Challenging discrimination in the press

March 31, 2023

Gypsy and Traveller organisations call on UK’s largest press regulator for stricter reporting rules on discrimination in the media.

Leeds GATE, London Gypsies and Travellers (LGT) and Travellers Times, have joined together to submit to IPSO’s open consultation on the Editors Code.  

This is builds on the Media That Moves project and research report released in January 2022, looking at what can be done to move towards anti-racism and bold change for Gypsy and Traveller communities in the UK’s media.

IPSO is one of two largest press regulators in the country set up in 2014. Members of IPSO include The Sun, The Daily Express and The Mirror, The Independent, The Daily Mail, as well as Travellers Times itself. The Editors Code is designed to set out and uphold the rules and “highest professional standards” for the reporting of its members. Clauses in the code cover things from harassment, accuracy and more specific areas such as reporting on suicide. 

Clause 12 of the code covers discrimination. Currently, it says that the media mustn’t discriminate against an individual using “prejudicial or pejorative reference to a protected characteristic” such as race, religion, sex or gender identity. Furthermore, these characteristics should only be published when they are “genuinely relevant” to the story. However, it doesn’t apply to groups of people. 

This is not at all sufficient to protect the rights, interests and wellbeing of the UK’s Gypsies and Travellers. Further, by calling for this change, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with repeated calls for similar moves from allies in disability rights, trans rights and minority and migrants rights groups. Changing clause 12 to also include media references to groups is about protection for all that is well overdue.  

Most negative newspaper reports relating to Gypsies and Travellers do not name the Gypsies and Traveller protagonists as individuals, so clause 12 as it currently stands is very rarely triggered. The UK’s Gypsy and Traveller people are at the mercy of the society-wide effects of the drip, drip, drip of these ethnicities being highlighted and generalised in press reports about the actions of individual perpetrators who happen to be Gypsies and Travellers themselves. 

Ingrained stereotypes, language and ways of talking about entire communities have very real consequences. Racial profiling and engaging stereotypes affect many, even to the point of not being able to have a simple meal out, get a weekly shop or access vital services. 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission found that Gypsy and Traveller communities are subject to ‘bias and hostility’ in the UK, with the European Commission finding that ‘negative and inaccurate reporting by certain sectors of the media is contributing to hostile attitudes towards certain groups, in particular Gypsies and Travellers’. 

Abuse incited against Gypsy and Traveller communities is highly traumatising, with discrimination causing a ‘ripple effect’ of experiencing hate crime on mental health, suicide and para-suicide. 

But Gypsy and Traveller advocates and activists are fighting back and speaking up. A media network group has joined people together from across the country, as part of the Media That Moves project. Meeting regularly online, the group aims to change the narratives about Gypsies and Travellers. Members are from a range of organisations or volunteers all from these communities, who have worked on these issues for decades.  

Chris McDonagh, Travellers Against Racism campaigner states: ‘As an Irish Traveller man who has been reporting articles to IPSO for three years, the offending news outlet gets away with whatever they want to say due to the current Code. There needs to be a wider scope so that these offensive and discriminatory articles can be reviewed and properly dealt with, and not allowed to get away with blatant anti Traveller and Romany discrimination which they are currently allowed to print.’ 

Group members have come together to make the submission to the Editors Code committee, alongside Travellers Times, which you can read in full below.  

‘With poor mental health on the rise, this impacted our communities in a massive way, losing people needlessly. As a proud Romany woman and mother of two, whose lives have been challenged by such stereotypical views, both my children have suffered at the hands of bullies, both adults and children and it has not been without sheer courage and determination, that my children have stayed in education, and excelled! The word discrimination only still exists, by the hands that feed it and allow it to continue. In the year 2023 there is no other race, sex, religion, or culture allowed to be publicly slurred and slandered in such a way. How can we reach for the stars if we are still written in the gutter?’ – Dee Cooper 

Thank you to all Media That Moves media network group members. 

Read our Editors Code submission to IPSO in full here.

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