EDF written evidence to JCHR inquiry into the treatment of Asylum seekers

The Joint Committee on Human Rights published written evidence from the EDF as part of its 2007 report into the treatment of Asylum Seekers. The EDF’s submission focused on the impact of inflammatory press reporting, particularly for Muslim, Gypsies and travellers, and refugee and asylum-seeker communities.

On 30 March 2007 the JCHR published its Tenth Report of Session 2006-07 on The Treatment of Asylum Seekers. The report recognizes that EDF wrote to the Press Complaints Commission in 2005 to ask that it consider ‘the potential to address inflammatory reporting through the Code’, stating that Clauses 1 and 12 had apparently ‘not proved sufficient to prevent the kind of reporting we have seen for instance of Gypsies, Muslims or refugees’. It recognizes that EDF wrote again in February 2006, suggesting that the word ‘exaggerated’ be added to Clause 1 (Accuracy) and proposing an additional clause in the Code: ‘The press must avoid gratuitous pejorative reference to an ethnic or faith community or other section of society, where that reference is likely to generate an atmosphere of fear and hostility not justified by the facts.’ The CRE submitted a similar supporting suggestion for amendments; however, both proposals were rejected by the PCC Code Committee.

The JCHR report expresses concerns about the negative impact of hostile reporting and in particular the effects that it can have on individual asylum seekers and the potential it has to influence the decision making of officials and Government policy. A relevant recommendation of this report is that the Press Complaints Commission should reconsider its position with a view to providing practical guidance on how the profession of journalism should comply with its duties and responsibilities in reporting matters of legitimate public interest and concern, without unduly restriction of freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

Click here to read the full report and recommendations