Mauled by the Mail

There’s a fascinating article in today’s Media Guardian (free registration required) about Indymedia journalist Mark Covell and the Daily Mail newspaper.

Covell, a journalist, was so savagely beaten by the Italian police that he lost consciousness, suffering serious injuries which included multiple broken ribs, a collapsed lung and internal bleeding. He was taken to hospital where he was given a blood transfusion and a chest drain was inserted to remove fluid from a lung. He was heavily sedated and his room was placed under armed guard.

…The day after the assault he awoke to find a man and a woman in his room. In his drugged state, he assumed the personable woman to be from the British embassy and therefore answered her questions, including the name, address and phone number of his mother.

The woman was Lucie Morris, a Daily Mail journalist, and her companion was a photographer.

The next day’s Daily Mail front page was headlined “Armed guard on Briton who led rioters”… The story, under Morris’s byline, accused Covell of “helping to mastermind” the Genoa riots by running “computer systems used to co-ordinate attacks … by anarchist groups”.

As Roy Greenslade points out:

The central thrust of the story, that Covell had led a riot or even had anything to do with its organisation, was wildly inaccurate. He was operating computers for Indymedia, a journalistic collective of environmentalists which despises “the corporate media” but which took no part in the violent confrontations with police. Covell, who did not even attend the street protests, was one of many innocents attacked by the Italian police that night.

The article’s worth reading, not least because it provides some insights into the difficulty of fighting back against a newspaper character assassination.