Ken Orr complained about a cartoon published in The Press on Thursday 1 April 2010.

Mr Orr stated that the cartoon was misleading, false and offensive, and breached Principles relating to Accuracy and Comment and Fact.

The complaint is not upheld.

The Complaint
The cartoon depicted Pope Benedict holding a censer with the smoke from the incense covering the torsos of three small children; three pairs of legs and a teddy bear appeared below the cloud and a banner with the word “ABUSE” written on it was tied to the leg of one child. The word bubble emanating from the Pope’s mouth contained the words “The great thing about incense … it masks out unpleasant smells”.

Mr Orr stated that while he fully supports the freedom of the press to uphold the right to freedom of expression and for the public to be informed, he believes that this cartoon is ill informed and contains false statements and highlights an absence of investigative journalism on an important issue.

Mr Orr stated that The Press could have obtained correct information by accessing the Vatican Information Services website.

Mr Orr went on to say that the cartoon, in his view, was “inaccurate and lacks fairness and balance and misinforms readers by depicting Pope Benedict as the person ultimately responsible in the Catholic Church for covering up child abuse by a small number of priests”.

He said the cartoon did not make the distinction between fact and conjecture and could be perceived by readers as expressing fact, which was not the case.

The Newspaper’s Response
Newspaper editor Andrew Holden responded that The Press did not consider the cartoon had breached any Principle of the Press Council.

The editor stated that “Principle 1 is primarily concerned with factual articles rather than cartoons and the cartoon was an editorial cartoon published on a page clearly marked ‘Opinion’”.

The editor cited a Press Council adjudication from 2009 (Case 2078) where a complaint was not upheld regarding a cartoon about Pope Benedict. In that adjudication, the Press Council noted that “The cartoon is critical. But cartoonists must be permitted to challenge and confront. At times cartoons will cause offence but freedom of expression does not mean expressing only views that people agree with and suppressing other views. Without that understanding, freedom of expression ceases to exist”.

In regards to Mr Orr’s complaint of a breach of Principle 4, Comment and Fact, the editor noted that Mr Orr had omitted the final two sentences of that Principle.

Principle 4 states that “A clear distinction should be drawn between factual information and comment and opinion. An article that is essentially comment or opinion should be clearly presented as such. Cartoons are understood to be opinion”.

The cartoon was published on a page that was an opinion page and did not purport to be news reportage. The Principle relating to accuracy does not apply.

Cartoonists must be allowed to challenge and confront which at times may cause offence. Freedom of expression means that the view being expressed does not have to be one that a reader agrees with, but rather allows the cartoonist to express his own view.

The cartoonist had the right to highlight his views about Pope Benedict and the ongoing debate about sexual abuse by priests within the Catholic Church. The newspaper had the right to publish it.

The complaint is not upheld.

Press Council members considering this complaint were Barry Paterson (Chairman), Pip Bruce Ferguson, Ruth Buddicom, Sandy Gill, Penny Harding, Keith Lees, Clive Lind, John Roughan, Lynn Scott and Stephen Stewart.


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