Express staff call in PCC over anti-gypsy articles

Express: chapels condemned 'racist' splashes

Daily Express journalists who feel they are "coming under pressure to write anti-gypsy articles" are raising the matter with the Press Complaints Commission.

The Express Newspapers NUJ chapel has passed a resolution condemning "racist" articles which appeared in the paper last week.

On Tuesday, a front-page report about the EU's expansion to include 10 new members from May carried the subhead: "1.6 million gypsies set to flood in." The paper also ran a telephone poll asking the question: "Should we let gypsies invade Britain?" On Thursday, the front-page story said: "A massive invasion of povertystricken gypsies from Eastern Europe could lead to economic disaster, ministers fear."

A meeting of the Express chapel, attended by about 70 staff on Friday, passed the following motion: "This chapel is concerned that Express journalists are coming under pressure to write anti-gypsy articles. We call for a letter to be sent to the Press Complaints Commission reminding it of the need to protect journalists who are unwilling to write racist articles which are contrary to the National Union of Journalists' code of conduct."

Peter Hill, who took over as editor of the Daily Express in December, has been a member of the PCC since October.

A journalist who asked not to be named said: "There's a feeling of resentment that people are being pressured into writing articles which they believe to be racist and inflamatory."

They believed pressure to write the contentious articles was coming from proprietor Richard Desmond.

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: "We are concerned because we think that some of the reporting is inaccurate at worst and, at best, sensationalist. Our second concern is that individual journalists are being pressured into writing material that they feel may be in breach of professional codes - whether it's the PCC editors' code or the NUJ code of conduct.

"We feel that individuals should have a right to refuse to write material which is in breach of those codes."

In August 2001 Express journalists passed a motion "expressing disapproval at the sustained campaign against asylum seekers in pursuit of circulation". In June 2003 a report from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee recommended that greater protection be provided for journalists who refuse unethical assignments.

Daily Express editor Hill was unavailable for comment.

By Dominic Ponsford

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