Thursday, 30 June 2016

Everybody rational is against unwarranted acts of violence but misrepresentation is a serious issue

Paula Sherriff MP speaking in the House of Commons against Racism

Anybody rational would be against racism and unwarranted acts of violence and this is why the United Kingdom has laws to persecute and penalise those who engage in acts of racism and of unwarranted violence.

Parliamentary Privilege gives Members of Parliament the right to talk about any issue they want to raise or discus without being targeted because of what they say within the space of the House of Commons. This is a fundamental safeguard but such safeguard carries with it a huge responsibility not to mislead the House of Commons or members of the public by making inaccurate or damaging statements that could also be construed as incitement to violence.

Paula Sherriff MP spoke in the House of Commons about incidents involving racism and rightly so. We all agree that racism has to be challenged because we want to live in a society in which no one is made to suffer because of racial background.

When referring to such matters, accuracy is of paramount importance and this is where Paula Sherriff MP was found wanting. Without definitive evidence, she accused an entire group of individuals of being involved in the delivery of a malicious leaflet in Yorkshire and had not been that Paula Sherriff is a Member of Parliament such statement would have constituted a criminal offence.

The misleading statement was made in the House of Commons and broadcast publicly. Even more, the written press and in particular the Yorkshire Post and its editor James Mitchinson are responsible of publishing a misleading article that accuses an entire organisation without any sound evidence of any involvement.

I was quick to remark that in the present political environment, with heightened tensions, such statement and such article could be conducive to acts of violence against third parties. I wrote to  IPSO  - the heir to the Press Complaints Commission - providing background information questioning the statement made by Paul Sherriff MP in the House of Commons and severely criticising the Yorkshire Post and its editor James Mitchinson.

I wrote also to the authority dealing with Parliamentary Standards that sent me an immediate reply stating that the statement made Paul Sherriff MP is covered by Parliamentary Privilege.

We are at a crossroads. On the one hand we must uphold Parliamentary Privilege as a necessary right to protect Members of Parliament. We must also respect the verdict of IPSO whatever such verdict might be. We must deal with the matter in a civil manner and this includes our interaction with the Yorkshire Post.

Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the public - both listening to the statement Paul Sherriff MP made in the House of Commons and reading the article published by the Yorkshire Post have been dangerously mislead because the information given was not factual evidence, especially when the issue concerning a malicious leaflet was referred to Police Authorities and there hasn't been any official report indicating who was actually involved in producing or distributing such leaflets.

The statement in the House of Commons and the article blaming a political organisation were published thirteen days after the said political organisation publicly condemned the attack leading to the dead of Jo Cox MP. So it is inconceivable that after publishing a declaration condemning the act of violence in which a Member of Parliament die the said organisation could possibly be involved in the delivery of a malicious leaflet mentioning Jo Cox MP.

Despite any rational explanation, despite the faintest amount of evidence, people have been blamed without any legitimate proof and this cannot be conducive to peaceful coexistence.

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