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15 May 2018

Media Behaviour After Manchester Tragedy Was ‘Exceptional’ in Contrast With Kerslake Report Findings, Lords Hear  

According to police, the media had been “exceptional” and treated those affected by the Manchester Arena bombing with the utmost respect, in contrast with the allegations about media behaviour in the Kerslake Review, members of the House of Lords heard yesterday.

In a debate on the Data Protection Bill, peers heard that only one complaint had been made to IPSO in the wake of the tragedy and that, in the view of a senior press officer from Greater Manchester Police, the media had been exceptional and had treated everyone involved with the utmost respect.

Lord Keen of Elie said: “Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, to the Manchester Arena review. I appreciate his direct involvement in that, and of course we recognise that for the victims and their families, dealing with the media at such a time can be very distressing. In fact, the Government have recently published guidance for victims and their families on handling media attention in the aftermath of similar events, but diverse reports with regard to the media have come out of that.

“As the noble Lord observed, only one complaint was made to IPSO regarding the conduct of the regulated media at Manchester, and on 24 April 2018 at a meeting of the National Police Chiefs' Council on media engagement, the senior press officer at Greater Manchester Police observed that after the Manchester Arena bombing, the media had been exceptional and had treated everyone involved with the utmost respect.

“In her view, the only qualification was in respect of certain international outlets and social media which had caused families problems. There are clearly diverse views.”

News Media Association chairman David Dinsmore wrote to Lord Kerslake on 4 April seeking a meeting with him to discuss the concerns raised in his report. In the letter, Mr Dinsmore noted that it was unclear whether the complaints were about behaviour by the UK press, or broadcasters, social media or international media and called for evidence of the allegations.

Speaking in the debate, Lord Kerslake said that the terms of reference of the review did not mention looking into the behaviour of the press but that contributions of those affected by the tragedy had included mostly negative comments about media behaviour. 

Lord Kerslake said: "It is important to say that a number of families spoke in praise of the sympathetic reporting, particularly by the Manchester Evening News, but also by other papers local to the bereaved." 

He added: “The report does not name individual publications or news channels. This is because neither we nor the families concerned where in a position to confirm, when a journalist said they were from a particular publication, that this was indeed the case. Nor have there been many individual complaints to IPSO.

“The level of trauma experienced by these families, which they were still living with when I met them, meant that even if they were aware of the opportunity to complain to IPSO, the reality is that that was very unlikely to happen. Their focus, quite rightly, was not on press intrusion but on coping with family tragedy — something that consumes most if not all of the time and energy available to them. But I am in no doubt that a number of journalists, albeit a minority, behaved very badly towards these very vulnerable families and it is highly unlikely that they were all from foreign media.”