The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has decided that an article in the Daily Mail about the death of Stephen Gately did not break the rules for editors.
Gately, famous for being a member of pop ground Boyzone died in Majorca on 10 October 2009, a few days later the Daily Mail published an article written by Jan Moir under the headline: “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gately’s death”. This headline was later changed to “A strange, lonely and troubling death”.
Gately’s death was found to have been a result of natural causes yet Moir claimed that “something is terribly wrong with the way this incident has been shaped and spun.” and went on to describe the circumstances of Gately’s death as “sleazy” and “less than respectable”. Gately’s civil partner Andrew Cowles was one of over 25,000 people to complain to the PCC on the basis that the article was inaccurate, intrusive and in breach of the Editor’s Code of Practice.
The PCC stated that: “Freedom of expression is a fundamental part of an open and democratic society…This is enshrined in the Code of Practice which states that there is a ‘public interest in the freedom of expression itself’. Individuals have the right to express honestly-held opinions, and newspapers have the right to publish them, provided the terms of the Code are not otherwise breached.”
“Both the newspaper and the columnist were confronted with the impact of what had been published…This published adjudication by the PCC is another means by which general discontent can be registered in the form of a public judgment, even though the Commission has not found a breach of the Code. The fact that the complaint has not been upheld does not mean the concerns did not need to be addressed, but rather that the Commission did not find that it was right for it to censure the newspaper on the grounds of the Code.”
In particular the PCC highlighted the fact that the article was clearly marked as a comment piece and that the Daily Mail published a piece criticising the original article. Simply “The price of freedom of expression is that often commentators and columnists say things with which other people may not agree, may find offensive or may consider to be inappropriate”.