The transcripts of the official inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press. More…

  • MS HEATHER HARVEY (affirmed). MS ANNA VAN HEESWIJK (affirmed). MS JACQUI HUNT (affirmed). MS MARAI LARASI (affirmed).

  • I am going to ask each of you respectively, please, to say who you are and who you represent. First of all, please, Ms Larasi.

  • My name is Marai Larasi. I represent the End Violence Against Women coalition. It's a UK-wide coalition of more than 40 organisations which campaigns to the government at every level in the UK. We have part of our work that is focused on preventing violence against women as well as addressing it and members include organisations such as Women's Aid and Refuge. I've worked in the violence against women field for over 17 years, I'm co-chair of this coalition and director of a national organisation called Imkaan, which works against violence around black and minority ethnic women and girls.

  • Before we start, could I ask, to help the lady who is trying to record all this -- and I failed to assist her sufficiently with the last group of witnesses -- if you'd all speak rather more slowly. Right.

  • Thank you. Ms Hunt, please.

  • My name is Jacqui Hunt. I'm director of the London Office of Equality Now, which is an international human rights charity working to protect and promote the rights of women around the world. We mobilise grass-roots action and action of our membership, which is in now 160 countries, to support the efforts of local and national groups to promote women's rights.

  • My name is Annie van Heeswijk and I'm the campaign manager for human rights organisation Object, which campaigns against the sexual objectification of women in the media and popular culture.

  • Thank you. Finally please, Ms Harvey?

  • My name is Heather Harvey and I'm currently the (inaudible) research and development manager at Eaves. Eaves is a charity that works on all forms of violence against women. We have front line support which deals with cases of violence against women and across all forms of violence against them and we have a research and development function, which is the team I'm based in.

  • I can see where it says "inaudible" that even now it's all going too quickly. I appreciate there's a lot to be said, but I'm very keen to make sure that I have a full record of what you're all saying.

    Before Mr Jay starts, can I thank each one of you for the submissions you've received, which I've read and which will form part of the record of this Inquiry. I'm very grateful to you all for the trouble you've obviously gone to to put these together.

  • I'll just identify the submissions and then ask you each to confirm that this is your evidence to the Inquiry. First of all, Ms Larasi, it's a submission dated January of this year, is that right, and this is your formal evidence to the Inquiry?

  • Ms Hunt, 22 December last year and likewise your formal submission to the Inquiry?

  • Ms Van Heeswijk, you put in a witness statement yesterday?

  • You have updated the submission, so it notionally bears yesterday's date, and you've also provided us with a bundle of 20 exhibits which are in a yellow file; is that right?

  • Again, that is your formal submission to the Inquiry. Finally, Ms Harvey, your submission, 22 December of last year?

  • I'm going to ask each of you, please, to explain succinctly at this stage why it is that you have sought to come to this Inquiry and assist the Inquiry with submissions and evidence. First of all, please, Ms Larasi.

  • So from an evil perspective, the media creates, reflects and enforces attitudes. Those who work in the media should be conscious of this and should actively seek not to reproduce attitudes which condone violence against women and girls. Too often this is done through inaccurate reporting -- for example, on the law on rape -- intrusive reporting on victims and their families and misrepresentation. Example of criminal trials, for example, reporting only the defence perspective.

    Sensationalist selection of violence against women stories -- for example, the Facebook murder -- and the language used can somehow imply that the victim provoked her assault. Supporting experts and court reports reported might, for example, say that a particular crime is cultural or religious and therefore is less serious or somehow inevitable.

  • Thank you very much. Now, Ms Hunt, as an encapsulation, please, what is it that prompted you to wish to assist this Inquiry?

  • Just very briefly, international human rights standards require elimination of discrimination against women, including standards that the UK has signed up to, and sexist stereotypes in the media are a form of discrimination against women.

  • Thank you. Ms Van Heeswijk, please?

  • Firstly, it's clearly widespread concern about the ever-increasing sexualisation and objectification of women, as highlighted and outlined in the recent government commissioned reviews, the Bailey review and before that, the review into the sexualisation of young people.

    It is clear that the Page 3 tabloids contribute to a culture in which women are perceived as existing for the sole purpose of providing these sex objects or being sex objects, essentially. What is particularly harmful about this is that these images exist within mainstream newspapers, which are not age-restricted and are openly displayed at child's eye level, despite the fact that such material would be prohibited from the workplace -- because of equality legislation it would be considered a form of sexual harassment -- and despite the fact that such sexually objectifying and degrading images would be restricted on broadcast media before the 9 pm watershed.

    So essentially what we are proposing is that there are very simple solutions to tackle the sexualisation and objectification of women in the mainstream Page 3 tabloid press.

  • Yes, and Ms Harvey, please?

  • We're very grateful to have the opportunity to contribute. We feel, as others to this Inquiry, that we strongly support the principle of freedom of expression for the press, but I suppose where we have concerns is that freedom of expression for the press doesn't always tackle exactly what the high ideals of journalism are, as I understand it, about, which is, as others have well put this morning, holding our states to account, holding decision-makers to account, challenging the status quo and the norms of our society, imparting information in a way that is not misrepresenting, in a way that is not misleading, in a way that is accurate, and what we are concerned about is our -- as others have said, our press not only reflects our society but can also create and shape and reinforce standards in our society, and if we do not take into account the existing power and balances that are in our society at the moment, then you can simply replicate discrimination, sexism or a misleading interpretation of what is occurring, and for us, we feel the press has a really vital important role to actually challenge the status quo and the sexism and discrimination in our society and can do that in a way that doesn't actually conflict with the principles of freedom of expression but it requires maybe some tweaking, amendments, some better guidance. So we will be calling for things like better guidelines, some greater involvement of independent parties, greater liaison with groups who deal with equalities-type issues and we think that we can go a long way to actually delivering what the high ideals of journalism are about in a way that is not so harmful as it, we believe, currently can be to women, such as deterring women from bringing forward complaints about rape being just one example which I can talk more to in my submission.

