Ian Murray said he would step down from his role so the organisation can “rebuild its reputation”.
A strongly-worded statement issued by the SoE following Harry and Meghan’s interview with Oprah Winfrey said it was “not acceptable” for the couple to make claims of racism in the press “without supporting evidence”, adding that the press in the UK was not racist.
“Since the statement was issued the SoE has been heavily criticised,” Mr Murray said.
“While I do not agree that the Society’s statement was in any way intended to defend racism, I accept it could have been much clearer in its condemnation of bigotry and has clearly caused upset.
“As executive director I lead the Society and as such must take the blame and so I have decided it is best for the board and membership that I step aside so that the organisation can start to rebuild its reputation.”
He added that the original statement was “not intended to gloss over the fact the media industry in the UK does have work to do on inclusivity and diversity”.
Alison Gow, President of the SoE said: “I would like to thank Ian for his tireless work on behalf of the Society; he has led campaigns for journalists’ rights and freedoms and worked hard behind the scenes when it appeared legislation might threaten those.
“The Society is committed to representing all journalists and upholding Journalism; I am clear on what our mission must be, and we will strive as an organisation to listen and hear everyone’s views, and be strong advocates and allies for all those we represent.”
Yesterday, the Society had released a statement of clarification following the statement issued on Monday regarding the Duke of Sussex’s comments on the UK media.
“The Society of Editors has a proud history of campaigning for freedom of speech and the vital work that journalists do in a democracy to hold power to account. Our statement on Meghan and Harry was made in that spirit but did not reflect what we all know: that there is a lot of work to be done in the media to improve diversity and inclusion. We will reflect on the reaction our statement prompted and work towards being part of the solution.”
Keep up-to-date with publishing news: sign up here for InPubWeekly, our free weekly e-newsletter.