Page last updated at 13:26 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 14:26 UK

PCC to examine Mail Gately column

Stephen Gately
Stephen Gately died while on holiday in Majorca earlier this month

The Press Complaints Commission says it will ask the Daily Mail to respond to complaints about a column it ran on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately.

The PCC said it had received more than 21,000 complaints since its publication on 16 October - the most ever made about a single newspaper article.

Jan Moir's article said Gately's death struck a blow to the "happy-ever-after myth of civil partnerships".

She has denied there was any homophobic undertone to her comments.

Members of the press are subject to the PCC Code, which is a set of ethical and practical guidelines for self-regulation.

It includes clauses on discrimination which state that "the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability".

In a statement on Monday, the PCC said it would generally wait for a complaint from "directly-affected parties" - in this case Gately's family - before launching an investigation.

But it added: "If, for whatever reason, those individuals do not wish to make a complaint, the PCC will in any case write to the Daily Mail for its response to the more general complaints from the public before considering whether there are any issues under the code to pursue."

Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article - this was never my intention
Jan Moir
Daily Mail columnist

'Dangerous lifestyle'

In her column, Moir called Gately's death "strange, lonely and troubling".

"Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this," she wrote.

Later, she concluded: "As a gay rights champion, I am sure he would want to set an example to any impressionable young men who may want to emulate what they might see as his glamorous routine.

"For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see."

Marks & Spencer asked the newspaper to move an advertisement which appeared alongside the online version of the article, stating that it "does not tolerate any form of discrimination".

The column also prompted an angry reaction on social networking sites and celebrities including Stephen Fry and Derren Brown used their Twitter pages to express their unhappiness.

'Unanswered questions'

Following the reaction to the article, the Daily Mail released a statement from Moir.

She said: "Some people, particularly in the gay community, have been upset by my article about the sad death of Boyzone member Stephen Gately. This was never my intention."

The point of her column, she insisted, was to suggest that the death raised "many unanswered questions".

Any complaint from the affected parties will naturally be given precedence
PCC statement

She also defended her comments about civil partnerships, adding: "I was suggesting that civil partnerships - the introduction of which I am on the record in supporting - have proved just to be as problematic as marriages."

The PCC said it had "pro-actively been in touch with representatives of Boyzone - who are in contact with Stephen Gately's family - since shortly after his death".

"Any complaint from the affected parties will naturally be given precedence by the commission, in line with its normal procedures."

On Monday, former newspaper editor Janet Street-Porter used her Daily Mail column to criticise Moir's comments.

"Being gay killed a man last week - but he wasn't Stephen Gately," she wrote - referring to the death of civil servant Ian Baynham, who was fatally assaulted after being subjected to homophobic abuse.

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