  • Before I ask each of you to develop those points, I'm going to look at individual examples which are referred to in your various submissions. I think I'm going to start with Object, Ms Van Heeswijk. This, to make it clear, is a joint submission --

  • -- by your self and Turn Your Back On Page 3. The specific examples start at, on the internal numbering, page 6. I'm just going to check whether we've provided updated URN numbers. I'm not sure we have.

  • Internal numbering under your tab 3A.

  • Yes? Internal page 6, the evidence from the Sun.

  • That's right. Because what you've done, is this right, is to start off by taking a week in the life, if that's the right way of putting it, of three tabloid papers and you've looked at a week in mid-November of last year; is that right?

  • First of all, please, in relation to the Sun, you make four general points. The Page 3 girl. Can I ask you, please, about the Dear Deirdre column and explain the issue in relation to that?

  • Essentially what we're trying to illustrate here is the extent to which women are persistently and relentlessly portrayed as a sum of sexualised body parts within the Page 3 tabloid press. I think you will find that there is a sort of gradient of extremity running from the Sun to the Daily Star to the Sport, which I know I have given copies to everybody, but what runs -- the common theme throughout this is the Page 3 feature, which is of a topless or sometimes fully nude young woman, who is sexualised and objectified. It isn't actually restricted only to the third page. In the Sport it's on every page, including the front page. The same would be the case for the Star.

    In the Sun, we have the Page 3 girl. We have the Dear Deirdre, which is essentially a daily agony aunt and is another staple of the Sun but provides another example of always being accompanied by a woman in her underwear, essentially, who is sexualised in this way. It's one of the many examples within the Sun of the way in which women are portrayed.

  • Thank you. So if we look through the Sun examples -- I'm not going to look at all of them but they're all illustrative really of a theme. The first one, Kelly Brook, her breasts are described as "Mitchell brothers" and we can see the photograph, and your analysis is she's essentially reduced to a pair of breasts.

  • I would just like to refer you to the exhibits that we have printed, only because I think there are some stronger examples within them, because we're not going to be able to go through every single exhibit in this original submission.

  • I'm in your hands. If you feel in relation to the Sun there are stronger examples in our yellow file, please identify those and we will look at them.

  • Okay. Let's find -- so we have -- for example, one of the issues that we have raised is not only the way that women are persistently sexualised and objectified, but the trivialisation and even sometimes sort of eroticisation of the reporting of violence against women.

    In the Sun, we have, in exhibit 6, an example of the front page --

  • Just while we find it, it's exhibit 6A, which is under our tab 6. Is that right?

  • Thank you. Sorry, please continue.

  • So we have the front page of the Sun. We have here -- I think it's quite difficult to read but it says "Bodyguards for battered Towie sisters". Essentially the story is about acts of violence that were inflicted upon the Towie sisters and the photograph used to accompany that is clearly a sexualised image of one of them in her underwear, which we would say completely trivialises the acts of violence thats she was subjected to and sends out a broader message essentially of not taking these kinds of violent acts seriously.

  • I think you wanted to talk about exhibit 10 as well; is that right? Another Sun front page?

  • Exhibit 10 is extremely relevant because inside the Sun, one of the issues of course is that these are mainstream newspapers. They're not age-restricted. They're not sold and -- they're not displayed on the top shelf. They're readily available and completely mainstream, and so within the Sun we have also adverts for the porn and sex industry.

    We have the Page 3 staple and we have, on the front page here, the Sun offering free toy Lego, which is clearly going to be directed at children, parents buying this for children, again despite the fact that the images within the Sun would be prohibited from being displayed within a workplace, because they would be considered a form of sexual harassment for adults. The images within the Sun would not be shown before the watershed on television and yet they're commonplace within an unrestricted newspaper which describes itself as a family newspaper.

  • Thank you. Any further exhibits? I'm going to deal with exhibit 11 separately, because that raises a slightly different point, but any of the other exhibits in relation to the Sun before we go back to your submission?

  • The other thing I would say about the Sun is because it has such a huge readership, there's a very big issue in relation to even parents and teachers trying to regulate this kind of material. So, for example, through our work, through Object's work with teachers in schools, teachers have often told us about their difficulties in relation to this issue because clearly they are wanting to encourage their children and young people to read the newspapers, to engage with the news, to know what's going on in the world. They have periods where children are supposed to bring in newspapers, and invariably they bring in the Sun and the Daily Star.

    The reading age of these newspapers are low. They're very easy to read, essentially, and they are going to be attractive to young people to buy, and so teachers find themselves in a situation where they're having to confiscate newspapers from children which the children were free to buy at their local corner shop, at the local supermarket -- of course, a point that the children don't fail to make -- because of the sexualised and degrading images that exist within these newspapers.

    I could refer you to another example of the Sun, which is under Exhibit 15. This is a whole story on one of the Page 3 idols. Interestingly enough, the term "idol" there. Again, what story is this telling to young girls about what they should aspire to, about the stereotypes of femininity that are portrayed to young girls?

    And in particular, I'd like to refer you to the photographs of her again in a bikini at -- as a 14-year-old.

  • This is page 4 of 10 at the bottom right.

  • You give other examples in relation to the Sun in your submission. In example 4, page 7, is a fictitious scenario involving Prince Harry and Pippa Middleton, which is self-explanatory, which, as you say, eroticises sexual harassment and portrays Ms Middleton only in relation to her bottom.

    And then example 9 -- I'm only alighting on these randomly -- "How to stop your man having affairs":

    "Cook dinner in just your lingerie once a week."

    Could I move on from the Sun to the Daily Star, please, which is page 10 of your submission. There are also examples in the yellow file.

  • Sorry, what is actually up on the screen at the moment is from the Sun, but it is actually another example of trivialising violence against women. It's example 15.

  • Thank you. If we go to the Daily Star in the submission -- it's page 11 on the internal numbering. You say at the top of page 11:

    "In relation to the covers, hyper-sexualised imagery of semi-naked women is commonplace on the front covers of the newspaper. Page 3 'glamour models' extend over several pages."

    There is a Daily Star forum, which you explain, and then there are various pornographic advertisements.

