Were the media unfair to Madeleine McCann’s parents?

March 19, 2008

gerry-and-kate-mccann.jpg“This was no journalistic accident, but a sustained campaign of vitriol against a grief-stricken family.”

That’s the verdict of media commentator Roy Greenslade after the Daily Express and Daily Star apologised to Kate and Gerry McCann for suggesting they were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.

The former Daily Mirror editor said “wild claims” about the parents of Madeleine McCann have undermined British journalism.

“The stories were not merely speculative, but laced with innuendo which continually made accusations against the McCanns on the basis of anonymous sources and without any hard evidence,” he wrote.

Greenslade said he doubted whether the paper’s editors would resign or whether the Press Complaints Commission would take any action.

Public relations consultant Max Clifford says reporters were put under huge pressure to deliver “news” even when there were no firm developments.

“Rumours and nonsense are being given to us as facts,” he told BBC radio.

Gerry McCann wrote on his blog that the family was “utterly dismayed” by some of the media coverage of the case.

Charlie Beckett, director of the media think-tank Polis, said: “This could be the moment when the tide turns against certain media excesses that have been growing in recent years. Most of the media had gone a bit mad over this story”

Do you think the media as a whole were unfair to Kate and Gerry McCann? 


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Utterly unfair. This was a sickening witch-hunt on a poor family grieving the loss of their beautiful little daughter – I was disgusted.

Posted by CAC | Report as abusive

The complaints authority should now get involved and clear this; shows the whole industry which is by and large respectable in bad light.

Posted by Gabe Menezes | Report as abusive

Shameful reporting, compounded by a failure to retract last year. The press complaints Authority should now take them to task.

Gives the otherwise respectable Industry in the U.K. a bad name

Posted by Gabe Menezes | Report as abusive

Given that the McCanns are still arguidos and the case is far from closed as far as the Portuguese Police are concerned, it seems a little early in the proceedings to be able to decide whether the media were unfair or not.

Posted by Molly | Report as abusive

The media were shameful in their reporting. At the end of the day, a little girl is missing. The wild speculation that was reported, drew attention away from looking for the child, and fuelling the vile vitriol seen on some of the media discussion forums, namely the Mirrors.

Focus on finding the child, not wild accusations.

Posted by Kay | Report as abusive

Disgraceful. In the knowledge that having the McCanns on the front page sold more papers, the Express Group were willing to tell lies in order to have something “newsworthy” in the Headlines. Jon Snow recently spoke of the integrity of the news media. What integrity?

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

Well, that should pay off the McCanns mortgage quite nicely. These people remain official suspects in the disappearance of their daughter – to claim there is ‘no evidence’ of their involvement is as sloppy as either printing McCann PR releases as news or repeating the more sensational claims of the Portuguese media.

Posted by Emma | Report as abusive

I still feel the McCanns are directly responsible for the loss of their daughter as they are supposed to be professional people caring for young children and they left them on their own. There are consequences for this behaviour and the McCanns have been punished for this in the most extreme way. I feel sorry for the little girl but the McCanns have brought everything else upon themselves. These people have been given millions of pounds to fund their search, but they don’t deserve it.

Posted by sam lee | Report as abusive

The vast majority of the British media have backed the McCanns. They have not questioned the McCann’s behaviour, they have censored any comments that cast doubts on the couple, and they have slandered the Portuguese police and disparaged Portugal. The Portuguese police, Mr. Murat and innocent bystanders in Portugal have more reason to complain and to litigate than the McCanns. I would also like to remark, how can a paper print that there is no evidence against the McCanns and that they are completely innocent? Do these papers have access to the case file? Their own admission that they left 3 toddlers alone, not once but for consecutive days, is considered an admission to a crime in Portugal. The only reason they were not prosecuted was due to diplomatic pressure.

Posted by Mario Guerra | Report as abusive

I and more surprised at how the media are having a love affair with the McCanns.

