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Clarence Mitchell says
British journalists, who were in Portugal to cover the
Madeleine case, were lazy Photo: MIKE ALMOND
Speaking at the UK's Society of Editors conference in Bristol on Monday,
Clarence Mitchell told delegates that he faced the daily problem of
dealing with inaccuracies created by a hungry British press pack.
'The British press out there in Portugal, and I'm not singling out any
particular publication, were - I'm afraid to say this and I don't like
to say this because I'm a former journalist myself - they were lazy,' he
told the conference.
He said: 'The Portuguese police hid behind the law of judicial secrecy
saying they weren't able to comment, either on the record or off the
record, but that didn't stop lots of information finding its way from
police files into the Portuguese press.
'However, when the British press made inquiries they came up against a
stone wall so they resorted to sitting in the local bar, which had the
lethal combination of free Wi-Fi and alcohol, and that became the
newsroom predictably enough.
'It meant that they then sat every morning just going through whatever
had been leaked to the Portuguese papers, 99 per cent of it totally
inaccurate lies, one per cent I would say distorted or misunderstood
through cultural differences in some cases.
'This was then put to me, I would then deny or try to correct it, that
would be a quote from me, 'Mitchell's balanced it', that was balanced
journalism, and off it went.'
Mitchell said that British newspapers put reporters under pressure to
come up with new angles and exclusive stories in the months after
Madeleine went missing in May last year. 'I had certain reporters from
certain groups almost in tears some mornings saying, 'If you don't give
me a front-page splash by 4pm I'm going to be fired,' he added.
'I can understand the pressure they are under but when I said 'I can't
help you, we honestly haven't got anything of value or anything to
warrant that coverage' nevertheless a front page would then duly appear
in certain titles.' Mitchell added: 'Things that were allegations or
suggestions in the Portuguese press were hardened up into absolute fact
when they crossed the Channel.'
Meanwhile, as another milestone is passed since Madeleine McCann
disappeared, her parents have said that they are 'feeling low'.
It was 18 months ago last week that Madeleine went missing from the
family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz and Gerry and Kate McCann
have expressed their disappointed on Gerry's blog that there have still
been no real developments in the search for their daughter.
He revealed that the date was 'just another day without Madeleine' and
that 'we continue to work very hard behind the scenes.'
Gerry McCann added: 'we are not yet halfway through the Portuguese files
but there is less information within the files than we were expecting',
although he also said that they have expanded the support team in the
NEWS NOVEMBER 2008