    Which of the examples, please, Ms Van Heeswijk, would you like us to look at particularly in relation to the Daily Star, since it might be said these are all thematic; in other words, very similar?

  • I think the imagery on the front pages is extremely relevant because, as I've said, these newspapers are displayed at child's eye level in the mainstream. There are some examples of front covers under exhibit 1. One of them is the Daily Star.

  • 1B is the Daily Star. We can see the photograph on the left-hand side.

    In terms of the examples you give, you might like to look at example 2, at the bottom of page 11.

  • The use of language and the associated image.

  • I think another point to make here is the assumptions that they make about the presumed male reader. So they say:

    "We assume you're not even reading this because you're still getting a massive pervy eyeful of that pert ass going up a fake ski slope."

    So even when the image itself is of a woman engaging in an activity, in a sport, skiing, she is still sexualised and reduced to a body part in this example.

  • Thank you. We've read some of the other examples, but unless you wish to alight on any specifically, can we move on to the Sport and then the Sunday Sport. Is this right: there's a mid-week edition of the Sport --

  • -- and a Sunday edition. In terms of the front pages, we have the example of a mid-week front page at exhibit 1A in the yellow file; is that correct?

  • A Sunday example, exhibit 3 under our tab 3 in the yellow file?

  • Is that going to be up on the screen? Are we waiting for that to go up?

  • I think we should see exhibit 3, please.

  • Yes, I think so too. So I mean, as you can see, in this exhibit the women are completely nameless, headless. It's only focusing on one part of their body, which is extremely objectifying and sexualised, and it's also -- it's very worrying because they're here clearly in a sort of vulnerable position and it's normalising the up-skirt photographs. It's normalising this sort of voyeurism and form of sexual harassment and bullying which we know are of great concern, particularly actually to young girls, young women in schools, who are often subjected to this form of sexual bullying and harassment, especially now with the widespread use of camera phones, and this is a front page photograph.

  • You provided us with a copy of the Sunday Sport last Sunday?

  • Yeah, this is the most recent.

  • If you care to look through it, you'll see that sort of every page is just photograph upon photograph of more or less all white women who have been -- and these women are completely sexualised and objectified, degraded, portrayed as sex objects.

    We really have to ask ourselves what kind of a story this tells, especially, I think, to young children, to boys and girls, when they see in mainstream newspapers men in suits, men in sports attire, men as active participants, as subjects, and women as sexualised objects who essentially are naked or nearly naked on, in the case of the Sport, every single page. But it is a common theme throughout the other newspapers as well.

  • The last exhibit I'd like you to look at, just to identify it, is exhibit 4. It's a picture of Charlotte Church when I think she was 15. Where is this from, do you know?

  • This is in the Star. I mean, there are many things you could say about this, but essentially it's Charlotte Church at 15. The commentary is important here:

    "She's a big girl now. Child singing sensation showed just how quickly she's grown up after she turned up at a Hollywood bash looking chest swell."

    Clearly sort of an emphasis on a 15-year-old young woman's breasts, and interestingly enough, that's juxtaposed with this article, which is sort of outrage against a spoof sort of satire around paedophilia. The hypocrisy within these sort of newspapers is often quite evident.

  • Can I ask you this general question, if I can seek to put it in these terms. If one were to rename these papers Penthouse, Mayfair or whatever, what is the difference, if any, between a publication which is, if I can put it in these terms, expressively pornographic and the material we've just been looking at? Is there a differences, and if so, what is it?

  • I think you'll find that there isn't a marked difference between the content which exists within these classified pornographic materials and the contents within some of these mainstream Page 3 tabloids, so the difference therefore is how they are regulated. One could say that it is actually more harmful to have these images within mainstream newspapers because of the normalising effect that it therefore has and the legitimising effect that it has.

  • Regulating in that regard, you simply meanwhile where the newsagents are required to display them?

  • Sir, if they're classified pornography, then there are age restrictions. There's an issue with lad's mags, which there's only a voluntary code as to the sale and display of.

  • It's completely voluntary, and some supermarkets respect this code and they do -- with lads' mags, they do display them on the top shelf and they cover them, but many don't.

    The issue with these newspapers is they're never displayed on the top shelf. They are completely mainstream and freely available to anybody, and the fact that they exist within a newspaper, I think, lends them a sort of legitimacy and makes this type of portrayal of women seem unquestionable, seem sort of normal and acceptable, essentially.

    Again, this type of material wouldn't pass a test for pre-watershed broadcast media, so again I think that there is an issue there of why it is seen as acceptable for them to exist within print-based media.

  • The issue of regulation is one I'm going to come to at the end.

  • May I make one other point about the exhibits?

  • Only because I think it's extremely interesting that when we were sent the submissions -- when the submissions were sent to all of those of us who are giving evidence, the images within our submission were actually censored, and that I find interesting because they were censored for adults within this hearing when in fact they are freely available in mainstream newspapers which are not age-restricted.

  • Yes. Thank you.

    May I move to the submission, please, of End Violence Against Women. You give us ten individual cases. There may not be time to address all of them, but I think you did certainly want to speak to the Facebook murder, which is our page 54610. If you could encapsulate the issue there and your concern?

  • So what we have is -- this is a Daily Telegraph story and the way it was reported was "Man murdered wife after she changed Facebook status to single" and the whole tone of the story focuses on she changed her status to simultaneous, you know, their relationship was breaking down, and then he killed her. He was getting more and more depressed, et cetera. From a violence against women and girls perspective, he killed her because he was abusive. He killed her and he killed her. He didn't kill her because she changed her status on Facebook.

    For us, the concern is the focus on her actions, the focus on Facebook trivialises the murder of this woman, and also moves the focus away from this man's violent actions, and so for us it's particularly concerning.

    Responsible journalism for us would look like, you know: "This is how often women are killed, women are murdered twice a week by a current or former partner, over 50 women are killed every week", et cetera, and would contextualise it within a wider violence against women and girls framework, not focus on she changed her Facebook status, and the fact that it became known a Facebook murder is in itself symbolic. It wasn't a Facebook murder. It was a murder of a real woman by her partner.

