Today the Evening Chronicle published an article that misrepresents the arrest of Michael MacDonald (known to most people as Don) on 16 February, sacrificing facts to sensationalism. Mr MacDonald was served a fixed penalty notice under Section 5 of the Public Order Act, but has returned this notice to the court and has stated his intention to fight the charge.
The article claims that ‘Nick Forbes was threatened in the street’, ‘subjected to a tirade of abuse’ and ‘harassed’ by Mr MacDonald. The tagline of the photo in the print edition reads ‘Most marchers were peaceful on the save our services demonstration through Newcastle last Saturday’, which many people will read as implying that the actions of Mr MacDonald on the march were not peaceful. Not only has Mr MacDonald not been found guilty in court, but he has not even been accused of threatening Mr Forbes. The charges instead relate to a placard Mr MacDonald was holding, which was featured in this Sky News report as ‘creative’, but which it is alleged caused Mr Forbes alarm and distress. Mr MacDonald denies any intention to cause alarm or distress, has posted the fixed penalty notice back to the court and declared his intention to challenge the charges. Mr MacDonald states that on 16 February he approached Mr Forbes, showed him a banner and said ‘Have you seen this?’, referring to the banner, and continued: ‘You were made out to be saviour in the press today when you’ve left your city out to dry.’ This was all that he said, and he has not been accused of saying anything different. It is very poor journalism to describe this as a ‘tirade of abuse’ and threats. Nick Forbes is not a victim, and should not be presented as one by the Evening Chronicle – the people we should be concerned about are the thousands of Newcastle residents facing devastating cuts directed by Mr Forbes’ council. Mr MacDonald was merely speaking his mind, and exercising the right to challenge an elected representative that all of us should have.
The campaign is calling on people to contact the Chronicle to ask them to issue a public statement correcting the inaccuracies of their 23 February article. We hope that if enough readers show this is a matter they are concerned about, it will encourage the Chronicle to take action.
You can email the Editor of the Chronicle at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Write a letter for the letters page to: email@example.com
And comment on the website version of the article here.
We encourage you to write your own letter, especially if you were on the march of 16 February, but if you would prefer you can use the model letter/email to the editor below:
I was very concerned to read your article of 23 February entitled ‘Security increased as Nick Forbes is threatened’. The article states as a matter of fact that Michael MacDonald threatened and abused Mr Forbes during his appearance at the 16 February demonstration against the local and national cuts to services and benefits, and implies in the photo caption that his actions were not peaceful. It is my understanding that Mr MacDonald has not been accused of making any threats, and denies the charges against him of causing intentional alarm and distress through the placard he was holding. The article is therefore factually incorrect and misleading, and I ask you to issue a public statement and apology in the online and print editions of the Evening Chronicle correcting this mistake, to make it clear what the charges are and that Mr MacDonald denies them.