3. Memorandum submitted by the Daily Mail
I recognise the importance of reporting terrorist
activity and community unrest accurately and fairly.
The balance between frightening the public and
informing them is constantly on my mind and in the forefront of
thinking among my senior executives, as is the possibility of
copy-cat action on the part of extremists or those of unsound
However, I do not subscribe to the view that
it is necessary to soft-pedal the news. In a democratic society
it is the task of a free Press to tell it as it is, not tell it
to some politically correct agenda which would sweep either tacit
or violent dissent under the carpet.
It is worth noting that it is frequently in
the political interests of the police or the Government that the
media reports arrests of terror suspects and our attention is
deliberately drawn to such activity.
I also realise that some people, often in local
and central Government, find it only too easy to "blame the
Press" for increasing community divisions when in fact the
Press is reporting the consequences of the failures of those organisations
to deal with the root causes of racial tension on the ground itself.
It would be too facile to pick on any one story
or one headline on one day as an example of imbalance. It is fairer
to look at the overall picture and the balance that is achieved
over a period of time.
I am thinking here, for example, of the way
the Mail covered the recent story of the Sikh riots which
stopped the play Behzti being staged by the Birmingham Repertory
The news of the riots was reported accurately
and fully, with reaction from various sources. That news was then
commented on in a variety of ways. We ran a feature spelling out
the strength of the Sikh feeling and contrasting it with the weakness
shown by the Church of England in defending its beliefs.
But we also condemned the violence shown by
the rioters and the attempts to condone it while pointing out
the need to maintain freedom of expression and the need to resist
censorship by blackmail.
Looking further back the Mail was among
the first newspapers to warn of the dangers of confusing the terrorists
of the 9/11 horror with the many ordinary peace loving Muslims
in our midst and elsewhere.
This was what we said in the Mail:
"The enraged impotence many in the Muslim
world now feel in the face of American support for Israel and
the suppression of Palestine, the Indian suppression of the Muslim
majority in Kashmir and their own corrupt and despotic governments,
has produced a perversion of Islam in which the old teaching of
jihadholy warhas been transformed into an excuse
And the fact is that most religions, including
Christianity, have always been manipulated by the unscrupulous
for power and revenge. The manipulative extremists of the Muslim
world show little true respect for the traditions of Islam, its
spirit or its Founder."
While a newspaper has responsibilities so, too,
do immigrant communities and their leaders. Sometimes, perhaps
understandably, they are over-sensitive to criticism and that
places even greater onus on an Editor to be both fair and firm.
While I do not lay down any special arrangements
for reporting either terrorist activity or examples of racial
tension all my journalists are under instruction to acquaint themselves
with the PCC Code of Practice and to work within its provisions.
Indeed that is a condition of their contracts and any deliberate
breach of the Code would be followed by disciplinary action including
I would, however, argue that the Mail
can be proud of its contribution to good community relations in
Britain. This newspaper, as you will be aware, was in the forefront
of the campaign to bring to justice the murderers of the young
black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1997.
Our exposure and campaign not only brought about
a revolution in the way in which the police in this country regard
ethnic minority groups, but has, over the last seven years, probably
done more to improve the trust of law abiding ethnic minorities
in British community policing than any other single act. This,
of course, impacts on the police's relations with those community
groups when terrorist issues arise.
We continue to support the Stephen Lawrence
Trust and to be active in many other aspects of community and
racial harmony. The Mail has co-operated and assisted with
the investigation into the causes of the race riots in several
Northern towns. We subscribed to the report on Community Cohesion.
One of my most senior executives sits on the
Media Emergency Forum which meets in the Cabinet Office to discuss
a number of wide ranging initiatives where co-operation between
Government, the emergency and social services, the police and
the media is seeking to protect and inform the public in the face
of the serious threat of terrorist attack. He reports back to
me on a regular basis.
In any event it would be a foolish and probably
unsuccessful Editor who did not recognise the advantages of promoting
safe and harmonious communities.
There are many ethnic minorities in the country
and they are all our readers or our potential readers. Many such
minorities are characterised by the words "aspiration"
and "family values", the very words that are at the
heart of the Mail's core philosophy.
Indeed I believe the Mail has more Asian
readers than any other national daily newspaper and we sponsor
an annual award for the Asian media personality of the year. This
is designed to find rising journalistic talent and help our recruiting.
I am also able to draw upon a diverse selection
of contributors who can write for the Mail's main feature
pages thoughtful and well-informed articles about the subjects
you are examining. To name but a few who have appeared recently:
Sarfraz Manzoor, a young Muslim writer born in Luton, Manzoor
Mogal, Chairman of the Muslim Federation in Leicester, Lord Ahmed,
well-known columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, distinguished author
Ziauddin Sardar among others.
While the qualifications for our staff journalists
are entirely professional ones and we make no distinction as to
ethnic origin we currently employ more than a dozen who are from
those ethnic minorities.
On the wider spectrum of immigration, while
regularly reminding our readers of this country's debt to immigrants
and our traditional welcome to genuine refugees, we have been
unflinching in exposing how the asylum system is being exploited,
how Britain is losing control of her borders, and how ruthless
gangsters were exploiting this trade in human misery.
While we were the first paper to champion the
case for genuine economic immigration, our criticisms have been
reserved for the authorities who have lost control of the situation
and who have failed to handle immigration in a controlled and
fair way, for those who exploit the trade in illegal immigrants,
and for those who set out deliberately to cheat the welfare system
and abuse our traditional hospitality.
Long before the rise of extremism on the continent
we warned that a failure to deal with such issues could fuel the
rise of the contemptible far right.
I repeat, however, this paper is committed to
good community relations. One of the most telling initiatives
under my editorship has been the launching of our campaign for
justice for the families of the victims of the Omagh terrorist
bomb outrage. This was a campaign across the religious divide
since the victims came from both the Catholic and the Protestant
residents of Omagh. The campaign was not without risk, both to
the families themselves and to the owners and staff of the Mail,
since it sought to bring to court some of the most violent men
who are members of the Real IRA.
Nevertheless Mail readers poured money
into the fighting fund, showing just how fair minded and abhorrent
of terrorism they are. The campaign has succeeded and those who
we believe are responsible for that act of terror are on trial
today. The Omagh families acknowledge that without my newspaper
and my readers that blow against terror would never have been
I am proud of the Mail's record in these
areas. That does not mean I am complacent. I and my staff continue
our efforts to reflect the positive sides to all sections of our
I would only add that the facile view of a small
and narrow bien-pensant class that the Mail is xenophobic
flies in the face of the fact that our readers, while I have been
Editor, have raised record amounts of money to alleviate the plight
of the Kosovan refugees during the conflict there and rescue thousands
of Romanian orphans left behind by the retreating despots of Eastern
Even as I write this the Mail is devoting
far more energy than any other paper to help the child victims
of the tsunami disaster in Asia where the majority of the victims
are of diverse ethnic origins and religions. In 48 hours alone
our readers contributed some £2 million to the aid fund.
To conclude, as an Editor I am always mindful
of our readers' viewswhatever communities they come fromand,
indeed, value their feelings more highly than those of self-aggrandising
quangos, self-appointed media critics, and even parti-pris
Paul Dacre, Editor
5 January 2005