  • It's the singling out, you say, of one adventitious feature without any proper understanding of the overall context; is that right?

  • Absolutely, absolutely.

  • The revealing rape victims' identity case, although a serious error, I'm going to pass over because it speaks for itself.

    Item 3, please, gang rape of young girls, an "orgy", 5462. Your concern there?

  • This was the Daily Mail and is particularly upsetting. The first thing is you put the term "orgy" in something and what you immediately do is you grab people's attention. It becomes titillating. But also we have a situation where two young girls were raped. We're talking about unlawful sex. They were incapable under British law of giving consent.

    What then happens in the story is it completely focuses on their behaviour, their attitudes, what they did, et cetera. So it wasn't just the headline itself; the whole tone of the story really focuses on what those young women did and didn't do, and even went so the far as to focus on their parents as opposed to the behaviour of the young men.

    And what we also find is this almost sympathetic approach to these young men. They added that the careers of the promising young footballers had been ruined by the biggest mistakes of their lives. Now, that, yes, is reporting what happened in a court situation but the ways of reporting it so that what you're not doing is actually trivialising or exoticising what happened to -- young women are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation and sexual violence. We don't know the true circumstances in terms of the conversations that were had, et cetera, but what we do know is there is a context, which is that young women are vulnerable, and what responsible reporting could do is focus on the vulnerability of young women and contextualise it, rather than using terms like "orgy", "Lolita", et cetera, and putting that in the public domain with no regard to the impact this reporting might have on those young women or might have on other young women in a similar situation.

  • But even if you're going to put the defence perspective, is there not a further argument that what is critical is also to put the perspective that you've just identified?

  • I'm not quite sure I --

  • Well, your complaint is that this story provides a slant and an unbalanced slant.

  • You're not suggesting it should be a slant the other way?

  • You're merely requiring it to be balanced --

  • The way you would in a broadcast context. I'm not saying that you can't have a position where you say, you know: "In court, there was scrutiny of the young girls' behaviour", et cetera. I'm not saying that you couldn't do that, and say that's what happened in court, but I would expect that some scrutiny of the young men's behaviour -- and I would expect it would be reported in a way that was a lot more responsible, that suggested actually young women are vulnerable. So you contextualise the young women's behaviour within the context of young women being vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

    The idea of that -- for example:

    "The other girl was more reluctant and was raped by just one player."

    I mean, that tone in itself actually indicates that you're not focusing on the young woman's vulnerability and you're not also thinking about -- you know, "just one player"? A rape is a rape, therefore, for that young woman, there's likely to be a whole -- you know, a degree of trauma associated with that experience.

  • Your position is not censorship of comment; it is responsible reporting, which requires balanced comment. Is that right?

  • Absolutely, and also seeking out of expertise, of professionals who are able to speak to the issues that are being reported. So, for example, dialogue with Rape Crisis as an organisation, you know, could look at what's the situation around young women. Who's reporting to you? Are there particular vulnerabilities? Et cetera. That would be been a much more responsible way of approaching it.

  • Item 4, please, 54614. This is racism and misogyny wrapped up into one. It is a traveller family with 12 children and a particular report in the Sun in February of last year. What, in essence, in the issue here?

  • This is one of those stories where, apart from promoting racist stereotypes, I'm not actually quite sure -- and misogynistic position, what interest -- what this particular story was hoping to do except feed particular stereotypes.

    The family concerned were placed in temporary accommodation by Harringay local authority during the broadcast of a really popular Channel 4 showing of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. The woman concerned complained of being harassed, there were children, her children were photographed. You know, in my mind, the whole tone of this is completely irresponsible and I think that's it. It's completely irresponsible. I'm concerned about the racism, I'm concerned about the misogyny in the reporting.

  • Understood. Then I think you cover the issue of honour-based violence in at least two examples. It's not so much the examples necessarily as the point you want to make.

  • Can you encapsulate, please, for us the essence of that point?

  • So very often practices such as honour-based violence or forced marriage are reported in the popular press in gratuitous detail. The language, for example, is inaccurate, so forced marriage is often referred to as "arranged marriage", sending the wrong message about what the issue is.

    There's the idea that particular practices are reported primarily as cultural or as religious rather than as violence against women and girls, and therefore are not linked to other forms of violence against women and girls, which actually serves to exoticise the violence that particular women are experiencing.

    A responsible approach would be to say, "Violence against women is happening in a range of contexts. Forced marriage is one element of violence against women. So is honour-based violence." That way you focus on the idea of the violence against the women and the girls rather than on the idea of culture.

    One of the things I've noted -- and we haven't given an example here -- is the frequency with which the focus is on a Muslim father. You know, a Muslim father did this, this happened within Muslim families, et cetera. From our perspective as experts working around violence against women and girls, we know that this is not primarily an Islamic issue, we know that this is happening across a range of communities, and we know that where culture and religion can be used as vehicles, ultimately the causes are the same. It's violence against women and girls. It's patriarchy. Those are the issues we would ask reporters to focus on and we would want people to provide a broad perspective, so speaking to a range of experts as opposed to one practitioner who may actually have one position, which is: this it is associated with fundamentalism.

  • Thank you. The last example I'm going to ask you specifically to comment on -- of course, the Inquiry has read the others -- is item 8 at page 54625, which is the piece based on an unpublished and unfinished MSc dissertation. This is a Daily Telegraph article, I think.

  • Yes. What's disturbing about this particular piece is the original press release said "Promiscuous men are more likely to rape". The Telegraph reported the piece as "Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped".

    My immediate concern is: why would you twist the piece in that way? What agenda is being served? Rather than focusing on the actual -- you know, the information that was in the press release. And so I'd be really concerned about the reporter's intent, or the editorial intent around this particular piece, because it's misrepresenting the information and it's also presenting an unpublished piece almost as science, as research, et cetera, that is valid and it's completely twisted and distorted the original piece, anyway.

  • I put this point to you only as an idea. Would fair, responsible and comprehensive reporting about violence in women seek to bring in a number of strands. The first strand, not in any particular order, may be human nature, some men are violent. Another strand may be cultural, economic, social, religious. Another strand may be more subtle, the influence of what we read, press, socio-economic forces. Maybe those are in the second strand. And what we need is a picture which embraces all those strands rather than a picture which seeks to alight on any one of the strands? Is that right or not?

