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Warning over Gary Speed and peril of a shackled Press
MPs and lawyers warned last night that legitimate journalistic investigations must not be stifled by high profile inquiries into the conduct of the Press.
'Public interest': Gary Speed and his wife Louise
The mysterious death of football boss Gary Speed has highlighted concerns facing newspapers currently under fierce examination by the Leveson Inquiry.
Since the Wales manager was found dead at his family home last month, little has been reported by the Press about why the popular 42-year-old apparently committed suicide.
And the Times newspaper, in a strongly-worded editorial comment published yesterday, used the case to demonstrate what it says is the need for newspapers to be able to undertake inquiries and publish matters of legitimate public interest.
The Times, MPs and lawyers all pointed to the fact that the internet has been awash with lurid, widely varying and totally unsubstantiated rumours about the circumstances surrounding the death of the married father of two.
‘Mr Speed has been smeared, not by the Press but in its absence,’ said the Times editorial.
Tory MP Philip Davies, who sits on the Commons culture, media and sport committee, agreed, saying: ‘The problem is that we are seeing a chilling effect on the Press and the rest of the respectable media, leaving a large field clear to the unregulated internet and social media so people can peddle lots of things that are not true.
‘These things are best covered in the respectable media so you get the truth, rather than unpleasant smears and lies.
Respects: A book of condolences in memory of Gary Speed is opened at the Football of Wales offices in Cardiff
‘It cannot be helpful for the family to have all these lies peddled across the social media. I would prefer it if these things were reported responsibly.’
Media lawyer Mark Stephens was also concerned. He said: ‘When the Press is restrained from legitimate reporting on privacy issues and other matters, the unregulated world of the web comes into play.
‘There is then very little you can do about rumour and allegations which must be very troubling for his family, which can’t be scotched for the crimes that they are. There is a place for decent, responsible reporting. It also puts right all the false rumours.’
Mr Speed’s death is an unusual choice of topic for an editorial in the Times, but under the headline ‘Untold Story’ the paper said: ‘Gary Speed’s death raises matters of public interest that need to be reported.’
The Times added: ‘This story is being left alone. But the question has to be asked: is this reticence a good thing?’
Paying their respects: Fans at Leeds United's ground Elland Road show their grief at former player Gary Speed's death
Tributes: Hundreds of tributes including photographs, shirts and bouquets of flowers have been left at the Elland Road ground
Celebrity PR man Max Clifford, who warned last week that tabloid editors are too scared to publish sensational stories about the private lives of celebrities because they fear a backlash from readers angered by Press behaviour exposed at the Leveson Inquiry, also supported the Times argument.
He said: ‘I know of three people whose reputations are being tarnished and damaged by false stories and allegations, all of which would have been clarified if people had come out with their exclusive stories.
‘We all want a free Press but the reality is that at the moment the Press is not free. We have got a shackled Press.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2078211/Warning-Gary-Speed-peril-shackled-Press.html#ixzz1hRlwXy2h