Our response to the Telegraph article
On Sunday 22nd December 2013, an article written by ‘journalist’ Patrick Sawer was published on the Telegraph online. It seems to us that the article, which was full of lies was a clear attempt to discredit our local campaign whilst slurring the name of two amazing individuals who are very passionate about protecting the environment.
The Telegraph and Patrick Sawer obviously underestimated how passionate the people of Greater Manchester and indeed, all over the country are about this campaign. If they thought we would let them get away with it, they have another thing coming. Below is our official complaint to the Press Complaint Commission. Please feel free to report them yourselves firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the editor of the Sunday Telegraph email@example.com
Frack Free Greater Manchester complaint to Press Complaints Commission
Dear Press Complaints Commission,
I am writing to you on behalf of Frack Free Greater Manchester with regards to an article in the Telegraph on 21st by Patrick Sawer ‘Fracking protests head north as activists mass on proposed Manchester shale gas exploration sites’ which contains statements which are factually incorrect and other facts which are presented so that they are likely to mislead the reader.
“Gathered under the banner of Frack Free Greater Manchester, militant activists last week pledged to do everything they could to disrupt the search for new sources of energy.”
The blockades of the IGas drilling site on Barton Moss were not carried out by Frack Free Greater Manchester nor did they purport to be. The wind turbine blockade on Monday 16th December was carried out by a group inspired by Reclaim the Power who answered an invite from FFGM to all groups and individuals around the country.
The article itself highlights this with a quote from Miss Aneaka Kellay “We want to show solidarity with the local community; to blockade the site, even if only temporarily, and to inspire others who might be tempted to take creative direct action.” As this quote was taken from a press release which made this distinction clear, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the author of the Telegraph article deliberately set out to mislead the reader.
Our community is standing up to rich, powerful, multinational corporations who enjoy the support of the government. It is because of this that people who do live in Greater Manchester set up the ‘Northern Gas Gala’ to invite groups and individuals to come and support us in our struggle against Igas. The article completely fails to supply this context, and again it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this is the result of a deliberate attempt to create a false impression in the mind of the reader.
Another example of this is the use of the word ‘militant’, which is not a descriptive word, and does not in any way define the actions of people at this site or those involved with the group No Dash for Gas, instead it just simply creates a negative impression when other, more informative language, could have been chosen.
“But The Telegraph can reveal that the leading campaigners against “fracking” in the North West have no connection to the area.”
This statement, and therefore the whole premise of the article is factually incorrect. Frack Free Greater Manchester was set up in September of this year at an open, public meeting in Eccles, Salford which was attended by people from all over Greater Manchester. We do not have ‘leading campaigners’ as we are a collective group of individuals which organises horizontally.
In fact, only one of the two individuals picked out by the article, Aneaka Kellay, is a member of Frack Free Greater Manchester. Contrary to what is stated I the article Aneaka has not recently moved to Manchester, but has lived here for over three years. Ewa Jasewicz, the other individual mentioned who is a member of No Dash for Gas does have links to Manchester as she lived and worked here for a number of years.
“Timothy Williams, 58, of Sussex; Alexandra Hart, 41, of Frome, Somerset; Hytham Chlouk, 23, of Caterham, Surrey, and Ian Tushingham, 47, from Wigan, Lancashire, were charged with obstructing the highway. HedarAbid, 24, of Caterham, Surrey, was charged with obstructing police.”
This is a selective quoting of the arrests that have been made at Barton Moss and misleads the reader into thinking that all arrests in relation to our campaign are people from outside of the area. Many local residents have been arrested by Greater Manchester Police not only at the site but with raids on their homes in the early hours of the morning. This important contextual information is not included in the article, presumably because it would undermine what is in fact an attempt to smear individuals and the campaign.
Frack Free Greater Manchester and our lawyer, Simon Pook of Robert Lizars solicitors will be putting in a complaint to Independent Police Complaints Commission about the arrests that have been made at Barton Moss and the conduct of Greater Manchester Police following them which includes: refusing people their requested lawyers, misleading individuals into believing that their lawyer is on the phone when in fact it is a duty solicitor and unfair bail conditions which are continuously over turned by the court. One might have thought that this might be considered more newsworthy, but none of this information is included in the article.
“Last night, one local MP described their protests as “bandwagon jumping”, and said that he had seen very little sign of opposition to fracking from people living in the area.”
Andrew Miller, the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, which is not in Greater Manchester, is not a local MP. Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South whose constituency includes the Barton Moss site has made it clear she will oppose proposed plans to frack at Barton Moss. http://www.barbarakeeley.co.uk/barbara-will-oppose-proposals-for-fracking-in-irlam
“The protests are in the name of Frack Free Greater Manchester and No Dash for Gas and claim to have the active support of a large number of ordinary local residents at protests and camps set up against drilling sites.”
The protests do enjoy the support of ordinary local residents. Three public meetings have been held between October and November 2013, each was well attended by residents local to the site. Further proof of the scale of local opposition would have been provided by a visit to the Community Protection Camp based opposite the drilling site, and conversations with local residents who visit and show their support on a daily basis, however the author of the article appears to have failed to have undertaken even basic investigative work to see whether the central premise of their article is, in fact, correct.
“In October, Miss Jasiewicz’s No Dash for Gas group organised a meeting of environmental activists held at the University of Manchester Student Union called “From Balcombe to Lancashire: Anti-Fracking Skillshare”. It was designed to enable militants in the environmental movement to swap strategies for the best way to cripple the energy industry’s search for shale gas and oil.”
The “From Balcombe to Lancashire: Anti-Fracking Skillshare” was organised by people in Manchester (not No Dash for Gas) who wanted to share knowledge with people involved in the anti-fracking campaign in Balcombe and other places in the country. Its aim was to unite communities from around the country who are having fracking forced upon them by said shale gas and oil industry. The attempt to portray this as somehow sinister once again shows the apparent desire of the author to portray a legitimate local campaign in the worst possible light with no regard for the actual facts of the matter.
It is possible that this article is simply sloppy journalism, but taking the number of inaccuracies together with the overall tone, the only reasonable conclusion is that the article is a deliberate attempt to discredit our campaign and smear individuals. I call upon the Press Complaints Commissioner to investigate this article as a breach of the Code of Editors. As the entire premise of the article is incorrect, it should be withdrawn and a full written and published apology is made to Frack Free Greater Manchester and the individuals who have had their names slurred in this article.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Frack Free Greater Manchester
Other responses to the Telegraph article:
No Dash for Gas response to Patrick Sawer Telegraph piece