As pressure to identify the UK-based trans man revealed by press at the weekend to have had a child, Trans Media Watch today stepped into the fray with a sharp warning to the tabloid press to back off – and to respect the rights of the individuals concerned.
This follows reports that a number of journalists from The Sun have been persistently contacting trans groups and well-known trans people over the last 24 hours in an attempt to uncover details of the individuals involved. In addition, the story appearing in the Sun yesterday was accompanied by a hotline number for individuals to call if they knew the identity of the trans man in question.
Writing today to Charlotte Dewar, Head of Complaints & Pre-publication Services for the Press Complaints Commission, Helen Belcher, Trans Media Watch Treasurer said:
“This is hugely concerning.
“In front of Lord Justice Leveson last Wednesday afternoon I quoted from both the Editors Code and a press release from May 2005 that stated that gender reassignment was to be treated as a protected characteristic.”
Rejecting claims made by Dominic Mohan Editor of the Sun, that his newspaper deals with trans issues far better these days, Ms Belcher added that the current actions of their journalists indicate a complete lack of compliance with the PCC code. She went on:
“Section 3 states that “everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence.” The issue here is one of private and family life as well as health.
“Section 4 states that “journalists must not engage in intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit”. What I am hearing is that the journalists from The Sun are doing exactly that.
“Section 6 protects children and states “editors must not use the fame, notoriety or position of a parent or guardian as sole justification for publishing details of a child’s private life”. This is exactly the basis for publishing details around the story – and therefore is a prima facie case of The Sun breaching the code.
“Section 12 states that “the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disabiliy” – something that was expanded in 2005 to make specific reference to “gender identity”. The sole purpose of pursuing this story throughout the British press at the moment is to induce a state of shock around the specific instances of this case – which is solely down to someone’s gender identity.”
Ms Belcher ends by asking the PCC to make it clear to journalists and editors of all papers that pursuing this story involves a severe breach of a number of points of the Editors Code. Since the press have claimed, before the Leveson Inquiry that they have mended their ways over trans issues, they have no reason to pursue this story any further.
Ms Dewar responded positively agreeing to pass on Ms Belcher’s concerns to editors at the Sun and other publications as necessary, and to assist any individuals being pursued by journalists in this fashion if they wished to raise specific points about the nature of such contact.
She also indicated her willingness to contact the Beaumont Society, who appear to have placed the matter in the public domain, in order to offer their support.
In separate developments tonight, Trans Media Watch also expressed concern over the actions of the Daily Telegraph in pursuing this story. The possibility was also raised of asking for leave from Lord Leveson to return to his inquiry to provide further evidence on press conduct in respect of this matter since the weekend.
A spokesperson for the Sun indicated that they would look into the matter immediately.
If the individual concerned has any indication that they are being stalked by journalists or have had their identity revealed to the press, they should not hesitate to call the PCC 24 Hour emergency advice line: 07659 152656. This applies to anyone who believes they have become the focus of press attention in a manner that breaches the Editors’ Code of Practice.
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