giovedì 13 marzo 2014

The readers' editor on… our coverage of the Meredith Kercher murder trials

We are accused of focusing too much on Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito and neglecting the victim

Here an article by Chris Elliot, posted on The Guardian website last 2 march 2014

The murder of the British student Meredith Kercher in 2007 in Perugia was a brutal crime that, after seven years of protracted legal proceedings against Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, now re-convicted of her murder, has still not achieved a conclusion.
Knox and Sollecito were first convicted, then, after four years in jail, acquitted. On 30 January 2014 their convictions were reinstated after a four-month second appeal hearing. Italy's court of cassation could take a year or more to decide whether to make the convictions final. Meanwhile Sollecito is free in Italy – although he can't leave the country – and Knox is with her family in Seattle. They were accused of carrying out the crime with another man, Rudy Guede, who is serving 16 years in jail for Kercher's murder after a fast-track trial.
The case, which has polarised public opinion in the UK, has been covered extensively by the Guardian since 2007 in the form of news, comment and features, as well as a video interview with Knox. The latest round of coverage has brought a score of complaints to the office of the readers' editor as well as two letters published in the paper attacking the coverage.
One was signed by 108 people, whose signatures were gathered in 24 hours. The covering letter that came with it said the coverage was unbalanced: "We do not feel that a respected newspaper such as the Guardian should be reporting about the case in such a biased manner."
One published letter said: "Why are you carrying a torch for Amanda Knox, even to the point of making her the cover girl for Weekend as well as nine pages inside (8 February)? The family of the victim lives in the UK but Meredith Kercher barely gets a mention." A number asked whether Knox was paid for the interview in Weekend. She was not.
It is important to look at the overall coverage. In addition to many stories in the news columns there was also the article in Weekend magazinea video and, in addition, a Comment article written by Andrew Gumbel, one of the two authors of a book giving Sollecito's account of the case.
None of the complaints have focused on the news coverage and I think the Guardian's news stories are accurate, fair and balanced, with quotations from the Kercher family and their lawyer in the front-page story of 31 January, the day after the latest verdict was announced.
The Comment article, published on the web on 31 January, unequivocally treats the reinstatement of the guilty verdicts for the pair as a miscarriage of justice, claiming the decision was taken "without a shred of evidence to substantiate the verdict". Gumbel says that he agreed to co-write the book because "I was convinced there was no case; I did not, by agreeing to co-author a book, suspend my independent judgment, nor would I for any project."
The interview with Knox, by Simon Hattenstone, reads sympathetically but is not without challenge to her. For instance, the many inconsistencies in her account, including her confession, are included and the piece also includes her conviction for slanderously accusing Patrick Lumumba, a bar owner, of the murder. The writer also presses her on why she accused Lumumba and if she has ever apologised to him.
Melissa Denes, Weekend's editor, said the decision to approach Knox was made at the time she was judged innocent, not since the conviction was restored. She says the Weekend feature was not meant to be about a miscarriage of justice: "We're not lawyers or detectives, and even Knox's best friend [Madison Paxton] says no one can be 100% sure [of her innocence], in the film. The writer had extraordinary access to a woman who has had reams of untruth and speculation written about her, and for me the point was more to show the reality behind 'Foxy Knoxy', which is startlingly far from the wealthy, PR-hungry, beauty queen of tabloid imaginings.
"We requested interviews with the Kercher family three times via their lawyer and had no response. We are very conscious that Meredith Kercher is the bigger victim in all this."
It should be possible to both recognise the ordeal of the Kercher family, and respect their wish not to comment, while at the same time examining the claims of Knox and Sollecito that, as things currently stand, there has been a miscarriage of justice.

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