Memorandum submitted by Shane Morris
1. Brief introduction:
1.1 I am a member of the public, an Irish citizen and a publicly funded researcher in the area of biotechnology. The evidence supplied herein is my own and does not represent my past or present employers, colleagues or other organizations.
2. Executive summary
2. 1 My evidence regards what I consider the "chilling effect" of a print media organization. Mr. Hislop, editor of Private Eye, in his evidence on May 5th, 2009, waved around a letter claiming that legal threats were common by those "rich and powerful" people (Q852: May 5, 2009 evidence) seeking to prevent publication of claims against them.
2. 2 However, my experience shows that Mr. Hislop and his publication can induce their own "chill effect" by refusing a person a right to reply and printing stories containing falsehoods that countering in the court system would cost the average private person thousands of pounds and risk their family's livelihood. I believe this "chill" tactic by Mr. Hislop is possible as his publication has deep pockets due to "generous readers" (Q916: May 5, 2009 evidence) who will likely underwrite his court costs when it suits their agenda. This legal support is not available to many other people (e.g. civil servants, etc.) and puts ordinary members of the public at a distinct disadvantage? This I believe should be considered by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in its deliberations on the matter of press standards, privacy and libel.
3.1 On September 28, 2007 an article appeared in Private Eye regarding my requests for a privately funded anti-GM food website to correct claims they made against me. The Private Eye article in question identified me as a Canadian civil servant and was near identical to the erroneous claims made by the owners of the anti-GM websites GMWATCH (previously funded by Zac Goldsmith's JMG Foundation) and GMFREE Ireland. Both websites had finally removed the claims in question after numerous personal written requests and then finally, unfortunately, the indication that I would be forced to take legal action. The claims in question suggested I had committed fraud as I was involved in research that was "fraudulent". Private Eye made no effort to contact me or any other member of the research team prior to publication of their first set of claims.
3.2 Due to the errors in the Private Eye article I wrote a letter to the editor (Appendix I) where I explained the supposed evidence relied upon by Private Eye was in fact based on a photograph of a research consumer display that Greenpeace representative Mr. Michael Khoo had tampered with (and not simply standing "next" to as Private Eye had claimed).
3.3 In reply to my letter to the editor I was contacted by Private Eye employee Ms. Heather Mills. Ms. Mills is the author of Private Eye's now infamous and widely condemned 2002 anti-MMR vaccine Private Eye article. Ms Mills is well known in scientific circles for the fact she carried out a "long-running campaign against MMR" (Brian Deer, 2002) and has had her "journalistic responsibility" called into question (Elliman, D. and Bedford, H., British Medical Journal, 2002).
3.4 Ms. Mills surprisingly informed me that due to Private Eye's libel fears the editor was refusing to publish my letter (which has since been published elsewhere without consequence). Private Eye declined my follow up requests to identify any segments of my letter they had concerns with so I could edit my right to reply to ensure it satisfied their legal concerns. Nevertheless, I was informed by Private Eye they do not fall under the remit of the Press Complaints Council (PCC) and would not, contrary to the PCC's code of practice, be providing me a fair opportunity for reply to the inaccuracies in their first article which they has published without first putting the claims they made to the persons named. Instead, I was informed by Ms. Mills that Private Eye would be doing a second story and would I answer twelve questions. I answered the majority of the questions, included additional information and furnished a detailed explanation of how I had caught Greenpeace tamping with signs in our consumer research display. This explanation read: "When Mr. Khoo continued his actions it was decided to photograph these actions which show Mr. Khoo moving an orange sign. I would note that it took time to turn on the camera, focus it and wait for his repeated actions"
3.5 On January 11, 2008, based on a blatant lie made in a privileged Early Day Motion by Mr. Michael Meacher M.P., Private Eye published their second article which I consider to be as equally defamatory as their first. It contained none of the information I had provided in response to Ms. Mills' original twelve questions, ignored the photographic evidence provided and allowed Mr. Michael Khoo to lie. This left me in a situation to either enter an expensive and time consuming court action against Private Eye or ignore their one side biased articles. Due to the fact that I am not independently wealthy, had just had my first child and as a public servant I was not in a position to accept third party support for legal expenses, I was left with no choice but to let the matter rest.
3.6 As matter of record the research in question by has not been found to be fraudulent by the publishers and the award the research received for the research still remains.
4. Thank you for the opportunity to submit my evidence and I look forward to the outcomes of your work which I hope will prevent "rich and powerful" "generous readers" from bank rolling a "chill effect" against those members of the public wishing to counter inaccurate and damaging claims by certain publications in manner that will not risk their livelihoods.
Brian Deer, 2002 - http:/briandeer.com/wakefield/private-eye.htm .
Elliman, D. and Bedford, H. Press: Private Eye Special Report on MMR, BMJ 2002;324:1224, doi: 10.1136/bmj.324.7347.1224
Letter to Private Eye
The questionable modus operandi of Private Eye relating to your "Corn fakes" article ensured there was no attempt to contact the actual researchers to ask for evidence, or, heaven forbid, getting a response to what was proposed to be publish. Yet strangely, paid anti-GM activists where contacted even in Canada.
On Sept 27, 2000 it was discovered that a Greenpeace representative was tampering with a consumer research experiment by moving signs and taking photographs. Smelling a rat but not wanting to cause a scene by intervening (as Greenpeace does love causing a scene) researchers photographed this activity assuming there would be attempts to suggest the research signs where misleading.
years later this is what occurred. Now after certain anti-GM food groups were
forced to remove their claims of "fraud" on their websites they are still
trying to sell a false bill of goods by claiming the tampered signs showed the
The very same computer scientist Private Eye cites ignored the fact the picture in question clearly shows Greenpeace interfering with a sign. Furthermore he has previously written "it's conceivable, I guess, that other words were written on the sign". But this is all irrelevant as the picture clearly shows Greenpeace removing the replacement sign.
selling the falsehoods in your article is Rod MacCrae, who is a well known
Greenpeace Canada consultant who has earned thousands of dollars from
Greenpeace over the years. MacCrae also ignores the Greenpeace sign tampering;
even when the Greenpeace representative caught tampering with the signs has
strangely admitted he "couldn't remember seeing the signs".
However, Dr. Richard Jennings from Cambridge University claims the peer-reviewed awarding winning corn research is in fact "fraud, as far as I see it." However what he refuses to 'see' is a clear case of experimental tampering and subsequent spin by anti-GM groups. In fact we question if Dr. Jennings has even read the research in the British Food Journal as the paper clearly states: "The labels on the produce bins may have influenced consumers to buy". Furthermore, Dr. Jennings has never contacted the researchers in question for clarification but prefers to unethically run straight to the media.