McNulty slams press over asylum coverage

By Pearl Thevanayagam

Immigration minister Tony McNulty has condemned the Press Complaints
Commission as ineffective, and said journalists “haven’t got a clue
what they’re talking about” when it comes to asylum.

He also condemned coverage of asylum issues in the Daily Mail and Daily Express.

McNulty’s
department has been at the centre of controversy following a landmark
legal case that overturned a Government bid to send an asylum seeker
back to Zimbabwe. The asylum tribunal criticised the Government for
lack of research into conditions in Zimbabwe.

Talking to Press
Gazette and pressure group MediaWise, McNulty (pictured)n described
coverage of asylum issues in the British press, particularly around the
latest election, as “dreadful”.

And he condemned the Press
Complaints Commission, saying: “If PCC guidance worked then we would
not have all the rubbish we see in the media regarding refugees and
asylum seekers.

“If the PCC was effective the excruciating
coverage and nonsense from some in terms of the right-wing press during
the election would not have been possible.”

He said that since
becoming immigration minister he felt people had become “sick” of
negative coverage of asylum and immigration and the “nastiness” of the Conservatives.

“There
was almost a kind of hangover too from the Tories once the elections
were out of the way. You look at some of the leaflets put out at
locallevel – I am quite certain the press followed in that way.
Obviously the Mail and the Express and that side… more than The
Guardian and The Independent.”

Last week the Exiled Journalists Network was set up to help some 150 exiled media workers living in the UK.

But
despite the risks journalists often take working in oppressive regimes,
McNulty said he was “not aware of any specific difficulties journalists
face which are not encountered by other asylum seekers”.Exiled
journalists have complained to MediaWise that their asylum claims were
rejected due to poor legal representation.

While not denying the
complaints, McNulty said: “The Legal Services Commission is doing all
it can to ensure that enough and high-quality legal aid is available.”

The
Exiled Journalists Network was set up with the help of MediaWise and
aims to improve media coverage of refugee and asylum issues.

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