Enquête sur les critères de la presse, l'intrusion dans la vie privée et la diffamation (1)
Auditions de Gerald MC, Clarence Mitchell et Adam Tudor - 10.03.2009
Q170 Ch. : Your impression was that the newspapers wanted to go on reporting stories about Madeleine's disappearance and, if there were no new facts to report, they started to resort to making up things?
Q171 Ch. : Did you feel that once that point had been reached the majority of press coverage then become negative and unhelpful to you or were there specific worst offenders?
Q172 Ch. : Do you believe that in the majority of cases the negative stories that appeared were completely fabricated or were there some people in the police who might have given them information which led them to write the stories they did?
Q173 Ch. : Yes.
Q174 Adrian Sanders (MP Liberal Democrat) : Are you saying that the media impeded your campaigning and the search for Madeleine?
Q175 AS : Did you feel the need to appoint media help to raise awareness through the press or did you feel the need to do that to deal with unwanted media attention?
Q176 AS : It seems to prove almost impossible when you have that level of media attention to control it. It just becomes an uncontrollable vortex.
Q177 AS : I do not think you gave that impression.
Q178 Adam Price (MP Plaid Cymru) : You mentioned a moment ago the pressures that you felt some journalists were facing in terms of having to deliver stories 24/7. Did any of the journalists that you would have met on a face to face basis ever express any sense of regret or remorse at some of the stories that they were printing or were they fairly brazen?
Q179 Nigel Evans (MP Conservative) : Do you think you got better treatment from the television news than you did from the printed press?
Q180 NE : At any time was any journalist in a face to face with you—although you just said that was rather contained—abusive to either you or Kate?
Q181 NE : Did any of them have your mobile numbers for instance and phone you at odd times or pester you all the time?
Q182 NE : Are you suggesting that some of the stuff that we read in the newspapers was fuelled by alcohol?
Q183 NE : I want to touch on the distinction, when the information that the media managed to get one way or another was useful and when it was not, which is the suggestion almost that information that could only be made available to the police—only the police would know it and yourselves—somehow got out into the media world. Do you believe therefore that this information was directly leaked to certain newspapers? Is there any suggestion—Clarence, maybe this is one for you—that any British journalists were paying the police for information that they later used which went against your best interests?
Q184 NE : In those instances where the information was true, was the source originally Portuguese newspaper and then transferred after translation into British papers or did now and again some stuff that only the police and yourselves knew get into British newspapers first?
Q185 Paul Farrelly (MP Labour) : I want to move to the PCC but before that I want to establish what the legal situation of the reporting was in Portugal. Irrespective of press standards and libel, when a potential criminal investigation is run in the UK there are laws of contempt. The Portuguese police leaking (19) is clearly reprehensible but they are not the only police force to do it. When it came to the case of the care home in Jersey recently, it went to a different level where police were making statements that could be reported with impunity but the press was not sceptical about them. We do not have this arguido category here. Often we have people helping the police with their inquiries. In Portugal were both the UK and the Portuguese press in any way breaking Portuguese laws of contempt in any of the reporting? This is perhaps one for Mr Tudor.
Q186 PF : Have you ever speculated as to how this might have developed had Madeleine disappeared in Britain and what the difference might have been in the press reporting?
Q187 PF : Have you had any sense from talking to law enforcement officers here that, had the media started on the trail that they followed leading to the completely made up and damaging stories, the police here might have stepped in and warned the media to calm it down?
Q188 PF : This brings us neatly to press standards. There has been criticism of the Press Complaints Commission that they were not proactive. They stood by and did not invoke their own inquiry. They have said in evidence to us, defending that position, that to have done so would have been an impertinence to the McCanns. Would you have felt it an impertinence to you had the Press Complaints Commission in respect of press standards been more proactive and said, "Hold on, this is not the way a responsible press behaves"?
Q189 PF : You have described some of the interaction you had with the PCC. Did you consider making an official complaint to the PCC that they were publishing stories about you on the basis of no evidence at all and indeed about Mr Murat as well whose life was also destroyed?
