ICE blogs

December 15, 2017

Scandal of jailed journalists

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 5:15 pm

Some 262 journalists are currently in jails around the world – an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work.

China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134– or 51 per cent– of the total. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the per centage of freelances is higher this year, accounting for 29 per cent of cases.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, commented: “In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price. It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.’

Other leading jailers of journalists in 2017 are Eritrea, with 15 cases, and Azerbaijan and Vietnam, with 10 cases each.

Two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, died just weeks after being released on medical parole. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists had health conditions.

The jail census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’.

• See https://cpj.org/reports/2017/12/journalists-prison-jail-record-number-turkey-china-egypt.php.

December 12, 2017

How conflict is covered

T. J. Coles reviews Covering conflict: The making and unmaking of new militarism, by Richard Lance Keeble (Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, Abramis)

Richard Keeble has written a book about the anti-democratic, frequently deceptive ‘military/industrial/intelligence/media complex’ (p. 2) A second, updating edition of one of his previous books, Secret state, silent press (p. 1), the book is more a critique of the underlying structures of mass media and journalism than it is of individual journalists, many of whom do a fine job within the limits imposed upon them by the nature of the mass market and, of course, the secret state. By 1990, the UK had more than 100 laws prohibiting the disclosure of supposedly sensitive information, making it one of the most secretive states in the word (p. 23).

Keeble’s book is as much, perhaps more, about omission in mainstream media as it is about content: for instance, the lack of the coverage of underlying causes of war and of civilian casualties. This creates a framework in which power is unaccountable and government decisions are undemocratic.

In Chapter One, Keeble argues that the ‘old’ militarism was conscription-based. But, with the triumph of the Labour Party after World War Two, and, perhaps more importantly, the acquisition of nuclear weapons by the UK and US, a ‘new’ militarism gradually emerged. Private media, linked in various ways to the deep state, smeared any moves from sectors of the public and the Labour Party (then under Michael Foot) towards unilateral nuclear disarmament (p. 19).

As British institutions appeared to become more democratic, the military, particularly in light of its new high-tech developments putting humans increasingly out of the loop, became more secretive. Parallel to these developments was the evolution in media of war as a spectacle. Perhaps the most important development was the manufacturing via institutional structures of faux audience participation. By this, Keeble (pp 7-8) refers to the ‘live’ nature of war coverage thanks to satellite television, as pioneered during the coverage of the Gulf War 1991. As secrecy intensified, commercial secrecy in the international arms trade, where Britain was and remains a big player, also grew (pp 18-19). Keeble argues that the state ‘was seen as vulnerable to threat from technological advances within the media. In the event, the US invasions of the 1980s culminating in the attack on Iraq, showed that the new media technologies were, in fact, highly vulnerable to manipulation by the state’ (p. 14).

Chapter Two concerns journalists and the secret state. In this chapter, Keeble, careful to emphasise that the security state is not monolithic, reviews the deep state nexus, documenting the incestuous connections of the police, military police forces, special forces, foreign intelligence agencies and the infrastructure that holds them together. Keeble then goes on to discuss those journalists who are connected in one way or the other to the intelligence services. Keeble’s subchapter on what he calls the ‘conspiracy theory conundrum’ (p. 65) argues that the entire military-industrial-media complex operates to a significant extent on conspiracy. Yet when researchers ‘highlight its significance [they are] accused of lacking academic rigour and promoting “conspiracy theory”’. Keeble concludes, cautiously, that ‘conspiratorial elements have to be acknowledged’ at times, when discussing media and war reporting.

