, Sue Sanders and Tony Fenwick.

A protest was set to be held outside the Daily Express’ offices this evening at 5pm.

Author Hannah Dee, who organised it, said that demonstrators were demanding a retraction and an apology.

She said: “If you’ve got a front page saying ‘Now asylum if you’re gay’… you’re trivialising the issue. The judge’s comments were blown completely out of context.”

She also accused the newspapers of showing a “pattern of homophobia”.

Donnacha Delong, the vice-president of the National Union of Journalists, is expected to speak at the protest this evening.

He said: “We condemn the homophobia of all [three] of the papers. The PCC should do something about it.”

Mr Delong added that he would be speaking about the NUJ’s call for editors to sign up to a “conscience clause”, which would allow journalists to refuse to write stories they deemed discriminatory or offensive without the risk of sacking.

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