A cross section of over 50 faith leaders, civil society leaders and other leading figures have signed a joint letter to Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail, in response to the paper’s divisive reporting on dangerous driving this week, which targeted ‘foreign’ truckers.
The Mail’s front page headline on 2 November 2016 read: “Madness: As a Polish lorry driver is jailed for killing a family while on his mobile, we catch 17 foreign truckers using their phones at 50mph. The law MUST be toughened.”
The signatories recognise that reporting news is a “force for good” and highlight the importance of the issue of dangerous driving with its devastating consequences, such as in the case described in the Mail’s report. They are, however, concerned that isolated coverage of foreign drivers unsupported by evidence could fuel divisions “in a climate where hate crime against minority communities is on the rise”.
In the Guardian’s report on the letter, Greater Manchester police chief Ian Hopkins emphasises the importance of media coverage on the dangers of driving while using mobile phones, but comments that “it is really important we don’t blame particular communities or groups of individuals without evidence”.
The open letter is reproduced in full below:
“We write with great concern following the Daily Mail’s front page of 2 November. Texting while driving has been one of the biggest causes of car-related deaths in the UK and it is important that in the case described in the Mail’s report, justice was served for the victims of this appalling tragedy caused by the dangerous driving of the driver.
Yet almost 100,000 people were caught by police last year for using a mobile phone behind the wheel, the vast majority of whom were almost certainly not foreign. By highlighting the unlawful use of mobile phones by foreign truck drivers alone, the Mail propagates the idea that foreign truckers are more likely to engage in this behaviour.
This is an unjustifiable slur with no evidence that incites hatred and ill-feeling towards the “other”, while doing little to advance the Mail’s goal of toughening law enforcement, or supporting the families of those killed in this incident. In a climate where hate crime against minority communities is on the rise, many have already publicly commented on how they believe such a front page article to be wholly irresponsible.
There is no doubt in our minds that reporting the news is a force for good, as it uncovers the truth and informs our society. We only hope that the Mail is able to reflect on whether its coverage of minority groups in our society does indeed uphold the highest professional standards of responsible journalism, or rather fuels divisions with real-life consequences”.