Press Watchdog Raps Blogger Over Accuracy

Britain’s media watchdog on Tuesday upheld a complaint against a blog written by a journalist in what was its first-ever move to censure a newspaper or magazine over comments by a blogger. 

It is the first time a journalist has been called to account by the Press Complaints Commission over the accuracy of comments made in a blog. Former BBC journalist and commentator Rod Liddle was censured over a blog in which he said that young Afro-Caribbean men carried out the “overwhelming majority” of violent crime in London. The Press Complaints Commission, which oversees editorial content of newspaper and magazines, upheld a complaint about Liddle’s blog which was published in December on the website of right-wing weekly magazine The Spectator.

“This is a significant ruling because it shows that the PCC expects the same standards in newspaper and magazine blogs that it would expect in comment pieces that appear in print editions,” said the watchdog’s boss Stephen Abell.

“There is plenty of room for robust opinions, views and commentary, but statements of fact must still be substantiated if and when they are disputed,” he added.

In the offending comments, Liddle claimed that “the overwhelming majority of street crime, knife crime, gun crime, robbery and crimes of sexual violence in London is carried out by young men from the African-Caribbean community”.

Liddle, a former editor of the BBC’s flagship Radio 4 news programme “Today”, is known for his provocative comments in print publications including The Spectator and The Sunday Times. The PCC said the article breached the Editors’ Code of Practice in terms of accuracy — and rejected The Spectator’s argument that allowing users to comment on Liddle’s blog was sufficient censure.

“A number of readers had taken issue with Mr. Liddle’s claim and had commented on the blog,” said a PCC spokesman.

“However, the commission did not agree that the magazine could rely on publishing critical reaction as a way of abrogating its responsibilities under the code.”

The PCC said the magazine was required to publish an authoritative correction online.

AFP

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