GMC : In terms of the defamatory stories on that specific point, we were advised that legal redress was the way to address that issue.
Q190 PF : You were advised by the PCC?
Q191 PF : Can you tell us who you had the conversation with?
Q192 PF : There was no willingness to take up the issues around you therefore as a matter of press standards?
Q193 PF : There are wider issues: your personal safety and the ability to try and find your daughter. It was much wider than libel behaviour. (24)
Q194 PF : The fact that newspaper editors, including The Daily Express Editor, Peter Hill, were on the board of the PCC at the time—what sort of view did that leave with you as to how the Press Complaints Commission operates?
Q195 PF : The newspaper industry of course is adamant that self-regulation works. I would be interested in your view of that but furthermore it has been remarked that in any other sphere of life, in any other profession, in business or in government, if something like this had happened there would have been an inquiry. Somebody, somewhere, would have launched an inquiry. We are mounting an inquiry here but we are not part of the media profession. What does th e failure of any inquiry or any toughening of a code because of what you have been through say about not only the standards of the press in this country in your view but also the role of the regulator in upholding these standards of the media?
Q196 Janet Anderson (MP Labour) : Would it be fair to say to all three of you that there is an important, valuable role for the PCC to play but it is very limited? There is a gap in all of this that needs filling. You said, Gerry, that some of this irresponsible media coverage has the potential to ruin people's lives and that is exactly what it can and does do. You also made the point—Max Mosley in front of us this morning made a similar point—about, once this has happened, the damage has been done. I wanted to ask you two things really. To what extent were you given advance warning of the kinds of stories that were going to appear? When you talk about the need for more stringent regulation, would you favour a privacy law of the kind that exists in other countries? Do you think the press would be more responsible if we had that?
Q197 JA : It would still be published?
Q198 JA : The PCC was absolutely no help in that at all?
Q199 Ch. : The PCC has told us that on 5 May, two days after Madeleine's disappearance, they contacted the British Embassy to remind them that the PCC's jurisdiction extended to journalists working overseas and also to suggest that the embassy pass on the PCC's details to you. Did that happen and did you then have any contact with the PCC?
Q200 Alan Keen (MP Labour): Did you get the impression a lot of the time that the headlines were selling newspapers and the stuff following the articles was disconnected with the headline? Was the content as well as much rubbish as the headlines that were put out to sell the papers?
Q201 AK : Have you tried to calculate roughly how much profit The Express made after deducting their costs?
Q202 AK : In the same way as the photographs of Princess Di have appeared by the hundred.
Q203 AK : Has anyone tried to calculate the profit from this to The Express alone? Has any other newspaper criticised The Express? Have there been any articles saying that The Express went too far?
Q204 AK : Should there be a law to ensure that headlines do not exaggerate what is in the body of the article? It was so bad in your case that it is hardly relevant even but it is something that happens on a daily basis in the press. Should there not be a law to ensure that the headline does not imply more than is in the actual article?
Q205 AK : Would you like us to recommend that?
Q206 AK : I asked earlier had anybody done a calculation as to what profit The Express made after the expense that you incurred. We all want freedom of expression but would it not be good for the public to be able to see what profit The Express made on that, just using The Express as one firm example? Would it not be good to know how many papers they sold and how much profit they made?
Q207 AK : It is not impossible to look at the advertising as well. That comes from numbers of copies sold. We are representing the public. We are not against the press. We agree with freedom of the press but it is our job to try to get the balance right. We are representing our constituents and it is an information age we are in. Would it not be good to get that information from the press so we can all see it?
Q208 AK : I believe the owner of The Express is closely tied in with what is put into the newspapers but if you take the press in general do you think the owners, the people who collect the profit at the end—it might be a holding company or a conglomerate which has broadcasting, news printing and all sorts—the people on that top board who are at arm's length all the time from the newspapers that are printed should somehow have to carry some responsibility rather than staying at arm's length and letting it be handled by the editors and the lawyers so that people higher up should not be able to escape? I gave the analogy this morning of corporate manslaughter. If a company is guilty of bad practices and causes danger to their employees or to the public—I am not a lawyer—but the company can be guilty of corporate manslaughter. Are owners of the groups, particularly of the print media, able to escape from any sort of liability other than the financial costs like the ones you have incurred?