  • Absolutely, but there is also -- because the other side of it is a context where men who commit violence are excessively demonised in the press and portrayed as beasts or demons or monsters, and actually men who commit violence are our fathers or brothers or sons. They're the men around us, and when you demonise those particular men in that particular way, what you do is you actually take it out of the context of normal society.

    When you're talking about one in three women experiencing violence in her life, we're talking about huge statistics there. So what we want is for people to understand that violence against women and girls too often is very normal. So if you sensationalise it, what you are likely to do is have people disconnect from it, have people "other" that violence, and therefore not see it as something that's related to them. The impact then on women reporting, if you have this whole exotic or "other" thing happening, for us is a concern, because if things are reported badly, then actually how women see that is, you know: "This isn't me", or: "It's not necessarily safe for me to report", or: "I might not be believed", or: "But he wasn't a demon; he was somebody that was my loving husband and he happened to be really really violent."

    So you know, there's something about actually providing a balanced perspective that for us will be much more useful and what we don't want are reports that actually damage individual women and we don't want reports that excessively demonise violent men.

  • Thank you very much. May I move on, please, to Ms Harvey and your submission. You provide us case studies, examples and analysis. May I start, please, with 54246, which is under our tab 4.

  • In the middle of the page, failing to ask appropriate challenging questions. This is the difference between reporting of last summer riots and then reporting of cases of male violence against women. In your own words, please, what do you see the key differences to be?

  • Well, taking -- that's just one example. The riots over the summer or gang violence or a whole range of other features that get covered in the news will often be covered in what I would say is quite a responsible way, where it is situated in a context where they look at: are there any wider patterns here? Are there any trends here? What's the research here? What's the statistics here? How does this particular incident fit with the wider context that we're working in?

    It will usually involve asking particular commentators and maybe politicians, lawyers, academics, experts, frontline NGO services to come and actually comment on maybe what happened, why did it happen, is there anything that we should know more about that might enable us to prevent this happening in future or take measures that could minimise the possible likelihood of harm?

    What I'm concerned about -- and I only reference two cases here, but actually if you take just recently -- over the Christmas period, for instance, I think probably most of us were struck by the fact that there were about four instances of a man murdering his wife and children. I'm not saying they're necessarily linked, I'm not saying it's necessarily the same thing, but what I am saying is I would expect responsible journalism to actually look at those things as: what is going on here? What is happening? Why is it happening? Is there anything -- is there a common factor or isn't there? There may not be, but those are valid questions to ask. Is there any research on this issue or isn't there? If there isn't, should there be? If there is, what does it say about it?

    I think in actual fact from the work that we do we know that there is research that looks into those kinds of factors. So what we're concerned about is these cases get treated as a one-off example of a few bad apples, and it's a tragedy, a one-off thing. There's nothing anyone could do about it. You could never predict it could happen. There's nothing particularly you could do to prevent it.

    Whereas the position we're coming from, which reflects the position in CEDAW and other international conventions is that violence against women is linked directly to the public policy sphere. It's linked to our society and our economy and our choices. It's not inevitable and it's a reflection -- a cause and a consequence of inequality.

    So what we would expect in terms of responsible reporting is that some of those questions get asked, some people are called upon to actually say: well, what are -- "You are our politicians. You are our decision-makers. What do you think about this? What are your steps to deal with it? What are you doing about?"

    And they're very, very rarely, if ever, treated in that way. It's simply a one-off tragic case. How awful, how dreadful, what a shame, nothing we can do about it. So it's just a lack of contextual ignorance and failing to ask the right questions, but I think where that becomes a problem for us is that that again causes us to sit back and think there isn't anything we can or should be doing about and it can have quite a damaging effect as well in terms of what is your priority and your focus and your public responsibility and your accountability, whereas, as I said before, in -- a free press which it is actually meeting its own aims of holding people to account, could and should, I think, be asking those kind of more challenging questions about our society and the status quo.

  • Thank you. A related issue, but it flows on from the general issue you just adumbrated, at the bottom of page 54247, invisibility of the victim and identifying with the perpetrator.

  • Do you want to say something about that?

  • Yes. We actually also referenced the Facebook murder as an example of this and again, some of those family killings over the Christmas period. What we feel is that a lot of the coverage of cases of violence against women, whether that's sexual violence or other forms of violence against women, have a considerable focus on the perpetrator in often quite a sympathetic way. So he was depressed, he was losing his job, he feared that his wife was going to leave him, he was provoked. She said something that triggered him in some way. And often it's amazing how little you find out about the woman who is actually the victim. Whilst -- again, I think the point that was made by my colleagues. It's not that those things are not valid to be said. They are. There will be all sorts of reasons that may cause a man to be violent, but the point is ultimately he has been violent, he has chosen to be violent and there is a context for that and there is another half to that story, which is what's been happening in the lives of that woman and of women more generally.

    And again, putting it in context of the statistics, when you look at two women a week being killed by their partners or ex-partners, there is a kind of a context there which needs to be addressed, and the tendency to kind of obscure the victim so you find out virtually nothing about her, or worse, in many cases, to scrutinise her very intensely and actually look at what was her behaviour and what was her lifestyle like. Was she a difficult person? Did she say unpleasant things? Was she having an affair? She may have been, and all those things might be reprehensible or dislikeable or may make the situation more difficult, but the way it's portrayed all too often is -- the implication and what the reader could go away with is the impression that there is a validation or a justification or an explanation of why that man would commit that violence, and these things do have an implication for whether a woman will report a case or not. Will she blame herself? That's particularly the case in rape instances that we deal with. I think we're going to come to that later.

  • Yes, in the context of rape -- this is 54249 -- you point out that the stranger rape scenario is quite rare, and the more statistically familiar example is acquaintance or date or even marital rape. Can I invite you, please, to develop that theme?

