PCC Complaint. The Belfast Telegraph, 23rd June 2011
“Time to get tough on drug law, Shannon to urge MPs”, the Belfast Telegraph, 23-06-11
I wish to make a complaint concerning the above article which is still available online at: http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/community-telegraph/north-down/news/time-to-get-tough-on-drug-law-shannon-to-urge-mps-16015285.html
I make the complaint on my own account but also in my capacity as the Leader of Cannabis Law Reform (CLEAR), a UK political party, of P.O.Box 674, Salfords, Redhill, RH1 9BN. For the purposes of correspondence, please use my personal address as below.
1. This article breaches the Editors’ Code Of Practice clause 1.i) in that it publishes inaccurate, misleading and distorted information.
2. It also breaches clause 1.iii) in that it fails to distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.
3. The article is presented as a news story, not an opinion piece. It should therefore be concerned only with facts – unless comment or conjecture is clearly distinguished.
4. Although the article is presented as a report of what Charles Walker and Jim Shannon have said, that cannot absolve the newspaper from its responsibilities under clause 1.i) and 1.iii).
5. In the sixth paragraph, the article states “Mr Shannon said at the debate: ‘In Northern Ireland, we have seen a rash of suicides as a result of this very drug.’” This is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information for which there is no basis in fact. Mr Shannon may have been protected by parliamentary privilege when he spoke this untruth but the newspaper is not.
6. In the seventh paragraph, the article states In an interview with the Community Telegraph Mr Shannon said: “Charlie Walker MP, mentioned a number of people who have died of cannabis psychosis…” This is inaccurate, misleading and distorted information that has no basis in fact. No one has ever died “of” cannabis or psychosis.
7. These statements by Mr Shannon are clearly designed to frighten, create panic and promote prejudice on the basis of falsehood and deception. To publish them without higlighting their gross inaccuracy and clearly distinguishing them as wild, extremist and false is to be complicit in them with Mr Shannon.
I would be grateful if you would deal with this complaint at your earliest convenience. I shall be happy to provide any further information required or to give oral evidence in support.