Journalism in the Age of McCann

Recently I've been looking into the background of reporters who have written extremely biased articles about the McCann case.

I started by refreshing my understanding about the role of journalism in society. EthicNet, provides a collection of codes of journalism ethics in Europe. The Code of Conduct for the United Kingdom was adopted by the National Union of Journalists in 2007. The NUJ's Code of Conduct has set out the main principles of British and Irish journalism since 1936, it was updated in 2007.

It states the following:

Members of the National Union of Journalists are expected to abide by the following professional principles:

A journalist

1. At all times upholds and defends the principle of media freedom, the right of freedom of expression and the right of the public to be informed

2. Strives to ensure that information disseminated is honestly conveyed, accurate and fair

3. Does her/his utmost to correct harmful inaccuracies

4. Differentiates between fact and opinion

5. Obtains material by honest, straightforward and open means, with the exception of investigations that are both overwhelmingly in the public interest and which involve evidence that cannot be obtained by straightforward means

6. Does nothing to intrude into anybody's private life, grief or distress unless justified by overriding consideration of the public interest

7. Protects the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her/his work

8. Resists threats or any other inducements to influence, distort or suppress information

9. Takes no unfair personal advantage of information gained in the course of her/his duties before the information is public knowledge

10. Produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation

11. Does not by way of statement, voice or appearance endorse by advertisement any commercial product or service save for the promotion of her/his own work or of the medium by which she/he is employed

12. Avoids plagiarism.

Rather than continuing to complain about the "British media" as a whole, I decided to try to do a bit of research into specific reporters. I'm working on that and will be posting about it in the next few weeks.

Topping the list of those I consider to be a disgrace to the journalistic profession is Antonella Lazzeri, who I'm not even certain can be labeled a "journalist", nor can I say that the "Sun" is a NEWSpaper.  Her coverage of  the McCann case is quite simply a disgrace.  She has written about the McCanns more than she has written about any other topic and I have not found a single unbiased article.  Not one.

Her articles about Goncalo Amaral were shameful "Maddie's Leech Cop" "Liar Cop" etc..  She covered the Raymond Hewlett "abductor" claims, writing that Hewlett had "twice seen Maddie" (not clarifying that it was on TV & posters) and she is now covering the "White Van/Gypsies" "abductor" claims and the outlandish Charles O'Neill "abductor" claims..

Looking at her past articles is enlightening.  She seems to have at one time taken an interest in the "Troubles" in Northern Ireland and many of her older articles deal with that topic.  She also wrote a number of articles about Princess Diana.  There have been more than a few pointless articles full of salacious details regarding people's private lives.  Truly tabloid nonsense and yet, apparently, the Sun continues to sell papers and rather than actually caring about journalistic ethics, that seems to be their only concern. I have to conclude her editors are complicit in the propaganda being doled out to the British public

In my opinion, there can be few readers who take Lazzeri seriously...and yet she is given the responsibility of covering the McCann case, a subject that is incredibly serious and has resulted in negative consequences to British and Portuguese citizens and actually to society as a whole.

In the past I've posted the text of articles that were intolerably biased against Goncalo Amaral and Lazzeri's work is included on lists I've compiled.  Examples can be found elsewhere on this blog.

But one article, not related to the McCanns, I feel I must add here to illustrate the way I believe the Code of Conduct for British journalists has been broken is the following:

"Dad's Not Alfie" By ANTONELLA LAZZERI  / Published: 19 May 2009

I  hope it is apparent why I have used this an example.  The article is about CHILDREN, their names, photographs, a slide-show and a video are included.  The baby involved is NAMED and the circumstances involving her parentage are given in full detail. The  young boys and the 15 year old girl's sexual history is described as well as a quote describing the baby's mother as a "slut".

All I can say is that the next time I read one of Lazzeri's articles portraying Kate McCann as the suffering victim of a cruel Portuguese investigator, or about the heartless people on the internet who are refusing to believe the McCann's version of events, or the way the McCanns have suffered under media scrutiny, I will have in mind the image of baby Maisie.  A child who will carry with her the portrait Lazzeri has provided of her "slutty" mother and the boy who thought she was his child.

Shame on you, Antonella.  Shame. Shame. Shame.
Finally, about the editors...
The Sun and many other papers in the UK ran the story about baby Maisie.  How many of the following were broken in this ONE case?  Does ANYONE hold to this code???
Editors' Code of Practice
Country: United Kingdom

Adopted by the Press Complaints Commission representing the newspaper and periodical industry in August 2007.
All members of the press have a duty to maintain the highest professional standards. The Code, which includes this preamble and the public interest exceptions below, sets the benchmark for those ethical standards, protecting both the rights of the individual and the public's right to know. It is the cornerstone of the system of self-regulation to which the industry has made a binding commitment.

It is essential that an agreed code be honoured not only to the letter but in the full spirit. It should not be interpreted so narrowly as to compromise its commitment to respect the rights of the individual, nor so broadly that it constitutes an unnecessary interference with freedom of expression or prevents publication in the public interest.