Chapter Three concerns what Keeble calls an emergence of a new militarist consensus. There was a near-consensus against war in the US among the general public but, as Keeble notes, the public has become increasingly alienated from the workings of the state, due in part to the media. By the time of the Gulf War 1991, coverage had changed to distance audiences at home from the horror of carpet bombing (or ‘precision bombing’ in the propaganda nomenclature) abroad. In the UK, the Labour government under Jim Callaghan had prepared for an invasion of the Falklands Islands/Malvinas by Argentina (which claims the islands as its rightful, post-colonial territory) as early as 1977. The Falklands War of 1982 ‘set a hugely significant precedent’, says Keeble (p. 93), helping in the creation of a ‘permanent war economy’ (p. 95). Photographs, film and reports were deliberately delayed by the military, correspondents were embedded in heavily controlled pools with the armed forces while other journalists were blacklisted.

In Chapter Four, Keeble studies the cases of the US’s Grenada invasion of 1983 and the ‘Irangate’ scandal of 1985-1987. The idea that instant global communication allows unprecedented, uncensored access to war coverage is a myth, he suggests. In Grenada, a carefully managed media campaign succeeded in covering up the number of casualties, presenting the invasion as an instant response to alleged transgressions, exaggerating the threat of Grenada to US interests and selling the war to the American public with a 71 per cent approval rating. ‘Irangate’ or the Iran-Contra Affair, involved elements of the US military illegally selling arms, via conduits in Israel, to Iran, one of America’s official enemies, to fund its illegal activities in Nicaragua. The Pentagon-led media strategy over so-called Low Intensity Conflict ‘prioritised covert warfare’ (p. 121), making journalistic investigations very difficult. Interestingly, no significant investigation, both at the media or governmental levels, followed the revelations of the foreign editor of Hearst newspapers, John Wallach, concerning ‘Irangate’ in June 1985. It was only after a Lebanese newspaper reported on the events in November 1986 that the international media chased the story.

In Chapter Five, Keeble argues that the new militarism, being contingent on public ignorance of Third World dynamics, sought to portray Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, as a villain in a simplistic struggle between good and evil. When Saddam was an ally of the US and Great Britain during the 1980s, media coverage of his atrocities was ‘restrained’ (p. 128). Keeble gives the example of Halabja 1988, when 5,000 Kurds were slaughtered. ‘Little blame was levelled personally at Saddam Hussein in the press’ (ibid). When Saddam became the enemy, he was rapidly labelled ‘Hitler’ (p. 134).

Chapter Six highlights the lack of media questioning concerning the motives for supporting dictators and arms sales, and in waging war. Sticking with the example of the Gulf War 1991, Keeble notes that few reports of the period asked what the war was really all about. The veneer painted by the media was that of Saddam raving against Kuwait for stealing Iraq’s oil and blaming US allies for driving down oil prices. A deeper context is imperialism, particularly British, given the UK’s role in the war. Keeble goes on to note ‘secret’ wars (i.e., those ignored or marginalised in the corporate media) in the decades leading up to the Gulf War. These include Oman (1968-1977) and the inevitable collusion with the expanding US empire.

In Chapter Seven, Keeble argues that the media shaped public opinion about war in several ways. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, ‘Most of the press had no time for talk – they wanted war and right now’ (p. 165). The tabloids’ warmongering was predictable. But what were the motivations of the so-called left-leaning press? Keeble quotes the Guardian’s then-principal feature writer, Martin Woollacott, who says that his colleagues were divided over how to cover the war, referring to diplomacy versus military action. By the end of August 1990, however, the majority of Independent articles supported war. Keeble then goes on to document how newspapers sought to exclude critical voices. On the manipulation of public opinion, the supposedly more liberal media constructed polls as to avoid the option of peace negotiations and even asked the public if they would support assassinating Saddam (p. 176).

Chapter Eight concerns the modes of censorship employed by the Ministry of Defence and the media itself in (mis)reporting the war. Correspondents were ‘pooled’ in hotels and carefully managed by the US military. ‘The highest contingents in the press corps’ were American and British (p. 184). The non-pooled journalists were expected to stay in hotels. Learning their lessons of embedding in the Falklands War, direct censorship was not needed because journalists had ‘bonded’ (p. 191) with their military counterparts and were thus less likely to write critically about them.

