PCC rejects Government gag bid on terror story

By Dominic Ponsford

The Press Complaints Commission has rejected a complaint from the
Government about Sunday Express coverage of a civil defence “shambles”.

After receiving a leaked Government document the paper made a series
of allegations in September, including a revelation that it would take
up to 13 hours to remove just a million people from London by train in
the event of a forced evacuation.

The Office of the Deputy Prime
Minister responded by asking the Sunday Express to print a letter of
complaint which the paper said was “riddled with inaccuracies”.

The
Sunday Express refused to print the letter and published a second
article accusing the Government of trying to gag the press.

In an
unusual move for a Government department, the ODPM lodged official
complaints to the Press Complaints Commission. It cited that the
articles had breached clause 1(accuracy)n and clause 3 (right of reply).

Rejecting
the complaint outright, the PCC has told the Sunday Express: “The
commission did not consider that the complaint had established any
points of significant factual inaccuracy.

“The newspaper clearly
felt that the government’s response to the publication of its report
amounted to a bid to silence it on the subject. It was entitled to
publish this view.” Sunday Express deputy political editor Tim Shipman
said in a comment piece on the subject: “Caught with its trousers down
the government preferred to bully and threaten the messenger rather
than do anything about the gaps in its preparation.”

Later, he
told Press Gazette that all the facts in the original story were taken
from a leaked official document to the newspaper.

He said: “They
didn’t try to serve an injunction on us, or anything like that and at
no point did they put forward a convincing argument that what we said
was wrong.

“We are delighted that the PCC have shown some common sense in ruling that what we wrote was accurate.”

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