The Press Complaints Commission has ruled that the Daily Mail was not in breach of clause 12 (discrimination) with a diary piece that described blogger and aspiring Conservative candidate Iain Dale ‘overtly gay’. Commenting on Dale’s bid for the parliamentary constituency of Bracknell, the piece said it was ‘charming how homosexuals rally like-minded chaps to their cause’. Dale lodged a complaint, claiming that the references were pejorative and the article homophobic, the PCC noted.
Today the PCC reported:
“The Commission could understand why the complainant found the comments to be snide and objectionable. However, it did not rule that there had been a breach of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Code. It noted that the item had used no pejorative term for the complainant, nor had it ‘outed’ him. In the Commission’s view, the piece was uncharitable, but – in the context of a diary column, known to poke fun at public figures – was not an arbitrary attack on him on the basis of his sexuality.
“The Commission said that: ‘where it is debatable – as in this case – about whether remarks can be regarded solely as pejorative and gratuitous, the Commission should be slow to restrict the right to express an opinion, however snippy it might be. While people may occasionally be insulted or upset by what is said about them in newspapers, the right to freedom of expression that journalists enjoy also includes the right – within the law – to give offence.'”
In the wake of the Jan Moir episode at the end of last month, a petition to Gordon Brown was launched, questioning the impartiality of the PCC and calling for its replacement by a public body. The PCC’s deputy director (and soon-to-be director) Stephen Abell subsequently defended the position of Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, as head of its code committee.