The sacking of Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan has been held up as proof that the newspaper industry can regulate itself.
Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell said: “Anyone who thinks self-regulation of the press doesn’t work should look at this because it’s in sharp contrast with what happens with politicians.”
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The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment is yet to complain to the Press Complaints Commission about the Iraq torture pictures affair. But the paper could face a PCC i n v e s t i g a t i o n under clause 1 of the Editors’ Code, which relates to accuracy, clause 15 (payments to witnesses) and clause 16 (payments to criminals).
The Mirror could have fallen foul of clauses 15 and 16 of the code because its sources may have been involved in torture themselves.
However, the paper would have a public interest defence.
A PCC spokesman said: “It’s something we can’t deal with in any way until the MoD investigation is completed.
We don’t deal with any complaints in regard to which there’s an ongoing inquiry.”
If the Mirror is found to have breached the Editors’ Code of Practice it would have to print an apology and possible rebuke “in full and with due prominence”.
Potential libel payouts could top £100,000 each for Queen’s Lancashire Regiment soldiers, according to Niri Shan of law firm Taylor Wessing.
But he said any libel case would centre on the issue of identification and the size of the group potentially defamed by the pictures. He said that if the number of members of the regiment potentially implicated by the torture pictures was 50 or less, they could have a case.
Morgan has maintained his silence since leaving Canary Wharf on Friday night after being sacked by the board.
Perhaps he is keen not to prejudice a severance payout, which reportedly could exceed £1m.
For more than two weeks after first publishing the torture pictures on 1 May under the headline “VILE”, Morgan doggedly maintained that they were genuine. Rival newspapers and military sources suggested the pictures were too clear and looked staged, and pointed to discrepancies in the equipment shown.
On Thursday afternoon, armed forces minister Adam Ingram said the photos were not taken in Iraq.
But that evening the Mirror was still sticking to its guns, issuing a statement bearing Morgan’s name which said: “We have listened to what Mr Ingram has said today, but he has still not produced incontrovertible evidence that the pictures are faked.”
On Friday morning, Morgan told reporters outside his London flat: “All I want to say is we published the truth.”
But that afternoon, former members of the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment said at a press conference that the truck shown in the Mirror torture pictures had been identified by the MoD and had never been to Iraq.
Former regimental commander Colonel David Black said: “It is time the ego of one editor is measured against the life of a soldier.”
The Royal Military Police’s Special Investigations Bureau has yet to make a statement about its inquiry into the pictures. But Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey had evidently seen enough evidence to sack Morgan.
Sources inside Trinity Mirror denied that pressure from institutional shareholders had tipped the balance against Morgan.
They said there had been a small number of calls seeking information but it was ultimately a business decision motivated by the fact that the Mirror was being damaged by the faked pictures.
In its Saturday edition, the Mirror admitted it had been caught out by “a calculated and malicious hoax”.
One journalist who did not mourn Morgan’s passing was former Daily Mirror City Slicker columnist James Hipwell, who was sacked along with Anil Bhoyrul four years ago in the row over journalist share dealing, which nearly cost Morgan his job.
Hipwell said: “Schadenfreude has defined my sense of humour and what has happened to him happened to us four years ago. Many people think that should have happened to him at the time.”
IN THE WORDS OF THE RIVALS: HOW OTHERS SAW HIM
“He was the greatest of rivals and a truly unique character.”
Rebekah Wade The Sun
“I’m personally sorry because I am a friend of Piers. Whenever he edited a newspaper, it was full of energy and imagination.”
Dominic Lawson The Sunday Telegraph
“It would have strengthened the credibility of the original story, not weakened it, if the paper had put its hands up to the bit it couldn’t defend.”
Alan Rusbridger The Guardian
By Dominic Ponsford