Returning to the theme of high-tech war, as ushered in by the nuclear age, Chapter Nine traces the history of ‘nukespeak’ (Chilton quoted on p. 198) to the development of so-called high-precision weapons as used in the Gulf War 1991. Coupled with the other factors analysed in previous chapters, the media’s handling of high-tech weapons further sought to dehumanise Iraqis.

Chapter Ten argues that the casualty disparity between the allied forces and the Iraqi forces was so large that it was not really a ‘war’: more a series of massacres of a largely defenceless ‘enemy’. On the occasion that civilian atrocity stories did make it to print or television, the mantra was to blame Saddam Hussein.

Chapter Eleven moves on from the Middle East and into Somalia and Yugoslavia. As the United States launched Operation Restore Hope in 1992, supposedly to end a famine which was ending anyway, the US government ensured its business relations with US energy giants operating in the country remained secure. In Serbia in 1999, NATO launched a supposed humanitarian war to save Kosovar Albanians, some of whom (such as the Kosovo Liberation Army) were linked to al-Qaeda and trained by US and British forces. In defence of the KLA, the US-led NATO bombed Serbia, preparing the way for the independence of Kosovo nearly a decade later in 2008. Just as the US blamed Saddam for US-led atrocities in Iraq, Serbia’s President Milošević was blamed for what NATO did to his country.

In Chapter Twelve, Keeble argues that the Gulf War of 2003 was a ‘myth’ (p. 265): the threat posed by Saddam and his supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction was almost entirely a fabrication, the Iraqi armed forces collapsed quickly, and massive fire-power (‘shock and awe’) quickly destroyed the civilian infrastructure. Media management was essentially a repeat of the Gulf War 1991 and Serbia 1999: the Pentagon devised a large-scale (dis)information campaign, the secret state operated without public or media oversight and, disturbingly, the number of Western journalists killed in the war reached 15.

The concluding Chapter Thirteen is unusual in that it criticises the pretext for war in Afghanistan in 2001: something that many scholars, including those critical of the invasion of Iraq 2003, failed to do. The war script – a deadly enemy, precision weapons, etc – was rehashed, this time to more effect than in previous conflicts due to the then-recent 9/11 atrocities which convinced most Britons and Americans that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, together with their Taliban sponsors, must be destroyed. As the US-British occupation continued, the enemy used ever-deadly methods of resistance, or terrorism as Western media called it. These included suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices. In 2010, Britain and France signed a defence cooperation treaty. Within a year, both countries joined the US via NATO in destroying Libya. Keeble also deals with the 2013 war, led by France, against elements operating in Mali.

In the Conclusion, Keeble summarises the grim reality of war: civilian casualties, soldier casualties, and financial expenditure, which could have been invested in more progressive programmes at home. The high-tech, highly-controlled informational nature of the so-called new militarism has morphed into ‘disaster militarism’ (p. 315).

Keeble’s book balances accessibility with scholarly rigour. It is an important contribution to the literature concerning media coverage of conflict and the growth of an increasingly out-of-control security state.

Dr T. J. Coles is a guest of the School of Art and Humanities at the University of Plymouth, UK, and the author of several books, including Britain’s secret wars and Fire and fury (both Clairview Books). His latest, Human wrongs (Iff Books), is due to be published in 2018.

February 14, 2017

Jailed Palestinian journalist on hunger strike

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 3:43 pm

Mohammed al-Qeeq, one of more than 20 journalists currently in Israeli prisons, has declared an open hunger strike following his re-arrest by occupation forces at Beit El checkpoint north of Ramallah. He began his strike immediately upon his arrest.

Al-Qeeq, 35, drew international support last year when he engaged in a 94-day hunger strike against his administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, winning his release in May 2016. Since his release, he has been active in prisoner support campaigns and was arrested returning from a demonstration in Bethlehem calling for the release of the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces.

Omar Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, is being held without charge or trial after being seized by occupation forces on 23 April 2016 attempting to travel to Sarajevo for a conference of the European Federation of Journalists.