It is the responsibility of editors and publishers to apply the Code to editorial material in both printed and online versions of publications. They should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists.

Editors should co-operate swiftly with the PCC in the resolution of complaints. Any publication judged to have breached the Code must print the adjudication in full and with due prominence, including headline reference to the PCC.
1 Accuracy
i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.
ii) A significant inaccuracy, mis-leading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published.
iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
2 Opportunity to reply
A fair opportunity for reply to inaccuracies must be given when reasonably called for.
3 Privacy
i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications. Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual's private life without consent.
ii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals in private places without their consent. Note - Private places are public or private property where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.
4 Harassment
i) Journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit.
ii) They must not persist in questioning, telephoning, pursuing or photographing individuals once asked to desist; nor remain on their property when asked to leave and must not follow them.
iii) Editors must ensure these principles are observed by those working for them and take care not to use non-compliant material from other sources.
5 Intrusion into grief or shock

i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
6 Children
i) Young people should be free to complete their time at school without unnecessary intrusion.
ii) A child under 16 must not be interviewed or photographed on issues involving their own or another child's welfare unless a custodial parent or similarly responsible adult consents.
iii) Pupils must not be approached or photographed at school without the permission of the school authorities.
iv) Minors must not be paid for material involving children's welfare, nor parents or guardians for material about their children or wards, unless it is clearly in the child's interest.
v) Editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child's private life.
7 Children in sex cases
1. The press must not, even if legally free to do so, identify children under 16 who are victims or witnesses in cases involving sex offences.
2. In any press report of a case involving a sexual offence against a child -
i) The child must not be identified.
ii) The adult may be identified.
iii) The word "incest" must not be used where a child victim might be identified.
iv) Care must be taken that nothing in the report implies the relationship between the accused and the child.
8 Hospitals
i) Journalists must identify themselves and obtain permission from a responsible executive before entering non-public areas of hospitals or similar institutions to pursue enquiries.
ii) The restrictions on intruding into privacy are particularly relevant to enquiries about individuals in hospitals or similar institutions.
9 Reporting of Crime
i) Relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crimes should not generally be identified without their consent, unless they are genuinely relevant to the story.
ii) Particular regard should be paid to the potentially vulnerable position of children who witness, or are victims of, crime. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings.
10 Clandestine devices and subterfuge
i) The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorized removal of documents, or photographs; or by accessing digitally-held private information without consent.
ii) Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest, and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means.
11 Victims of sexual assault
The press must not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless there is adequate justification and they are legally free to do so.
12 Discrimination
i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
ii) Details of an individual's race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.
13 Financial journalism
i) Even where the law does not prohibit it, journalists must not use for their own profit financial information they receive in advance of its general publication, nor should they pass such information to others.
ii) They must not write about shares or securities in whose performance they know that they or their close families have a significant financial interest without disclosing the interest to the editor or financial editor.
iii) They must not buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which they have written recently or about which they intend to write in the near future.
14 Confidential sources
Journalists have a moral obligation to protect confidential sources of information.
15 Witness payments in criminal trials
i) No payment or offer of payment to a witness - or any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a witness - should be made in any case once proceedings are active as defined by the Contempt of Court Act 1981.
This prohibition lasts until the suspect has been freed unconditionally by police without charge or bail or the proceedings are otherwise discontinued; or has entered a guilty plea to the court; or, in the event of a not guilty plea, the court has announced its verdict.

ii) Where proceedings are not yet active but are likely and foreseeable, editors must not make or offer payment to any person who may reasonably be expected to be called as a wit-ness, unless the information concerned ought demonstrably to be published in the public interest and there is an over-riding need to make or promise payment for this to be done; and all reasonable steps have been taken to ensure no financial dealings influence the evidence those witnesses give. In no circumstances should such payment be conditional on the outcome of a trial.

iii) Any payment or offer of payment made to a person later cited to give evidence in proceedings must be disclosed to the prosecution and defence. The witness must be advised of this requirement.
16 Payment to criminals
i) Payment or offers of payment for stories, pictures or information, which seek to exploit a particular crime or to glorify or glamorise crime in general, must not be made directly or via agents to convicted or confessed criminals or to their associates - who may include family, friends and colleagues.
ii) Editors invoking the public interest to justify payment or offers would need to demonstrate that there was good reason to believe the public interest would be served. If, despite payment, no public interest emerged, then the material should not be published.


There may be exceptions to the clauses marked * where they can be demonstrated to be in the public interest.

1. The public interest includes, but is not confined to:

i) Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety.
ii) Protecting public health and safety.
iii) Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation.
2. There is a public interest in freedom of expression itself.
3. Whenever the public interest is invoked, the PCC will require editors to demonstrate fully how the public interest was served.
4. The PCC will consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain, or will become so.
5. In cases involving children under 16, editors must demonstrate an exceptional public interest to over-ride the normally paramount interest of the child.

Return to top of page Copyright © 2010 | Flash News Converted into Blogger Template by HackTutors