Q209 AK : Are you saying that, as with the banking system, self-regulation particularly in the print media must come to an end? Self-regulation has not worked, has it?
Q210 Ch. : You reached a settlement with Associated Newspapers and with News International in the form of the News of the World, but you decided to go to court against The Daily Express. Was that because you could not reach a settlement or was it because you decided that The Daily Express was so serious that you wanted to see them in court?
Q211 Ch. : Mr Tudor, we have heard from other members of your firm a week ago about your firm quite often operating on a CFA. You have said in your view it is quite clear that there was serious defamation so you were very confident clearly that you would win this case. Did you consider a CFA (Condition Fee Agreement) ?
Q212 Mike Hall (MP Labour) : You went to some extraordinary lengths I think to avoid having to take any legal action in this case. You really did go to the newspapers and point out to them that a lot of what they were reporting was factually incorrect or just pure fabrication. That clearly did not work with one group of newspapers. What was the final story that drove you to take legal action?
Q213 MH : You chose one specific group of newspapers to take legal action against. Was that because they were the only serial offender, if you like, or was it just because the sheer nature of their reporting set them aside from all the other media reports?
Q214 MH : Was the standard of the reporting in The Express significantly worse than the other newspapers, of a lower standard? I have no experience of this. I do not know how you managed to get the translations from the Portuguese newspapers. How did it compare with the reports in the Portuguese newspapers?
Q215 MH : You said that your intention for the libel action was to stop factually incorrect, fictitious, fabricated stories appearing in the press.
Q216 MH : What is your assessment of the success of that action?
Q217 MH : Other than the financial penalty that the newspaper group suffered in having to settle the action, do you think they have suffered any other serious consequences for the misreporting in this case, because they clearly have damaged the case to find Madeleine. That I think goes beyond any shadow of a doubt. (35) Do you think there should have been other consequences apart from the financial damages that they had to pay?
Q218 PF : There have been scores of libellous articles over months and months and no one has been sacked, demoted or reprimanded. Robert Murat was quoted at the weekend as telling Cambridge University that a British journalist (36) covering this was so anxious to break the story that she created it. "She tried to convince the Portuguese Police that I was acting suspiciously"; yet nobody has paid any penalty. What does that say about the press?
Q219 AS : It says in The Express's apology that they "promise to do all in their power to help efforts to find her". Have they done anything in their power since that apology to help you?
Q220 AP : You described the process of embellishment whereby an originally inaccurate story in the Portuguese press then became magnified in the British press. Did you ever feel it necessary to take any legal action against any of the Portuguese newspapers for some of those original sources of inaccurate information?
Q221 AP : In that sense at least you think that the British system of libel law is more expeditious?
Q222 Rosemary McKenna (MP Labour) : It just must have been incredibly invasive and so difficult. In the time since Madeleine disappeared and all the issues surrounding your case, are there any general lessons that you think the press should learn?
Q223 RMK : I wonder how some of them can live with themselves. Finally, what level of media coverage would be useful to you now? Is there anything that can be done that the media itself, the journalists themselves could do now to help in your search for Madeleine?
Q224 PF : As MPs we get abusive letters and emails all the time; that is freedom of expression. People write hostile news stories but these days they invite comment on news stories on-line. On New Year's Eve, a friend of mine lost his son who was 16-years-old in a tragic accident. There was a factual report in the local newspaper but some of the comments that the newspaper allowed on the story were obscene and sick, and it is a disgrace that they allowed them to be printed there. What was your experience was with the so-called on-line world, in particular how newspapers did or did not moderate comments that they invited on stories about Madeleine?