Philippe Leruth, president of the International Federation of Journalists, said: ‘This Israeli policy of administrative detention is a violation of human rights, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. We are extremely concerned that the Israeli authorities are extending this policy and that they are allowed to do so ad infinitum.’

Also held under administrative detention is Adib al-Atrash, imprisoned since 20 June 2016 after he returned from studying at Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus, where he had just received his Masters degree in media studies.

Palestinian writer Walid Hodali, director of the Jerusalem Literary Office and a member of the Palestinian Writers Union, was also seized by occupation forces amid a large number of arrests in the Ramallah area. He previously spent 15 years in Israeli prisons.

• See http://samidoun.net/2017/01/imprisoned-palestinian-journalist-mohammed-al-qeeq-on-hunger-strike-demanding-release/
and http://alternativenews.org/index.php/headlines/344-palestinian-journalist-mohammad-al-qeeq-declares-open-hunger-strike

July 29, 2015

History of Chadian dictator: Missing from the media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics, conflict — news_editor @ 11:16 am

Richard Lance Keeble

So finally, Hissene Habre, the former dictator of Chad, is being tried for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture during his rule from 1982-1990. A few news items focused on the scuffles which broke out at the trial last week in Dakar, Senegal - and the adjournment of the case until September. Yet the history of the attempts to bring Habré to justice has gone largely unreported in the Western corporate media.

Formerly part of French Equatorial Africa, Chad gained its independence in 1960 and since then has been gripped by civil war. In a rare instance of coverage on 21 May 1992, the London-based Guardian carried four short paragraphs reporting how 40,000 people were estimated to have died in detention or been executed during the tyranny of Habré. A justice ministry report concluded that Habré had committed genocide against the Chadian people.

First, in a case inspired by the one against Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet, several human rights organisations, led by Human Rights Watch, filed a suit against Habré in Senegal (his refuge since 1990). They argued that he could be tried anywhere for crimes against humanity and that former heads of state were not immune. However, on 21 March 2001, the Senegal Court of Cassation threw out the case. And so human rights campaigners turned their attention to Belgium where one of the victims of Habré’s torture lived.

Following threats from the United States in June 2003 that Belgium risked losing its status as host to Nato’s headquarters, a historic law of 1993, which allowed victims to file complaints in Belgium for atrocities committed abroad, was repealed. A new law, adopted in August 2003, allowed for the continuation of the case against Habré – much to the delight of human rights campaigners. But then attention switched back to Senegal. Here, under pressure from the International Court of Justice and victim campaign groups, a special tribunal was set up to investigate the allegations – the Extraordinary African Chambers. Finally, in February 2015, a panel of four judges announced there was enough evidence to put the former dictator on trial after carrying out a 19-month pre-trial investigation, mainly in Chad, interviewing 2,500 witnesses and victims, analysing documents from Habré’s secret police and visiting mass graves.

While coverage of Chad has been largely missing from the Western media, so too was the massive, secret war waged by the United States and Britain from bases in Chad against Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar Gaddafi. British involvement in a 1996 plot to assassinate Gaddafi was reported as an isolated event – following revelations by David Shayler. Yet it is best seen as part of a wide-ranging and long-standing strategy of the US, French and UK secret states to remove Gaddafi which culminated in his brutal ousting during the Nato-led uprising in 2011.

Grabbing power by removing King Idris in a 1969 coup, Gaddafi (who, intriguingly, had followed a military training course in England in 1966) soon became the target of covert operations – many of them launched from Chad – by the French, Americans, Israelis and British.

Stephen Dorril, in his seminal history of M16, records how in 1971 a British plan to invade Libya, release political prisoners and restore the monarchy ended in an embarrassing flop. Nine years later, the head of the French secret service, Alain de Gaigneronde de Marolles, resigned after a French-led plan ended in disaster when a rebellion by Libyan troops in Tobruk was quickly suppressed.

