Press withdraw to let town grieve in peace

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The Independent Online

Television news organisations announced last night that they would not be covering the funerals of the 16 children killed in the Dunblane massacre.

ITN, the BBC and Sky News made their collective decision following an appeal by Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland, asking them to leave townspeople to grieve in private. In response to that call, and another made earlier by Lord Wakeham, the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, most newspapers pulled out large numbers of journalists, leaving behind a presence they hoped would be unobtrusive.

Last night, the BBC also decided to postpone a Panorama special on the Dunblane shootings to a later date.

"The police have informed me that a least one family has received 60 telephone calls from the media in a 24-hour period and many visits to their home," said Mr Forsyth, whose constituency covers Dunblane.

"This type of behaviour is intolerable at this distressing time. I appeal to the media to respect the privacy of those who are grieving so intensely. A decision by editors and broadcasters to pull back from Dunblane now would be enormously appreciated by the community and the whole country."

The first funerals, for schoolfriends Joanna Ross and Emma Crozier, both aged five, will take place in Bridge of Allan today. In Dunblane, funerals will be held at St Blane's church for two more five-year-olds, Abigail McLennan and Kevin Hassel. Six more children will be buried tomorrow, two of them at a joint service.

A spokeswoman for BBC Scotland said no cameras would be at the funerals: "We intend to scale down our presence after the Queen's visit to Dunblane," she said. "The scale, tone and overall nature of BBC Scotland's news and current affairs coverage has been and will be constantly reviewed."

Sky said it would not cover the funerals. Simon Cole, managing editor, said: "We did not wish to stay any longer as soon as we began to sense that we were not welcome. There was a feeling abroad that the press generally and TV reporters would not be welcome after the Queen's visit. "

ITN said it was scaling down its operation and would cover funerals only if families requested it.