The dark side of citizen journalism: The Sun and the bus driver libel case

In March last year The Sun ran a story painting a bus driver, Arunas Raulynaitis, as a Muslim fanatic. The story claimed:

1. That he ordered his passengers off the bus so that he could pray
2. That passengers saw a rucksack and feared he was a fanatic*
3. That therefore passengers then refused to get back on the bus

The paper has just lost a libel case following this report, because as it turns out:

1. No passengers were ordered off
2. There was no rucksack
3. No-one refused to get back on the bus

So far, just another tale of a tabloid newspaper getting its story horribly wrong. But how did The Sun get its story? As The Guardian reports, quoting the driver’s lawyer:

It transpires that an individual who noticed Raulynaitis at prayer chose to film this act on a mobile phone and sent the video to the Sun, which then reproduced stills from it alongside the article, as well as the footage itself on the Sun’s website.

In other words: this was a case of citizen journalism going horribly wrong. Yes, someone saw something, became an instant-on-the-spot-journo, filmed it and got it up on a major website. But no, this wasn’t some great example of how the future should be.

* Those of a nervous disposition should not look here.

Hat-tip: The Sun – Tabloid Lies

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4 Comments

  • Just goes to show that, whatever the merits of citizen journalism, news organisations still need to check the facts before they publish.

    But then, that’s never stopped the Sun before, so why should it now?

  • I’ve always thought it would be a great Private Member’s Bill that any apology has to be of the same size and location as the complained about article, whether print or broadcast. Better still – have it written by the complainant themselves!

  • And just in case anyone was wondering:
    “While it is the case that Raulynaitis did pray on the bus, he did so during his statutory rest break, as he is of course entitled to do. Not a single passenger was inconvenienced in any way. …”

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