MEDIA: Why Papers Should Be Pink ; Prejudice in the Press Is Alive and Kicking. How Far Should the Principle of Freedom of Speech Be Allowed to Excuse These Excesses, Asks Johann Hari

Article excerpt

THE GAY Police Association has made a formal complaint about Richard Littlejohn after yet another bout of his anti-gay poison in The Sun last month made them retch. The Gay Police Association's decision to report him is a mistake for two reasons. Firstly, censorship of political opinions - no matter how repellent - is never legitimate. But there is a second reason. By singling out Littlejohn, the GPA implies that he is a unique figure, a homophobic carbuncle on the otherwise pristine Fleet Street ship. In fact, Littlejohn is only one of a surprisingly large school of journalistic homophobes who still infest our newspapers.

It is a sign of the extent to which homophobia is still tolerated that one of the nastiest prejudices against gay people continues to be voiced by eminent journalists, and nobody considers it odd that they remain in their jobs. In a piece entitled "Why I Don't Want Gays Minding My Children", Tom Utley of The Daily Telegraph said that "a higher proportion of homosexuals than heterosexuals molest children". For this he offered no evidence. The reason for this is simple: academic studies persistently find it to be wholly untrue. Why was this piece published?

Utley is at least honest in one respect. He has in the past candidly confessed his prejudices, saying: "I disapprove of homosexuality; I find public displays of sexual desire between members of the same sex distasteful; I think that even long-term and faithful relationships between homosexuals can never be more than a parody of heterosexual marriage; oh, and the very thought of buggery disgusts me." Would a man who "disapproved" of, say, Asians - and found the idea of them having sex "disgusting" - be given a platform in a respectable newspaper? I do not advocate censorship, but it is a strange use of The Telegraph's editorial freedom to print this pure prejudice.

Diary columns are a popular home for more subtle anti-gay hatred. Jasper Gerrard, the writer of The Sunday Times' "Atticus" column, has long waged a sniggering hate campaign against the openly gay government minister Ben Bradshaw. As it happens, there is nothing camp about Bradshaw. …