Then, in 1982, away from the glare of the media, Habré, with the backing of the CIA and French troops, overthrew the Chadian government of Goukouni Wedeye. Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame), in his semi-official history of the CIA, reveals that the Chad covert operation was the first undertaken by the new CIA chief William Casey and that, throughout the decade, Libya ranked as high as the Soviet Union as the bête noir of the White House. A report from Amnesty International, Chad: The Habré Legacy, of October 2001, recorded massive military and financial support for the dictator by the US Congress. It added: “None of the documents presented to Congress and consulted by AI covering the period 1984 to 1989 make any reference to human rights violations.”

US official records indicate that funds for the Chad-based covert war against Libya also came from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, Israel and Iraq. The Saudis, for instance, gave $7million to an opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (also backed by French intelligence and the CIA). However, a plan to assassinate Gaddafi and seize power on 8 May 1984 was crushed. In the following year, the US asked Egypt to invade Libya and overthrow Gaddafi but President Mubarak refused. By the end of 1985, the Washington Post had exposed the plan after congressional leaders opposing it wrote in protest to President Reagan.

Frustrated in its covert attempts to topple Gaddafi, the US government’s strategy suddenly shifted. For 11 minutes in the early morning of 14 April 1986, 30 US air force and navy bombers struck Tripoli and Benghazi in a raid code-named El Dorado Canyon.

The US/UK mainstream media were ecstatic. Yet the main purpose of the raid was to kill the Libyan president – dubbed a “mad dog” by Reagan. In the event, the first bomb to drop on Tripoli hit Gaddafi’s home killing Hana, his adopted daughter aged 15 months – while his eight other children and wife Safiya were all hospitalised, some with serious injuries. The president escaped.

Reports of US military action against Libya disappeared from the media after the 1986 assault. But away from the glare of publicity, the CIA launched its most extensive effort yet to spark an anti-Gaddafi coup. A secret army was recruited from among the many Libyans captured in border battles with Chad during the 1980s. And as concerns grew in M16 that Gaddafi was aiming to develop chemical weapons, Britain funded various opposition groups in Libya.

Then in 1990, with the crisis in the Gulf developing, French troops helped oust Habré in a secret operation and install Idriss Déby as the new President of Chad. The French government had tired of Habré’s genocidal policies while George Bush senior’s administration decided not to frustrate France in exchange for co-operation in its attack on Iraq.

Yet, even under Déby, abuses of civil rights by government forces have continued. As Amnesty International’s latest report on Chad comments: “Serious human rights violations continued to take place with almost total impunity. The rights to freedom of expression and to peaceful assembly were frequently violated. Human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists were victims of harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and detention. People, including protesters, were killed by members of the security services during demonstrations.”

Amnesty, in fact, argues that Déby should also be on trial in Dakar. It commented: “Chad’s current president has not been indicted by the Extraordinary African Chambers, but served as Chief of Staff of the army under Habré’s administration. Research undertaken by Amnesty International suggests that troops under his command may have committed mass killings in southern Chad in 1984.”

Chad is currently a key country in US plans for covert military intervention in North Africa. Earlier this year, in March, Chadian forces, including the Special Anti-Terrorist Group (SATG) which has received extensive training and equipment from the US military, invaded northern Nigeria and seized the towns of Malam Fatouri and Damasak, according to an Associated Press report. The Déby regime plays a major role in the US-funded Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Partnership and is helping to coordinate the African Union (AU) multi-national force of some 8,700 troops called for by the AU in January.

Chadian troops fought alongside Western forces during the 2013 French-led invasion of Mali, and the Chadian government has since approved the permanent stationing of thousands of French troops in its capital, N’Djamena.

• Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at Lincoln University. He has written and edited 30 books including Secret State, Silent Press (John Libbey; 1997), a study of the US/UK press coverage of the 1991 Gulf conflict.