  • Yes. If I'm really honest, this is where it becomes quite difficult because understandably the media are reporting the cases that go to court and they're reporting the cases that are, in their view, or what they perceive to be their readers' views, the most interesting, the most different, or unusual, or in many cases, the ones that most fit with what their readers' own views are or how they view society.

    So I can see how this happens, but it's kind of which comes first. These two things feed off each other. Something like only 8 per cent of rapes are the kind of stranger who leaps out of a bush on a dark night or attacks a woman sleeping in her bed at night. That is about 8 per cent of rapes. The rest are acquaintance rapes, date rapes, market tall rapes. You would never know that from reading the papers, but that feeds a discourse around what is a "real" rape, who is a "real" victim, who is a "real" rapist, and where that becomes particularly harmful for us is we will find examples of women saying that they will blame themselves, that they shouldn't come forward because they were drinking or wearing certain clothes or they'd known this person, it was a friend of theirs, or even, in some cases, they'd had sex with them in the past, and what they have read in the papers or heard in the discourses is that in some way they are responsible for that, that that's not "real" rape.

    So where it's harmful is it actually can deter women from reporting rape. This is similar with false allegations. Again, there is a very significant intense interest in reporting so-called false allegations of rape. Again, there's very little contextualisation around how common is a false allegation of rape compared to a false allegation of other crimes. What goes on that causes a false allegation? What is recorded or reported as a false allegation? It could be no crime. It could actually -- there's a whole series of things that actually could get reported as a false allegation where actually it may just have been that there was no conviction.

  • I've not thought about this in quite the context that I am now, but of course there are all sorts of entirely sensible laws relating to reporting, and of course, because of the entirely correct approach not to identify victims, do you think that there is less interest in reporting the marital example because the newspaper report then loses all context? Because if it's a marital rape and you can't identify the victim, then you can't identify the defendant either, because the whole thing has to then move into language which is much more non-specific, so that there is no risk to the identification issue. Is that a problem? I've never ever thought of it that way, but it's just arising out of what you've been saying.

  • I think what we're trying to focus on here is -- there was recently a Mumsnet survey and it was very unscientific, informal, but it was a huge number of women who responded around sexual violence and they said that -- there was a very high proportion of them had experienced some form of rape, whether that was date rape or marital rape, whatever. They said they would not report it -- when they were asked: "Would you report it? Did you report it?" they said no, they wouldn't, because they were in fear of being blamed or of being accused of false allegations.

  • You don't have to persuade me around that. Anybody who's spent 40 years in the criminal justice system, as I have, knows only too well about the underreporting, the issues that stand in the way of accessing justice. I hope we're better now than we were.

  • We've certainly put some effort into it.

  • So to get the whole picture -- I understand, although I'm very happy that you make it clear so that everybody else does. I am just interested, for the purposes of this, in whether the anonymity rules mean that the larger proportion of reported rapes that go to court are not reported because they are not as interesting. Do you see the question I'm asking?

  • I do. I'm not sure that I would focus on the anonymity rules as the issue here, really.

  • No, I'm not focusing on them. I'm just asking the question.

  • I think it's more about the stereotype and perception of what is a real rape. So that is both what gets reported and also what then gets -- reported by the media, that is, and also reported to the police for action to be taken. I don't think that's so much about the identification as it's about the stereotype that a real rape is a stranger leaping out of a bush.

  • Jumping out of the bushes. I understand that point.

  • I may be missing your point, I'm sorry.

  • Very well. I'm also conscious that much is made about the low conviction rate for rape without any understanding of the enormous problems there are when one is analysing the behaviour of two human beings who don't actually agree about what happened in an incident that is not witnessed by anybody else. That's one of the problems of which I'm sure you're aware.

  • But that's not quite the purpose of this exercise, and I'm sorry to take you down that track.

  • Finally, Ms Harvey, in relation to your examples or your themes, could I ask you please to address the new media theme, 54249 and following page, and your concern there.

  • Yes. I only briefly mentioned it here but obviously there's increasingly and rightly debate in the general media and general public and comment, blog and, as others have said, almost all of us have become publishers in a way.

    I think the point that I reference here -- some of you will have seen the New Statesman article which actually asked women about their experiences of blogging, commenting and what kind of responses they got, and what was quite shocking about it, even for me, was the level of abuse that people get, and there was a recognition even amongst some of the male commenters as well that the abuse that women get when they comment on issues of public policy generally, but particularly on issues relating to women's rights or feminism or anything of that nature, is very sexist and gendered abuse. It's not purely: "You're talking rubbish and you don't know what you're talking about", or: "Shut up", or: "I disagree about you", which is a normal feature in debate; there is language -- quite violent and vitriolic language like, "You should have ..." I mean, some of it I couldn't even repeat here, but: "You should have your tongue ripped out. You should be raped backwards with a bush." It's ridiculous, but that is the kind of language that is used, that you should be gang raped, you should be raped in every orifice with an implement. These are genuine things that have been said, as well as a focus on your looks, you're ugly, or an assumption that you must be a lesbian, as though that was a very bad thing, you're unattractive to men, you're not interested in men and you're man-haters. Assumptions about your sexuality, assumptions about your looks and quite -- as I say, very violent and obscene abuse which, as I say, I can't even repeat here in some cases.

    Now, the women themselves and a lot of even the men who were also involved in the whole comment thread around that recognised that that was actually about preventing or resenting women's rights to comment on public matters. If she's talking about cupcakes and children, it might be okay, but if she's talking about public policy, if she's talking about women's rights, about equality, about the economy, there is a challenge to her right to have and express an opinion, and a lot of the women who actually blog themselves feel that this is actually about intimidating women into knowing their place, and that's -- for me, the nub of this matter, really, is women's voices and women's issues are actually being silenced, to some extent intimidated, not properly covered, not adequately or covered in a partial way, in a stereotyped way that can be misleading, misrepresentive, inaccurate and is not a true representation of how women experience life.

    I think the point I noticed this morning with PEN's submission -- I very much liked what they used as their definition around public interest, that that might be something that looks at how it can enhance the public's ability to engage in public debate.

