On Tuesday Conservative aide Richard Holden wrote a must-read article about his experience of being falsely accused of sexual assault. His ordeal saw Holden resign from his job and then losing another only to be cleared in less than an hour by a jury with even the judge noting his innocence and the fiasco appears to be yet another case of serious misconduct by the police and CPS.
In such cases, it’s interesting to examine media coverage of events, and examine contrasts between reporting of mere allegations put forward during the trial, and the actual verdict.
The allegations against Holden were first reported by Buzzfeed on November 7th 2017, with two of their journalists writing an article with 14 paragraphs about the allegations. Buzzfeed doesn’t appear to have covered the trial itself while it was in progress, but reported the verdict, albeit about as concisely as possible. The article is just five sentences long, and only three of those concern the case itself, with no detail whatsoever about the judge’s comments nor the speed in which Holden was cleared.
It’s obvious that Buzzfeed has no interest in the countless victims of false accusations in the UK and their coverage of the Holden case reflects this. However, while their behaviour is unpleasant and extremely poor journalism, it isn’t grossly unethical either and they have at least produced a headline making readers aware of Holden’s innocence (if not the true reality of the situation).
The Guardian’s coverage of the cases commenced on 21 May 2018, during the trial itself. The paper wrote an article with the incredibly one-sided (and now clearly untrue) headline stating: “Michael Fallon’s ex-aide ‘groped woman while hugging her'”. Holden was cleared four days after the publication of this piece, yet the Guardian had nothing to say about the matter on that day, not a single word. In addition to Buzzfeed, other organisations covering the verdict that day included the Daily Telegraph, The Times, the Sun, and the BBC, as well as a number of local newspapers. In other words, all other outlets that reported the accusations against Holden did the right thing and reported on his innocence too.
Holden’s case is particularly notable and newsworthy given the scandals surrounding Alison Saunders at the CPS and the police evidence disclosure failures. Thus, in addition to all the coverage this week, Holden gave media interviews as early as 28th May outlining his terrible ordeal, yet still the Guardian remained silent about the outcome.
It wasn’t until the 12 June that the paper acted, publishing a single paragraph “update” to its article smearing Holden. The Guardian stated:
Update: Richard Holden was later acquitted and after the jury had unanimously found him not guilty the judge said Holden “leaves the court without a stain on his character”.
So, in addition to waiting 18 days to inform readers of Holden’s innocence, they couldn’t actually bring themselves to publishing an article stating such a fact. Instead, they buried the news in the form of an update that almost no readers will ever get to see. Furthermore, this burial of the news via an “update” means there’s no large headline noting Holden’s innocence either. This is deeply unethical behaviour and the paper has intentionally given massively more prominence to false accusations against Holden than to the facts of the case.
Delving deeper into the issue, we can see that the Guardian’s piece from 21st May is taken from The Press Association. This raises the question as to whether fault lies with the Guardian or whether they’re an innocent party and the ethic failure lies with the news agency they used? A search of news article on the 25th shows the Swindon advertiser reported on Holden’s innocence, and the source for their article is given as the Press Association. In other words, the Guardian decided to give prominence to the false allegations, yet couldn’t be bothered using the very same agency’s report announcing the man’s innocence.
Of course, it could have been a simple and genuine mistake by the Guardian in failing to use the second Press Association piece, but any half-reputable outlet wouldn’t merely publish the update in question and they’d want readers to know the truth in a full article as well as put things right in term of the harm they’d caused to Holden. The fact that they failed to put matters right properly goes to show the extreme agenda of the paper and it’s lack of concern for reporting the truth.
It’s near impossible for victims of false allegations to clear their names, yet the Guardian’s radical feminist agenda is so extreme that the newspaper is actively making the situation worse for them. Firstly, they’re failing to report on the innocence of those cleared in court and when they do eventually report the truth (perhaps after bineg forced to do so?), the newspaper does so reluctantly, burying the information so almost no one ever gets to see it, as if it’s of no importance.
We’ve outlined the Guardian’s track record of hiding information about false sexual assault allegations and their victims previously. Out study of media coverage of suicides caused by false rape accusations in the UK famously showed the BBC had failed to ever cover a single such case, though it was notable that the only other outlet with the same shameful record was the Guardian. The newspaper invariably sides with false accusers and against their victims, such as in the case of Eleanor DeFreitas, and thus their attitude is that of simply beliving the accuser, with facts an evidence being of no intersst.
There’s much talk about fake news and people losing trust in the media, and is it really any surprise when a newspaper can’t even bring itself to report on a man’s innocence after giving such prominence to the allegations against him? Being falsely accused of rape or sexual assault is a horrific experience for victims at the best of times, yet the Guardian does all it can to make matters even worse, thus showing a complete lack of compassion or even concern for human life, given the link between false accusations and suicide. Holden describes the experience as “cruel public shaming”, a phrase that surely sums up the Guardian’s “journalism” perfectly.
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