June 19, 2015

Syria heads survey of journalists fleeing into exile

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 8:04 am

Syria is the leading country from which reporters are forced to flee, according to a major new survey of 452 journalists by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Eritrea and Somalia also sent dozens of journalists into exile over the last five years.

María Salazar-Ferro, coordinator of CPJ’s Journalist Assistance Programme, commented: ‘Global attention has focused on the abductions and murders of international journalists in Syria, but even as the environment has deteriorated for foreign correspondents, local media have suffered tremendous losses. Facing the same or greater risks as international correspondents, but without an easy path out of the country, Syrian journalists have been forced to leave their jobs and are driven into hiding or across borders, often without family or possessions.’

The CPJ has helped 101 Syrian journalists go into exile since the conflict escalated in spring 2011. The CPJs report, Exiled: When the most dangerous place for journalists is your country, uses interactive maps to follow the journeys of four Syrian journalists who were harassed, threatened, detained or attacked by the Assad regime or militant groups such as Islamic State – or both – before deciding to flee.

Countries with the highest number of exiled journalists fare poorly in other indicators of press freedom. Syria has been the most deadly country for journalists for three consecutive years, with at least 83 killed in direct relation to their work since 2011. More than 90 journalists have been abducted, and about 20 are still missing, many of whom are believed to be held by Islamic State. Iraq, Somalia, and Pakistan joined Syria in the ranks of deadliest places for journalists in 2014. Ethiopia, Iran and Eritrea are among the ten most censored countries worldwide.

• See https://cpj.org/reports/2015/06/exiled-when-most-dangerous-place-for-journalists-is-your-country-world-refugee-day.php

August 6, 2014

Propaganda, the BBC and Gaza

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 4:00 pm

Richard Lance Keeble, Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, takes a critical look at the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza conflict

All journalism is propaganda, as George Orwell argued. And, paradoxically, those who claim neutrality and objectivity are likely to be the most propagandistic. Let’s take one random sample from the BBC’s coverage of the current Gaza crisis.

On 3 August 2014, it reported: ‘Missing Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin “dead”.’ There was a photograph of the 23-year-old and the accompanying video commentary highlighted Goldin’s ‘apparent kidnapping’ by the Palestinian group Hamas who were blamed for the collapse of the ceasefire (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-28627888).

‘Kidnapping’ was the term deliberately used by the Israeli officials in their hyper-slick PR operation (see http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/israelgaza-conflict-the-secret-report-that-helps-israelis-to-hide-facts-9630765.html). Doesn’t this imply that Goldin was an innocent seized by opportunistic criminals rather than a member of one of the world’s most powerful militaries engaged in ‘the premeditated mass murder of civilians’, as described by the Asia Times journalist Pepe Escobar (see http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Others/Escobar.html). Did the BBC really need to mimic the Israeli deceit?

Moreover, the Western corporate media in general parroted the Israeli approach in blaming Hamas for breaching the ceasefire (thus leading to a stepping-up of the bombardment of Gaza and the deaths of many more children) when both sides were involved in the incident. Hamas was clearly responding to yet another attempt by Israeli troops to destroy a tunnel (see http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2014-08-03/how-a-kidnapped-soldier-illustrates-israels-deception/).

The BBC’s fourth paragraph reported: ‘Health officials in Gaza say 30 Palestinians died early on Sunday as Israeli air strikes continued.’ This is the cold, conventional language of militaryspeak that aims to convey the illusion of warfare. But this is no war: this is nothing short of a series of completely illegitimate massacres. There are no photographs of any of those 30 dead Palestinians.

Moreover, as I write (5 August 2014), I see no photographic galleries commemorating the 1,865 Palestinians killed and 9,400 others injured – most of them civilians. In the Western corporate media they are usually not even deemed worthy of being named. In contrast, the BBC report goes on to show an image of Goldin’s understandably grieving family speaking at a press conference after his death was announced. In fact, the whole of the report is framed within a dominant Israeli perspective. Thirteen of the story’s 23 paragraphs highlight the Israeli line: just five that of Hamas. Its denial of taking Goldin captive does not appear until par 10.