Not one bad piece of reporting has been made, only speculation. They have a PR expert on their payroll to avoid this, a huge team of lawyers – and who is paying for this? Oh yes the fund or the Daily Express, however you want to look at this.

In view of the fact Kate and Gerry McCann are suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, quite clearly left their children alone and yet the press are not allowed to print one wrong word against them.

Will Robert Murat now sue the British Media, the majority not one newspaper for the unsavoury comments made against him?

Posted by Pamela | Report as abusive

at the end of the day they left 3 small children alone in a room in a foreign country so they have no one to blame but themselves it is Madeleine that i have sympathy for.children depend on their parent(s) to look after them so she is the victim.it is a terrible thing to happen to anyone but their actions have had serious consequences at least gerry and kate are surrounded by people who love and support them through this,who is with Madeleine i dread to think.

Posted by kat | Report as abusive

How can the newspapers state that Kate and Gerry McCann are totally innocent? The case is still ongoing and these two are official suspects and they wouldn’t have been branded so had there not been enough evidence against them!! I think the pair of them are inexcusable, how dare they? I know they’ve lost their daughter and whatever the circumstances they should be pitied. But they put themselves out there in the spotlight in the first place, for a whole year we’ve had the McCanns and Clarence Mitchell commenting left, right and centre on other missing child cases. Madeleine has become the official face of missing kids and that is not right! She’s practically a corporate brand nowadays!! And may I remind everyone, that this would never have happened if those two hadn’t left their 3 children, one aged 3 and twins aged 2, alone in an apartment so far from home. Disgusting. I’m not condoning the Daily Express coverage, they probably deserved what they got but please, let’s have a break from the McCanns now and focus on the thousands of other missing children and grieving families that are out there!!!

Posted by Joanne | Report as abusive

How many people actually realise the Maddy Fund they’ve donated to is not a charity. It’s a limited company that has already paid some of the mortgage of the McCanns.

Posted by sheeple | Report as abusive

The press has been cruel with the Mc Canns. They have never thought their child could be abduted while they were having dinner. They thought they were safe. This is a tragedy and the police should have done their work and not accuse inocent people.

Posted by Maria Thereza Melo | Report as abusive

Let’s just stick to the known and veifiable facts in the case.

– The McCanns broke the law leaving 3 children under 4 alone whilst they went out for the evening, night after night.

– One of the children is missing, believed to be dead by the police.

– The Madeleine fund is, contrary to public belief, not a charity but is a private business benefiting the McCann family, after its objective to find Madeleine.

– The McCanns have refused to answer police questions.

– The McCanns are suspects in the disappearance of their daughter.

– The Portuguese police believe Madeleine died in the apartment and was probably an accident and that the McCanns hid the body.

Posted by sheeple | Report as abusive

I’m disgusted by this. WHY pay the official suspects in a missing child case when the case isn’t over??

Why did the McCanns want MONEY when they could have settled for an apology?

And lastly please ask the McCanns how come British sniffer dogs found Madeleines death scent in their apartment – yet they claim they don’t know what happened to her?

COME ON they know more than they let on!!

Posted by Maggie | Report as abusive

What utter rubbish to talk about a “witchhunt” against the McCanns, who – lest we forget – ARE suspects in the “disappearance” of their daughter, Madeleine. The question we (for it is left to the public as the British media won’t ask it) should be asking is not ‘Were the Media Unfair to Madeleine McCanns’ Parents?’ (the worrying use of the past tense suggests you know it to be a fait accomplis that there will be no more “unsympathetic” coverage of them…) but ‘Why Will the British Press Continue To Be So Astonishingly Sycophantic to Madeleine McCanns’ Parents?’ That would make a good subject for debate among the so-called independent press now wouldn’t it?

