Western Daily Press editor Terry Manners has called for the resignations of the chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, Simon Hart, and its head of media relations, Tim Bonner, after a long-running dispute came to a head.
The row has led to the Alliance complaining to the Press Complaints Commission over a reader’s letter which appeared in the WDP, condemning deer hunting.
The letter, headlined ‘Hooligans on horses’, criticised the Countryside Alliance. Bonner complained to the PCC and asked for a public apology to be printed for what he claimed was “inaccurate and offensive material from a correspondent”.
Following the complaint, the WDP printed a letter from Hart, but added a editor’s note stating: “The writer of ‘Hooligans on horses’ is entitled to his opinion, the same as you.
“The Daily Press is a forum for all views: No apology is necessary or will be given.”
The Countryside Alliance then made a second complaint to the PCC, again over accuracy, and asked for a printed apology, as well as an assurance that certain claims in letters from people against hunting will never recur.
Terry Manners said: “We are not a Baltic state and are entitled to freedom of speech. Comment is comment, and the opinions expressed were clearly separated from news, placed in the letters page and titled ‘Your Say’. WDP is neither pro nor anti hunting – we draw a straight line. Some claims made are already in the public domain. I cannot say whether they are right or wrong.
“We live by the Code of Practice and will certainly apologise if the PCC rules against us. My message to Tim Bonner and Simon Hart is to quit.”
The PCC has not yet come to any conclusion.