Sunday Times writer AA Gill has been cleared of discrimination by the Press Complaints Commission over an article in which he branded Albanians “short and ferret-faced, with the unisex stumpy, slightly bowed legs of Shetland ponies”.
The feature, in the Sunday Times magazine on 23 July, was headlined: “The land that time forgot” and also described the country as "a Ruritania of brigands and vendettas".
A Mr Lavdrim Terziu from London compained that the article was inaccurate (clause one of the Editors’ Code) and discriminatory (clause 12).
Terziu said the article was inaccurate and offensive. And he claimed that unfounded claims made by Gill included: that Albanians ran most of the illegal arms trade in Europe, had taken over crime in Milan; that all of the cars on the roads of Tirana were stolen from Germany or Italy and that the biggest single industry in Albania was money-laundering.
The newspaper argued that the article had referred to undisputed incidents in Albania’s history in detail.
In rejecting the complaint, the PCC said: “The Code of Practice allows journalists the freedom to write robust and provocative pieces with which many people may disagree. However, it also requires comment to be distinguished from fact.
“In this case, the complainant objected to a number of statements about Albania, many of which constituted the journalist’s own view of the country which were formed during a visit there. He was entitled to take a negative view of the place and to share it with the newspaper’s readers, who would have been aware from the manner in which it was presented that the article represented his own subjective position rather than an indisputable statement of fact.
“Other statements were challenged on the basis of their accuracy, but the Commission was satisfied that the newspaper had demonstrated that the journalist had sufficient grounds on which to base his observations and conclusions about the country.”
Press Gazette 3 August, 2006: Gill in new racism row over ‘ferret-faced’ Albanians jibe