Friday, 23 December 2011

Guardian 'regret' over Milly Dowler hacking story

The Guardian, in an editorial today, says it regrets that four additional words were missing from its original story (top) claiming that News of the World journalists had deleted the voicemails on Milly Dowler's phone that gave her family false hope that she was alive.

The editorial says: "That the Leveson inquiry has not been more full of surprises hitherto is down to the fact that there was such thorough and accurate reporting of the story in advance and from numerous civil court actions. Doubt has lately been raised about one key aspect of one story – whether News of the World journalists deleted the voice messages that gave Milly Dowler's parents false hope that their daughter might still be alive.

"We should have qualified our original reporting with an additional four words: "Reliable sources claim that." This would have been an accurate statement of the unchallenged position at the time, as opposed to the assertion of a fact that has, five months later, been questioned, if not actually disproved or denied. We doubt whether the inclusion of those words would have changed much. But not to have qualified the statement in this way was an error that we regret."

The editorial also says: "Now that Leveson is in full swing there are two mistakes the press can make. One is denial: that merely exacerbates the threat. An industry which can't see that something went seriously wrong self-evidently can't be trusted with self-regulation. The second mistake is to see Leveson merely as a threat rather than an opportunity. Of course, all journalists are anxious about restrictions that might hinder work which is genuinely in the public interest. But the judge has repeatedly said he is looking for constructive solutions and has no wish to restrict a free press. There may be a historic chance to address some of the hindrances and obstacles which genuinely do chill the press in this country. But that can only be done on the front foot – not from a defensive crouch."

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