And how many homes, hospitals, schools, mosques have been destroyed as Israel’s ‘scorched earth’ policy eats up 44 per cent of Gaza’s territory; how many Gazans are now homeless or jobless, how many have been appallingly traumatised by the constant bombardment and the lack of basic facilities? On these crucial points the BBC’s report is silent.

Excellent photographs by the BBC’s Jon Donnison, in an accompanying feature under the title ‘Faces from Gaza’, are given captions – but no full names of the tragically suffering Gazans are provided: So we read of a ‘young girl and her mother’ sheltering in a UN school, ‘young boys giving victory salutes’ ‘three-year-old injured Aya’, ‘Ahmed’ being treated for burns, ‘Ali’ injured while playing outside his home, ‘a young girl picking fruit juice’, ‘a man in Beit Haroun’. And so on.

Too often, the BBC and the corporate media in its Gaza coverage has ‘balanced’ reports of Israeli bombardment with accounts of the Hamas missile attacks on Israeli – reinforcing the illusion of ‘warfare’. Yet the Israeli response (in which 64 soldiers and just three civilians have died) is totally disproportionate to the threat posed.

Moreover, the mainstream media has largely failed to indicate the massive global opposition to the Israeli action and its seven-year economic siege of Gaza. Go then to sites such as www.counterpunch.org, www.globalresearch.ca; www.wsws.org; www.boilingfrogspost.org; coldtype.net; www.johnpilger.com (supported by the University of Lincoln); www.zerohedge.com; http://peacenews.info/; antiwar.com; www.washingtonsblog.com and see some searching analyses and investigative reports on the conflict and the protests. They can only inspire further protest action against Israel’s criminal military aggression.

August 4, 2014

The slaughter of the innocents 1914-2014

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, conflict — news_editor @ 10:26 pm

If war is to be reported ethically it must be shown it in all its brutality including the bodies of dead children and traumatised parents, argues Barry Turner

As the centenary of the Great War is now upon us the attention of the world’s press is drawn to the thousands of monuments to the fallen all over Europe and the rest of the world. Towns and villages across the combatant countries are almost without exception home to a war memorial to an event that is often said to have wiped out a generation. Now these monuments will be the solemn focal points for many pieces to camera over the next few months for local, national and international media.

The war memorials are often embellished with words such as ‘Our Glorious Dead’, ‘Pro Patria Mori’ and similar sentiments in all the languages of the combatants. They often feature heroic figures of soldiers and occasionally scenes of the fighting, as if commemorating those was as important as remembering the millions who died.

Apart from the haunting lists of names of people from the towns and villages that speak out from the stones there is often little sense of the loss or the suffering. One notable exception is the work by Kathe Kollwitz at the Roggevelde War Cemetery in Vladslo, Belgium. This has no inscription and shows no ‘heroic’ soldiers: just two figures in abject despair, the father with his arms crossed, shoulders hunched and the mother in total grief with her head held down. There is no ‘glory’ in the statues, no sense of a gallant falling for King and Country. Peter Kollwitz, Kathe’s son, died in the ‘Kindermord bei Ypern’, a reference to the biblical slaughter of the innocents. The parents received no consolation in it being for ‘Gott und Vaterland’.

We are now seeing the tragedy, captured so moving in the statue, played out on our TV screens every night as parents despair at the deaths of their children in a number of wars across the globe (such as Ukraine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya). There are now ethical debates about whether the broadcast media should show dead and injured children being dug out of their ruined homes and laid out forlornly in ramshackle hospitals. This is an absurd echo of the Great War censors themselves who thought it ‘improper’ to show the bodies of British soldiers killed in the fighting.