Q225 PF : With respect to newspaper sites you should not have to do this, should you, they should moderate themselves?
Q226 PF : They would be in breach of what the PCC tells us is the Code position. One final question on electronic media. Since we have taken up the inquiry I have noticed that because our emails are public we are getting people who really should get a life coming to us with obscene stuff. We do not respond to it because it just encourages them, so we just delete it, but that begs the concern where this stuff is egged on and people have taken this up because they are quite sick, in large part because of the tenor of the newspaper coverage, to what extent are you plagued by this now and to what extent have there been fears for your personal safety?
Ch. : Thank you. We have no more questions. Can I thank all three of you for coming this afternoon and in particular, Gerry, we greatly appreciate your willingness to come and talk to us, thank you.
(6) Le "libel" est un type (écrit) de diffamation.
(7) Tout a commencé, dans l'affaire MC, par une désinformation spectaculaire sans laquelle peut-être les médias n'auraient pas mordu à l'hameçon : la fausse effraction via les persiennes et la fenêtre. Gerald MC minimise les dommages causés par "beaucoup de désinformation", un fait que, malgré deux chargés de communication, il considère comme une tâche morose et infinie. L'idée de renvoyer les tabloïds à d'autres reportages sensationalistes ne semble pas avoir effleuré les MC. Même publiant des informations trompeuses, les médias sont utiles ?
(8) C'est le même Gerald MC qui, entre autres moyens d'accrocher le public, s'est empressé, contre les recommandations de la PJ, de divulguer le colobome de Madeleine, une initiative qualifiée de "stratagème commercial" dans l'interview Vanity Fair.
(9) Certes les presses portugaise et britannique se sont copiées et interprétées les unes les autres, mais non de manière unilatérale. Malin serait qui pourrait faire la généalogie de la désinformation. Du côté portugais, comme en a témoigné en cour de justice le journaliste Eduardo D. du semi-tabloïd Correio da Manhã, on attendait les titres du lendemain dans les journaux TV britanniques de minuit pour orienter les articles à paraître dans l'édition portugaise de l'après-midi.
(10) C'est effectivement là que le bâts a blessé terriblement. L'arrivée des chiens britanniques, à l'instigation de Mark Harrison, expert numéro un britannique en personnes disparues, n'a pas échappé aux médias. Il n'était pas difficile de constater que ces chiens n'avaient réagi que dans l'appartement des MC et d'en déduire que Madeleine y était peut-être morte. Les MC eux-mêmes, en dépit du mépris manifesté pour les performances des chiens, n'ont pas hésité à mentir aux médias, comme l'a révélé Kate MC dans Madeleine, sur la raison (la visite des chiens) de l'annulation de la campagne à Huelvas.
(11) C'est probablement vrai, en particulier lorsque l'information vient d'une source officielle. Mais les médias n'ont pas inventé cette hypothèse qui, outre sa crédibilité d'un point de vue statistique et outre les alertes des chiens, s'imposait au bon sens. Par ailleurs croire, après trois mois de recherches intenses et vaines, que "les gens" vont penser à Madeleine chaque fois qu'ils croisent une petite fille du même âge n'est pas raisonnable. Le bon sens dicte qu'une petite fille enlevée reste cachée pendant des années, a fortiori si tous les médias de la planète publient sa photo continûment.
(12) Gerald MC entend ni plus ni moins contrôler les médias ! Sans en avoir l'impression, dit-il un peu plus loin, autrement dit inconsciemment.. Le député Adrian Sanders ajoutera qu'il n'en a pas donné l'impression..
(13) Si ce n'est pas contrôler, qu'est-ce que c'est ? Et s'assurer une place à la une moyennant espèces sonnantes, qu'est-ce sinon contrôler l'impact des médias ? (Ce que pensent les MC ne m'intéresse pas, parce qu'ils m'ont versé 500 mille livres pour être à la une de tous les journaux pendant un an, ce que nous avons fait. Lord Tim Bell, allié privilégié de Rupert Murdoch, cité par Owen Jones dans The Establishment and how they get away with it, chapitre "Mediaocracy").
