The co-director of a Bristol-based magazine publisher has accused the Daily Telegraph of exploiting his criminal past to “attack” and “undermine”press regulator Impress.
Steve McNought (pictured), co-director of Arkbound, has said he is considering legal action after a story headlined: “Armed robber turned publisher wins approval from state-approved Press regulator funded by Max Mosley”, was published on the paper’s website earlier this week.
The story details how McNought, formerly known as Stephen Jackley, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to 18 offences, including armed robbery and possession of a firearm, carried out in 2007/8 and that his publishing firm is signed up to Impress.
McNought, who was 23 when charged, told Press Gazette the article was “an attack on Impress”, adding: “The Telegraph had a political bone to pick with Impress, and I was an easy target.”
Impress became the first Royal Charter-backed press regulator in Britain last year after its application was approved by the Press Recognition Panel, which was set up following recommendations made in the Leveson report.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), which regulates the majority of UK news media publishers, has so far refused to apply for recognition under the Charter.
McNought, whose firm publishes Boundless magazine, told the Shooting The Messenger blog: “The Telegraph’s coverage is a clear attempt to undermine Impress, using me as a tool to do so, in the most nasty and underhand way.”
He also claimed there were a number of factual inaccuracies in the story, but would not go into detail about what these were.
McNought was quoted in the Telegraph story, written by chief reporter Robert Mendick, as claiming the piece had infringed his privacy.
He told the paper: “I have already been chased and hounded by the British media, sections of which gave an entirely inaccurate and unfair coverage on my life, and such an article as you appear to be suggesting would represent a culmination of that, causing untold damage and loss.”
Speaking to Press Gazette, McNought added: “Is it ‘right’ for someone with a criminal background to be a journalist and editor of publications? There are arguments for and against.
“Ultimately, it boils down to individual circumstances, and I would argue that someone who has made proven efforts to turn their life around, who is trying to contribute to society, should not be excluded and demonised for the rest of their life.
“Fortunately, I can think of several examples where ex-offenders have gone on to become successful journalists, often working for respected national publications. But the Telegraph had a political bone to pick with Impress, and I was an easy target.”
Asked if he had complained to IPSO about the story, McNought said: “A complaint was issued to the Telegraph giving detailed reference of breaches of the Editors’ Code of Conduct.
“The Telegraph only acknowledged one section of the Code, despite three others being engaged. Their response to that one section (inaccuracy) was simply to deny there were no serious inaccuracies.”