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SoE condemns Dept of Health attack on news article

Posted on: November 23, 2020 by Ian Murray

The Society of Editors (SoE) has added its voice to those concerned with an attack on the Daily Mail’s investigation into the Covid-19 crisis by the Department of Health at the weekend.

The incident saw the Department issue an official Twitter message describing the in-depth analysis of statistics surrounding the UK’s response to the pandemic as ‘misleading.’ The Department however provided no explanation or counter arguments to the points raised in the two-page article and later removed its tweet.

The attack drew criticism from several sources at the weekend. Today the SoE added its concerns, stating that while criticism of any news media was acceptable and should be expected, it was unacceptable for a government department to attack the validity of a news article without providing supporting evidence.

“No journalist nor publication can and should expect their work will pass without scrutiny and criticism. But in this case the attack came from a government department that seemed to offer no explanation of why the Daily Mail analysis and the details it contained were mistaken,” commented SoE executive director Ian Murray.

“It is simply not acceptable for, in this case, the Department of Health to call into question an important news report without providing any evidence why.

“The Society has spoken repeatedly of the ways in which some in authority, who often speak of their support for a free press and the importance of the mainstream media, then attempt to undermine it when the reporting may be inconvenient or ‘off message.’

“The best weapon this country has in the fight against misinformation and fake news is the mainstream media with its highly trained, regulated journalists producing well-researched and professionally edited content. Indeed, only last month the government confirmed its belief that the mainstream media plays a vital role in combatting misinformation in this country, which makes this latest move all the more baffling and annoying.

“If the government or any other body wishes to counter a news report then they have every right to do so provided they answer with credible arguments of their own instead of resorting to unsubstantiated criticism,” added Murray.