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Dacre defends media coverage of Bridgend suicides

Paul Dacre has defended media coverage of the Bridgend suicides in his first report as chairman of the PCC’s Code Committee.

The Daily Mail editor said coverage of the South Wales deaths rightly sparked much public debate but that much of the criticism was directed at foreign news organisations.

He said: “The media coverage of the appalling series of suicides in south Wales raised issues far beyond the Editors’ Code and quite properly they became the subject of some debate.

“This is the most contentious of areas where editors are faced with hugely difficult challenges in balancing the public’s right to know against the due sensitivity needed in handling individual cases.

“While there was criticism in some quarters, the evidence so far is that the Code, whose rules covering suicide reporting were (following consultations with the Samaritans) amended in 2006, performed well and that many of the complaints were directed at foreign news organisations and broadcasters.

“Nonetheless, this is an issue that must be further considered in the light of the PCC’s review of the Bridgend experience which is still ongoing.”

Mr Dacre took over from Les Hinton, former executive chairman of News International, who held the position for nine years.

In his report, he also discussed the behaviour of the paparazzi, saying the industry needed to be vigilant over public concerns.

“The long-delayed inquest on Diana Princess of Wales, in bringing the subject to the fore again, was also a reminder of how much the industry has changed in the decade since her death,” he said.

“The ‘desist’ rules are now followed not only by print journalists but also by broadcasters which must be judged a success for the PCC.”

Other subjects covered included the proposed threat of prison for journalists deemed to have breached the Data Protection Act during the course of investigations.

He said such sentences would have meant Britain becoming “one of the only countries in the civilised world to jail journalists trying to do their job”.

The Government was persuaded to not impose the law and let the PCC demonstrate how it could prevent further data protection breaches.