A weekly newspaper has been cleared of “inflammatory” reporting over its coverage of a village protest against a travellers’ encampment.
The Essex Chronicle reported in July that a group of travellers had arrived in the village of Great Notley, near Braintree, and occupied a park.
The newspaper also reported that as a result of protests by villagers, paramedics had been unable to access the site in order to treat a sick traveller baby.
But the press watchdog rejected claims by one of the residents involved in the protest that the paper’s coverage had heightened the tensions between the two sides.
Simon Kerrell, who himself had used two of his cars to prevent travellers accessing the park, complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation under Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.
He said that the article was not balanced in its reporting of the incident, that it was inflammatory and that it aimed to heighten tensions between local residents and the travellers.
The newspaper had reported that the father of the sick child had heard one of the protesters call his daughter “scum.”
However Mr Kerrell claimed there was no evidence of this, or even that the child existed.
In response, the newspaper said that the article was a fair and accurate report of the incident based on the information it had received.
In addition to the statement from Essex Police, it said the East of England Ambulance Service provided it with a statement confirming that it received a call in relation to a young child with breathing difficulties, and that it had been told the word “scum” had been used by a direct witness.
In its ruling, IPSO said it was not significantly misleading to report that the villagers had delayed paramedics seeing the child concerned.
“The newspaper was entitled to refer to the residents’ decision to obstruct the entrance to the park as a “protest”, where it was motivated by an objection to further travellers accessing the site.” it said.
“In relation to the father’s claim that his daughter had been called “scum”, this was clearly presented as the father’s account of the incident, and the complainant’s position that this claim could not be corroborated did not provide grounds for finding that this aspect of the article was significantly misleading.
“The complainant’s concern that the article was inflammatory did not engage the terms of Clause 12.”