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Media critic backs WDP in hunting letters row

Guardian media critic Roy Greenslade has spoken out about the row between the Western Daily Press and the Countryside Alliance.

The Countryside Alliance’s head of media relations Tim Bonner has made a formal complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about a reader’s letter, which he claims contained “inaccurate and offensive material”.

The row between the two sides blew up over publication of the letter – against hunting – in the WDP, which claimed the Alliance’s PCC complaint appeared “wholly unjustified”.

But Mr Greenslade, who is supporter of hunting, wrote in The Guardian: “Has the Countryside Alliance taken leave of its senses?

“The Alliance pair [Mr Bonner and chief executive Simon Hart] obviously believe they have a good case, having sent me their correspondence, but I just can’t fathom what they are complaining about. Comment is comment, after all.

“As a supporter of hunting myself, which I mention only to ensure they do not accuse me of bias, I think they are doing a disservice with this trivial action.”

With a ruling from the PCC imminent, WDP editor Terry Manners said: “In my view we have not broken the Code of Practice, we abide by it.

“Lord Rothermere expects all his editors to abide by it and if the PCC finds that we have broken the Code of Practice then, of course, I will apologise.

“I think in my heart of hearts that if we lose, which I hope not, there will be a big question over comment pages in the press generally.

“Comment is comment – a newspaper is not doing its job unless it airs readers’ comment and that is quite different from a news story.”

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