    As I've said before, we support freedom of speech. With that in mind, that it should enable people to equally participate in shaping, deciding, commenting on our society and holding our society to account, and our view is that the way that media covers women at the moment -- the portrayal of women in media, the roles that are focused on, the stereotypes that are there -- it curtails and limits women's freedom of expression and women's ability to engage in that public debate, and we think actually the press can be a crucial and helpful partner in actually challenging some of those norms and enabling that freedom of speech and expression for everybody with just a little bit of tweaking these and there. Thanks.

  • Finally, please, on individual examples -- I know you haven't given any, Ms Hunt, but are there any themes or specific examples you would draw to our attention which we could consider in the context of your general submission?

  • I think to reinforce what my colleagues have been saying, over the years this has been a huge issue for the international community and decades of work on looking into this, and to really focus on the harms of this sexist stereotyping in media and it being a barrier to achieving the equal participation of women -- we don't have, for example, very diverse images of women in the media. BME women, older women, women with disabilities are virtually absent from the media.

    Women in decision-making roles, they have very negative stereotypes. Blair's babes, Dave's dolls. Even when the content of the article is about an interesting issue and may be a very interesting debate, the headlines there signal immediately trivialisation of women, infantilisation of women, demeaning of women, so that women, again, to pick up what Heather was saying, having an opinion is really seen, in a broader sphere, as something negative and it reinforces the way society maybe thinks about those issues and legitimises that.

    And the other part, in terms of the freedoms we're mentioning, is the legitimisation and normalisation of sexualism in society by the broader community, which may also legitimate violence against women, and that in turn might have a legitimate -- a consequence on access to justice for women.

    So if you're looking at all these particular -- any example of women given a sexist stereotype, it's actually limiting women's participation in society or having justice or being able to combat violence So I think any of the examples we give, they come back to those fundamentals.

    Freedom of the press: fine, yes, important, really critical, and we use it to expose what governments are doing. It's really really key, but we have to find a way to make sure that women are not sidelined and objectified and taken out of political and human and society participation.

  • May I turn now to the issue of recommendations, please. In framing that issue, may I just draw attention to two or three matters? The first is that under the existing code, clause 1, there's an obligation to the press to be accurate. If I paraphrase, there's considerable latitude to comment. Under clause 12, there's an anti-discrimination provision, if I can put it generally and crudely, and that must include gender discrimination. There's a free speech issue, which each you recognise, and there is also the possibility of amending the code if the code doesn't adequately address the concerns each of you raise. But I wonder if I might ask each of you in turn, first of all perhaps starting with Ms Lewis, to tell us your blueprint for recommendations for change.

  • So the first point for us is, I suppose, a softer recommendation, which is one around training, and we know that that throws up challenges in terms of achieving that, but having journalists receiving manager training on the law of reporting violence against women so you don't have the "I didn't know, I shouldn't have disclosed, you know, her identity", including the absolute and clear rule that victims of alleged rape have anonymity, but also looking at violence against women and girls within a UK context and a broader context, so there's understanding of what the genuine issues are, and some myth-busting, so that what you have is you have journalists that are themselves empowered because actually what they have is accurate information.

    For us, there's also something around sanctions for journalists who break the law, and at the moment it's almost as if free press feels as if it somehow grants some degree of immunity. We want accountability. We want a free press, but we want an accountable press.

    We also want to see editors be more willing to remove editorial material which blames victims. Victim-blaming is very different from providing a critical perspective around violence against women and girls, and we need to make that really clear. So looking at the circumstances, looking at the wider issues is not the same as having a tone which suggests "she called this down on herself".

    We also really urgently need some kind of public discussion about the way -- and I think actually what I'll do is leave that to Anna, because that's a bit more around the pornography side of things, but our members have also stated that they want to see a regulatory system which has teeth. At the moment we're concerned that the current system doesn't have adequate -- doesn't provide an adequate framework for seeking redress.

    We also know that very often women who have been wronged do not feel able to take on carrying out a complaint. If we have a mechanism that would allow groups to take up complaints and to support individual women in taking out complaints, then we believe that that would be useful --

  • Or you could do it by having the ability for a group to make the complaint --

  • -- rather than the individual victim.

  • Yes. So if I can contact the Advertising Standards Agency if I drive past something and I think that the image isn't appropriate, and I've done that, I want to be able to comment, as an individual member of the public or as an organisation, on something that I actually think is inappropriate in terms of press behaviour.

    I think that's it.

  • So in terms of complaining, one could have perhaps the sort of sufficient interest test, which we understand in public law, which would allow groups to complain as well.

  • I think that's a point each of you wishes to make individually, but it's come from Ms Lewis. Ms Hunt, any recommendations you would wish to advance today?

  • In addition to that, I think we want women's groups or equality organisations to be involved in setting the standards within a new, say, Press Complaints Commission, because we know now there are those headlines of discrimination and inaccurate reporting, and there's also a carve-out for so-called good taste or tone, and I think if you don't understand the context and you don't understand the gender equality arguments, you might be persuaded in thinking this is about tone rather than actually about the substance of discrimination, so we would like that.

    And in terms -- I wasn't quite sure what Lord Leveson was saying in terms of the group. I think we don't want just a group who's supporting an individual to be able to make that complaint. We would like more along the lines, say, of the CEDAW optional protocol where you're making complaints, both an individual who is directly affected and either grave or systemic, a pattern of abuse that we can then go to the media and say, "This is systemic, this is a pattern of abuse that constantly feeds into the sexualisation" --

  • The idea, what I was suggesting and I think what Mr Jay has also spoken about, is anybody can complain who has a sufficient interest, so it could be the victim, it could be groups such as yours had a legitimate right to raise issues with the relevant authority, whether it's a commission, a regulator, whatever, to have them adjudicated upon, which would have the benefit not merely of providing a potential sanction, but also an encouragement to education to change the way in which issues are discussed without itself, as it were, using a big club to prevent free speech.

  • Just an additional point, if I may. Sexism doesn't start in the newsrooms. It's in our society. So we're also asking -- and maybe this isn't appropriate for this forum -- the government to really take a lead on education campaigns both in schools and generally in the public about stopping discrimination and promoting sex equality.

