Gypsy and Traveller campaigners call for stronger discrimination code in press regulation

6 April 2023

Campaigners say that the Editor’s Code of Practice current Clause 12 on discrimination needs to be strengthened to protect Gypsy and Traveller communities from pejorative and prejudicial reporting

Leeds GATE, London Gypsies and Travellers (LGT) and Travellers Times, have joined together to submit to an open consultation on the Editor’s Code of Practice to call for a stronger Clause 12 on discrimination to protect Gypsy and Traveller people from abuse by the press.

The current Editors Code of Practice governs how IPSO, the largest UK voluntary press regulator, deals with complaints about the press from the public. The Code’s Clause 12 currently only recognises complaints against racism towards identified individuals – yet most negative reporting about Gypsies and Travellers are about groups.

Chris McDonagh, Travellers Against Racism campaigner, says that Clause 12 needs to have a wider scope.

‘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,” said Chris McDonagh.

“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.”

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 the rules to uphold the “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, Clause 12 doesn't apply to groups of people. 

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. This means that 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. 

“Changing Clause 12 to also include media references to groups is about protection for all that is well overdue,” say London Gypsies and Travellers, Leeds GATE and Travellers’ Times. 

“We believe that this amendment to Clause 12 would be fairer, build relationships and trust in communities increasing engagement with the regulator, and bring IPSO up to date with organic change.” 

Every three days on average, a national newspaper prints a story about Gypsy or Traveller people, not to mention the coverage in local and regional press.   

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.  

“With poor mental health on the rise, (pejorative and prejudicial press reporting) impacted our communities in a massive way, losing people (to suicide) needlessly,” says Dee Cooper.

“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. How can we reach for the stars if we are still written about in the gutter?”

Thank you to all Media That Moves media network group members for being involved and your testimony.

Download our Editors Code submission to the Editors Code Committee below: 

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(Lead picture: Stock photo by Bank Phrom on Unsplash)