Disabled activists have demonstrated outside the offices of the Daily Mail to protest about the newspaper’s “disablist” and “defamatory” coverage of the government’s push to force people off incapacity benefits.
More than 70 people – including members of Disabled People Against Cuts, the Autistic Rights Movement and the Mental Health Resistance Network – protested outside the paper’s central London headquarters.
The action was part of a day of protests across the country, including demonstrations outside offices belonging to Atos Healthcare, which carries out medical assessments on claimants of disability benefits.
A series of Daily Mail articles about benefits claimants have angered disabled people since the coalition government came to power.
They say the stories and their “lurid” and “sensationalist” headlines – such as “76 % of those who say they’re sick ‘can work’” – label disabled people as cheats and scroungers and fuel hate crime.
One protester, Eleanor Lisney, from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said: “What they are doing is dangerous and it just encourages disability hate crime, because people that read the Daily Mail will think disabled people are shamming it and are just benefits scroungers.”
Another protester, Dave Skull, an activist with Mad Pride, said the Mail was “smearing all claimants as being criminals”, and added: “What they are doing is slanderous. It’s lies.”
Linda Burnip, from DPAC, said: “The lies and half truths that the Daily Mail has published have resulted in an increase of hate crime attacks against disabled people.
“We are not prepared to sit back and allow them to continue to peddle their disgusting disablist propaganda unchallenged.”
The Mail declined to comment on the protest, which came as the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) revealed that two articles in the paper had been found not to have breached its “Editor’s Code”.
A Mail news story, on 26 January, accused hundreds of thousands of disabled people of “trying it on” in a bid to secure disability benefits.
A column on the same day – with a headline stating “400,000 benefits cheats show scale of workshy Britain” – referred to unsuccessful claimants as “scroungers” who were “on the fiddle” and “defrauding the system”.
Campaigners had lodged complaints about the articles with the PCC on the grounds of accuracy, harassment and discrimination.
But the PCC said it “took the view that the newspaper was entitled to take the editorial stance that certain claimants ‘were trying it on’”.
14 April 2011