UK

Press Coverage Of Grenfell Tower Fire Man With Faulty Fridge Triggers 1650 Complaints

'He is a traumatised victim who needs to be supported, not harassed and blamed'.

19/06/2017 14:18 BST | Updated 19/06/2017 17:27 BST

Hundreds of people have made formal complaints about press coverage that has “shamed” the man in whose flat the Grenfell Tower fire reportedly started.

MailOnline ran an article headlined ‘The man whose faulty fridge started tower inferno’ which identified and pictured a man it called an “Ethiopian taxi driver”.

Neighbours have said the man, who has not spoken to the press, frantically banged on their doors warning them about the blaze as it took hold.

As anger continues to rise at the causes of the devastating fire that killed an estimated 78 people, people have lashed out at the article and another in The Sun focusing on the man, and thousands signed a petition calling the coverage “cruel”.

MailOnline
The MailOnline headline

So far 1,650 people have complained to Ipso about the MailOnline article, citing clause two and three of the watchdog’s code, which relate to breach of privacy and harassment.

Three people have complained about The Sun article, which initially ran with a headline promoting the “first picture” of the man.

The headline was later changed to “Owner of the Grenfell Tower flat where inferno started tells of agony”.

It comes as more than 27,000 signed a petition to calling for MailOnline and The Sun to “take down all images, mentions of his name and all content linking him to the source of this fire immediately”.

“There is an ongoing investigation and all relevant agencies have made it clear that such speculation is dangerous and irresponsible,” it says.

“The articles also state that they have been harassing this man on the phone asking him if he ‘started the fire’. Please stop.

Handout via Getty Images
A police photo shows the inside of a Grenfell Tower flat

“This man saved peoples lives and is a traumatised victim that needs to be supported, not harassed and blamed. To shame this man when he is grieving is unspeakably cruel.”

A MailOnline spokesman denied its article was blaming the man and questioned whether “any reasonable person could possibly hold him responsible”.

He said: “In common with several other media outlets MailOnline identified where and how the Grenfell Tower fire started.

“It attached no blame whatsoever to the occupant of that flat and in fact details how he raised the alarm and alerted his neighbours personally.

“For the record MailOnline believes that, while much is still unclear, the blame for this tragedy lies squarely with those responsible for managing and renovating the tower and the authorities in charge of the policies and safety regulations within which they were operating.

“This has been and remains the focus of MailOnline’s extensive coverage from the outset.

“It didn’t seem to us that naming the resident would be seen as blaming him since we did not see how any reasonable person could possibly hold him responsible.”