Hacked Off and leading advocates for victims of domestic violence have written to Home, Culture and Women & Equalities Secretaries Priti Patel, Oliver Dowden and Elizabeth Truss to demand action from the Government to address unethical and dangerous reporting of domestic abuse through Leveson-style regulation.
Signatories include Justice for Women, White Ribbon UK, David Challen (son of Sally), and campaigners Luke and Ryan Hart.
The letter follows the frontpages of The Sun and the Daily Mail newspapers on Friday, which trivialised domestic violence and gave voice to a remorseless abuser. Campaigners have long argued that unethical reporting of domestic abuse puts more women at risk. Cases of domestic abuse are reportedly on the rise.
The letter calls for urgent introduction of independent regulatory measures to protect the public from coverage which endangers women in this way, as recommended in the Leveson Report.
Luke and Ryan Hart, signatories to the letter who have campaigned for reform since their mother and sister were the victims of domestic violence, said,
“In 2016, our father shot and killed our Mum, Claire, and 19-year-old sister, Charlotte, with a shotgun before killing himself, just days after we’d escaped from him following decades of struggle. After the murders, we witnessed a commentary by the public and media that described our father as a ‘nice guy’ who was ‘always caring’ and ‘good at DIY’. One report even stated that the murder of our sister and mother was ‘understandable’. In every report, there was speculation that the prospect of divorce ‘drove’ our father to murder. Mum and Charlotte were held accountable for their own murders while our father got all the sympathy – it became very clear to us that our society considers men’s feelings vastly more important than women’s lives.
“We have worked hard with the media and with charities such as Level Up in an attempt to assist the media with responsible reporting around domestic abuse. However, Friday’s reports, in which the man who chose to abuse JK Rowling was given control over the narrative to justify his abuse, are deeply worrying. Women are routinely silenced in our society and particularly those who have suffered male violence. Yet, men who commit violence against women are given every opportunity to explain away their actions – even in our cases with murderous violence.”
Hacked Off Boardmember and journalist Emma Jones said,
“The toxic headlines in The Sun and Mail, giving voice to a domestic abuser, are dangerous and highly irresponsible and place vulnerable women in danger.
At the height of a domestic abuse crisis, precipitated by a pandemic which has placed women’s lives at risk, these newspapers choose an inflammatory article which bears no relevance to responsible public interest reporting.”
“There must be robust action in the form of independent regulatory measures so that we can protect the public from this type of invasive and abusive reporting.
Every news story about domestic abuse is an opportunity lost to save a life – guidelines were issued last year and campaigners were assured that the industry was listening, these frontpages were published against a backdrop of stories that have consistently flouted the advice given in the guidelines. IPSO and the papers it purports to ‘regulate’ have made clear that guidelines will do nothing to stop irresponsible and dangerous reporting on domestic abuse. That is why we have issued this letter calling for robust and immediate measures to be implemented so that we can combat domestic abuse rather than amplify it.”
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Text of the letter:
Dear Secretaries of State,
The coverage of JK Rowling’s domestic abuse on the frontpages of The Sun and The Daily Mail on Friday was dangerous and intrusive.
Trivialising incidents of domestic abuse puts other women in danger.
Giving a front-page platform to the perpetrator of such abuse, particularly one who had shown no contrition or remorse for his actions, allowed his degrading and misogynistic views to be broadcast to millions of people.
We call on the Government to take action to address this type of reporting. It cannot be right that, instead of being independently regulated, The Sun and The Daily Mail are able to remain members of an industry-controlled complaints-handler (“IPSO”) which allows the press to mark its own homework.
IPSO, and the newspaper Editors which write the standards code it purports to enforce, have been repeatedly urged to adopt standards on domestic violence reporting. They have refused, and women’s lives have been endangered as a result.
It is time the Government introduced independent regulatory measures to protect the public from coverage which endangers women in this way, as recommended in the Leveson Report.
The Hacked Off Campaign
Luke Hart, domestic violence campaigner
Ryan Hart, domestic violence campaigner
Chayn, gender-based violence resource
Dr Charlotte Proudman, Barrister and domestic violence campaigner
Justice for Women, advocates for the rights of women affected by domestic violence
David Challen, son of Sally Challen and campaigner for the rights of women affected by domestic abuse
Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and activist
Peter Lassey, Chair, White Ribbon UK, campaign to end male violence
Tricia Bernal, victim of press intrusion and anti-stalking campaigner