(14) Le 13 juillet, à Londres, Gerald MC rencontra fortuitement Sir Christopher Meyer, président de la PCC, qui réitéra en vain les offres de service transmises via l'ambassade britannique à Lisbonne le 5 mai.
(15) En raison du secret de l'instruction et parce que le police n'était pas capable ou désireuse de dire quoi que ce soit publiquement, les journalistes britanniques sûrement et les américains dans une certaine mesure en étaient venus à attendre une attitude très ouverte de la part des autorités et, comme il n'en fut rien, ils n'avaient rien sur quoi se rabattre. Cette phrase absurde laisse perplexe quant au conseiller en communication... Le secret de l'instruction lie le ministère public et la police. Ce n'est pas une question de pouvoir ou de vouloir, c'est la règle !
(16) Clarence Mitchell n'ose pas affirmer qu'il y a eu corruption de la PJ, mais il insinue que des présomptions existent, sans pour autant donner un exemple de fuite qui ait nui aux MC.
(17) L'auteur de cette boutade n'est pas cité, mais la boutade elle-même est universelle.
(18) Après avoir posé que pour avoir une certitude il faudrait faire une analyse comparée entre les journaux britanniques et les journaux portugais, Adam Tudor se dit sûr que la grande majorité des allégations étaient de source portugaise.
(19) Ce qui a été insinué par Gerald MC, Clarence Mitchell and Adam Tudor est devenu un fait acquis (sans que l'intéressée, la PJ, ait son mot à dire) !
(20) l'État Nouveau fut certes un régime dictatorial, mais non un régime fasciste (pas de volonté de créer un homme nouveau maîtrisant les forces de la nautre, mais une vision naturelle de l'homme conservatrice).
(21) Cette affirmation arbitraire, s'agissant d'un pays étranger, laisse pantois. En quoi la presse portugaise est-elle potentiellement beaucoup moins bien régulée ? Quid de l'Entité Régulatrice de la Communication Sociale ?
(22) Dans les pays de Common Law, pas dans les pays de procédure inquisitoire où le secret de l'instruction n'a plus le caractère sacro-saint qu'il avait, du fait de la rapidité de propagation et des possibilités de croisement des informations sur le web.
(23) Le Chief Constable Matthew Baggott envoya deux lettres aux rédactions. La première, datée du 17 septembre, n'ayant pas été prise en considération, il en envoya une seconde le 8 octobre.
(24) Quelles menaces vis-à-vis de la sécurité des MC et de la recherche de Madeleine évoque ici Paul Farrelly ? Au moment des faits médiatiques considérés ici, en particulier à partir de septembre 2007, l'investigation portugaise battait son plein.
(25) Peter Hill se démit de la PCC en mai 2008. À cette époque, les MC étaient témoins assistés (arguidos), donc suspects d'être impliqués dans la disparition de leur fille. Aucun indice solide n'étayait ce soupçon, comme aucun indice n'étayait leur certitude d'enlèvement. Nous n'avons pas de presse libre dans ce pays, en aucune manière, déclara Peter Hill au Comité parlementaire. Nous avons une presse très, très enchaînée dans ce pays. Vous devriez vraiment rechercher des moyens d'écarter ces chaînes et non en imposer davantage.
(33) Ils ne lisaient plus les journaux, mais ils faisaient des comparaisons entre la presse UK et la press PT ? Dommage de ne pas avoir illustré par des exemples.
(34) Après n'avoir fait allusion qu'aux souffrances suscitées par les contre-vérités de la presse, voilà l'argument numéro un, repris du reste dans l'assignation en justice de Gonçalo Amaral : si l'enfant est morte, on ne la cherche plus. voir note 11.
(36) Lori C, du Sunday Mirror, dénonça effectivement Robert M. auprès du LC, car il lui rappelait Ian Huntley (Soham murders). Rien que ça !
Auditions de Jeff Edwards, Sean O'Neil et Christopher Meyer