Posted by Caitlin | Report as abusive

Yes definitely. The stories in the Daily Express in particular were horrendous. I note they have disabled reader’s comments in response to their apology ‘for legal reasons’. Yeah really! They just don’t want the flak they oh-so-deserve for those atrocious articles day after day after day. The Daily Express should be ashamed of themselves (not to mention their readers who commented and their vitriol). The Daily Express should be boycotted and go out of business. Their apology is too little, too late.

Posted by Liz Jordan, Derry, Northern Ireland | Report as abusive

Unfair or not, the speculation about the McCanns was and is simply the way that the media makes a living.

The “news” is presented as a shallow mixture of entertainment, sensationalism, political propaganda and the self-opinionated views of the media staff themselves, instead of serious in-depth reporting of the facts.

With this shabby approach, it is inevitable that media companies will sometimes fall foul of the libel laws and will have to pay up. I’m sure they make provision for it in their budgets and treat it as just another operating expense.

Posted by Mike T | Report as abusive

Of course, yes! Media has not only been unfair, but also disgusting. In general,it
has not taken into account what those parents were suffering. Dear Molly, although they are still arguidos in Madeleine’s case, it does not mean that reporters can say whatever they want, just to sell more.

Posted by viviana | Report as abusive

Absolutely shocking.The newspaper editors should be taken to task and heads should roll.What use is compensation to damaged reputations due to journalist speculation and inaccuracy.If you throw enough mud at something some is bound to stick.

Posted by Cy Nical | Report as abusive


Only a fool doesnt know that the Find Madeleine Fund isnt a charity. What are you implying? Have you learnt nothing from what has happened to the Express group. You cannot go around accusing people without hard evidence.
If you bothered to read about the fund, it is made quite clear what it is.
May I also remind you that much of what is written in your post is the exact material that caused the Express to be sued in the first place. You dont know much of what you have written, it has came from the press, from unsubstantiated sources.

Posted by Diane Australia | Report as abusive

I believe the McCanns 100%. I think the media was so hurtful to the McCanns!

Posted by kay | Report as abusive

This couple has paid over and over and over again for making the mistake of leaving their children unattended. They have apologised publicly and admitted full guilt. Is it necessary to crucify them at every chance we get? What if Madeleine is found (not impossible) and grows up to read what was written about her parents in the media?
Come on everybody – the Mccanns have lost a daughter, not a pet dog!
Let’s give them a break! And pray with them that their daughter is found sooner rather than later.
Let’s focus on what can be done because history cannot be changed.

Posted by Ruth | Report as abusive

i think it just unfair that they blamed the parents and put them as suspects i just think they should stop blaming the mccanns and start looking for madeleine its just sik that someone could do this to such a young 4yr old beutiful girl madeleine and all the police are doing are putting the mccanns as suspects when they should be out there looking for there daughter madeleine its just horrable and i no that kate and gerry havent played a part into madeleine”s disaperiance and i belive them and other people dont belive i think they should because some sik horrable person has madeleine and all there doing is pointing the finger at kate and gerry when they should be out there looking for the missing child madeleine who needs her family so stop blaming the mccanns and get out there and look for madeleine so she can be reunited with her family once again and kate ang gerry and the twins can be reunited with her once again i hope people read this xx thanks xx love froom kayleighgh miles xxxx

Posted by kayleigh miles | Report as abusive

The Portuguese police should stop leaking information and get off their backsides and start to look for Madeleine.

Posted by Jill | Report as abusive

Obviously the facts need to be concentrated on, but the media has been a useful tool in looking for this dear little girl. Perhaps these parents should be seen to be taking more of an interest in the twins they are parents of too because of late it just seems that they are travelling all over the place.

Posted by mrs julie ashbourne | Report as abusive

The media was unfair to both McCanns and all other lost children. If they had spent half of their energy on other lost children they might have found some of them.
Maddy’s being missing is so sad but she is not the only child who went missing and she won’t be.

Posted by Evrim C. | Report as abusive

the people who kidknapped madeline and the people who think that madeline’s parents did this are idiots and i hate them

Posted by Fern | Report as abusive