  • Ms van Heeswijk.

  • So essentially our summary of recommendations would be, one, the regulation of printed material should be consistent with the regulation of other forms of media, so essentially that would mean that material that would not pass the test for pre-watershed television should not be allowed to be printed within unrestricted newspapers.

    Secondly, that any form of regulation or printed materials should be guided by equality legislation that already exists, so in this case I'm referring to the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equality Act and making the point that any messages and images which would not be considered suitable for the workplace under those pieces of legislation again should not be printed and readily accessible within unrestricted newspapers.

    I would reiterate the point about groups being able to make complaints on the basis of how groups are persistently stereotyped and misrepresented.

    Then just additionally the issue of gender equality being the sort of baseline of any form of regulating this type of material, so that it is considered in relation to the impact that it has on women, the impact that it has on shaping the attitudes of children and young people about women, about young girls, rather than in relation to more subjective notions of obscenity, for example.

    My key point would be that this really -- we're not proposing any form of radical -- any radical overhaul of media regulation; we're just calling for consistency, essentially, of how other areas of the media are regulated to be -- and for the print media to be brought in line it that.

  • Thank you. Ms Harvey?

  • I think my colleagues can -- Ms Larasi has covered most of what I want to say. For us it's about improved guidance in training, it's about representation and input and expertise from a wider and more independent group. We would definitely like quick and affordable access to remedies. We would like a proactive power to whatever this new body would be to undertake research or investigations when they themselves identify or receive lots of complaints around patterns or trends or clusters of issue. We would like some form of stronger sanction.

    But really it's the main thing again would be this point about having some means of bringing a complaint as a member of a group or a community, because I think that's the only way you can bring in line the possibility of some of the perhaps less tangible but nonetheless real harms that could arise in a system that is -- persists as being unequal and discriminatory.

  • Thank you. Finally may I deal with a discrete issue which comes out of our yellow file. Tab 11. It bears really on our third module. This is Ms Van Heeswijk's evidence in relation to what the Sun were doing. I'm not sure about the date. Could you help us?

  • This is an attempt to ban Page 3 and then use pressure to try and thwart there. Could you talk us through this one, please?

  • Of course. I guess firstly I would say that it's a shame that the editors of these newspapers were not questioned on these issues when they were in front of you, but I think it is very crucial that this issue is re-addressed in module 3, and this is one of the reasons why, because essentially these newspapers credit created a culture of fear which silences groups, politicians, anybody much from speaking out against their persistent portrayal of women as sex objects against Page 3, and one of the ways that they most sort of famously did that is through the real vilification and targeting of Clare Short, who instigated a campaign against Page 3 in the 1980s.

    What we see a an example from the Sun newspaper that actually perhaps the second example, which is 11B is more illustrative, because it is a photograph of the page within the Sun. What we have here is Clare Short's face was superimposed onto a Page 3 model and the headline is:

    "Fat, jealous Clare brands Page 3 porn."

    They likened Clare Short to the "back of a bus" and they told jokes about that -- well, jokes in inverted commas, that making her into a Page 3 girl would be a "mission impossible". Clearly, the sort of -- the -- if it wasn't the purpose, the effect has been to essentially close down free speech in relation to groups and individuals feeling free to speak out and make a critique against these newspapers.

    As my colleague spoke about the often abusive comments that bloggers receive when they speak about issues relating to women's equality, which is clearly part of this wider culture that needs challenging, and these individual bloggers, here we're speaking about a national newspaper making similar comments about a politician, a democratically elected politician who took this campaign on because of the concerns of her constituents. I think this is very, very concerning, alarming. It's something that continues, so Harriet Harman, for example, has been vilified for the position that she has taken on Page 3, and then more recently Dr Even Harris, who actually put forward a motion at the Liberal Democrat conference, which was accepted, which essentially is supportive of the recommendations within this submission, again was deemed villain of the week within the Sun.

    So this is clearly a sort of bullying tactic and I think considering the fact that the editors themselves were not questioned on these issues, I think it's really essential that politicians have an opportunity to speak about the experiences that they've had when they have spoken up against the Page 3 phenomenon.

  • Thank you very much.

  • There's a limit to what the context of this Inquiry can achieve, but listening to your arguments as they've developed and with the graphic illustrations that you've provided, the start would certainly be, it seems to me from what you say, to permit bodies such as yours to be able to take up issues of press standards with whomsoever is responsible for regulating it. Would that be fair?

  • It would be a good start.

  • It would certainly be a start.

  • The point being I appreciate you have all sorts of other anxieties and I understand them, but I'm sure you understand also the length and the breadth of what I can do within the context of this Inquiry. I agree that there are elements that come into module 3 here, but how much further one can go without raising all sorts of other issues which could take me another year to think about is not entirely straightforward.

    So I'm not discouraging you, but I'm merely asking whether I've understood the absolute priorities. I understand you have a whole range of priorities.

  • I guess one issue would be is that this type of policy and regulation is completely -- it's sort of universally accepted and receives widespread support in relation to broadcast media, and therefore we would not see it as a real sort of drastic ask or proposal or recommendation to recommend that this already generally accepted policy would then be applied to print-based media.

  • Yes. I understand the point. You'll appreciate that that absolutely is changing the law. There's no question of trying to find a soft way of doing this. That's rock-solid legislation.

  • Which is why, I guess, it should be posed to the politicians.

  • Only because the other part of it, of course, is that the politicians are under international obligations, as my colleague has pointed out, to tackle the portrayal of women in this way, and therefore, if this is one of their obligations, their international obligations, legal obligations, it should be something that they are questioned about in relation to the media.

  • I think that's very interesting and I'm sure that we have noted that for when we get to the next stage, and if anything arises that you want to suggest should be put to the witnesses who are coming, then I have no doubt you know how to get in touch with us and to suggest it.

  • We do. Thank you very much.

  • Thank you very much indeed for coming, and I repeat my thanks for the effort that you put into these submissions.

    We'll say 2.05 pm.

  • (The luncheon adjournment)

  • I call Mr Bunglawala, please.