Gypsies and travellers victims of 'socially acceptable racism'

By agency reporter
7 Oct 2012

The Leveson Inquiry was the subject of an NUJ Delegate Meeting fringe meeting which included speakers from the English Gypsy and Irish Traveller Movement.

Helen Goodman, the Labour Party's media spokesperson, and Adrian Thomas of the British Red Cross, also spoke. The National Union of Journalists has been meeting in Newcastle this weekend.

Mike Doherty said that travellers had been the "last socially acceptable subject of racism", but now the Advertising Standards Association has ruled that Channel 4's 'Bigger, Fatter, Gypsier' adverts are offensive .

The ASA, which took advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, found that the ads featuring teenager girls wearing low-cut tops could enforce prejudicial views against the gypsy and traveller community and were likely to cause serious offence.

Sophie Vale, the development officer for the English Gypsy and Irish Traveller Movement, said most of the press coverage of the traveller community was negative and was often due to the ignorance of journalists. The media's role is important because it can shape public perception, she said.

Adrian Thomas said that refugees suffered a similar negative treatment to travellers in the press. He said: "They are routinely described as scroungers, bogus and illegal."

Helen Goodman said failure of the Press Complaints Commission to take on third party complaints from organisations representing disadvantaged communities was another example of why it must go and be replaced by a new body which is citizen-centric and takes complaints seriously.

But it is the reform of media ownership – unlikely to be covered in Lord Leveson's report – which is most crucial to having a free and diverse press, NUJ delegates say.

* National Union of Journalists: www.nuj.org.uk/

[Ekk/3]

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