Our press still glorify war, images of tanks racing across the desert and princes in combat gear sell newspapers and draw audiences. The flag-draped coffins of ‘our glorious dead’ men and women are still paraded around our streets. It is quite remarkable that a century after the start of a war that was to ‘end all wars’ and during a 21st century slaughter of the innocents, in the very land where the biblical one took place, we still discuss the ethics of showing the consequences of war while the corporate media too often celebrate it.

The graphic and repeated images of Gazan children is not only ethical but essential. The images of the dead of flight MH17 and the haunting images of the toys of children killed in that horrible consequence of war need to be shown to us. That is what war is: our media is often too keen to show it in terms of what one side says followed by the other side’s version. War is not about TV interviews on who has a ‘right’ to defend themselves; it is about dead children, despairing parents and destroyed homes. We need to see those images far more than we need to hear politicians and the military justifying what they are doing.

As we enter this prolonged period of remembrance of World War One it is the consequences of that war that need to be reflected upon. In the Middle East just about every modern conflict today is a direct consequence of the imperialism that started the Great War. Our media should pause as it enters its period of mourning for the dead of a century ago to consider that tomorrow the slaughter of the innocents will continue there.

Perhaps if we (and, in particular, our leaders) had reflected more on the images of Kathe Kollwitz as a remembrance of war instead of triumphant monuments to militarism and our ‘glorious dead’ the Great War really would have been the war to end all wars.

Barry Turner is senior lecturer in law at the Lincoln School of Journalism, the University of Lincoln

April 1, 2012

Role of the web in promoting hate

Dusan Babic, a Sarajevo-based media researcher and analyst, reports on a major conference tackling hate-speech in South Eastern Europe

The role of the internet in promoting hate speech in South Eastern Europe was the subject of a conference in Sarajevo in November 2011. The event was jointly organised by the Council of Europe, the Press Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a self-regulatory body for print and online media, and the Association of B-H Journalists (BH Novinari).

The conference, titled Living Together, was an outcome of a Council of Europe project launched in 2009, and produced a handbook on standards on the media’s contribution to social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, understanding, tolerance and democratic participation.

Although the conference covered a wide range of issues - such as the European legal framework, national regulation and practice and the role of self-regulation in combating hate speech - the prevailing opinion among the conference participants was that the internet was to blame for spreading hate speech.

In 2010, I conducted a survey and analysis of the most-popular web portals in three central states of the former Yugoslavia - Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina - commissioned by Sarajevo-based Media Plan Institute. I concluded that there were glaring examples of hate speech (largely a legacy of the wars of the 1990s) but they had not yet become a ‘mass phenomenon’ (see The internet: Freedom without boundaries?, Media Plan Institute, Sarajevo, 2010).

September 25, 2011

Call for papers: Institute of Communication Ethics Annual Conference, 28 October 2011

Filed under: Blogroll, News, journalism, conflict, conferences — news_editor @ 5:29 pm

The annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics is to be held on October 28 at the Commonwealth Club, 25 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5AP, from 10 am to 5 pm. The theme is to be “Cops, Hacks and Hackers: Communication and Ethics in the Internet Age”. The on-going “Hackgate” controversy, the rise and rise of Twitter and the implications for personal privacy and journalistic responsibilities; and the Guardian’s use of mobile footage provided by a “citizen journalist” in its expose on the death of news vendor Ian Tomlinson on the G20 demo in April 2009 provide some of the context for the conference.

Papers are invited on a range of issues:

- Ethics of modern (especially tabloid) journalism
- Internet ethics for journalists
- Hacks and police PR: is the relationship too close?
- Super-injunctions and serial philanderers: are there any solutions?
- The long, murky history of journalists’ relationship with the Metropolitan Police
- Is there a special role for social networks in investigative journalism?
- Law and disorder: the coverage of crime in the local media
- What’s the place for an ethically engaged literary reportage in an age of sound-bites and PR-fed churnalism?
- The history of Special Branch’s links with mainstream journalists
- How do journalists cover the crimes of the powerful and the wealthy? Are there consistent cover-ups in the coverage?
- Can internet-based investigative journalism fulfil the watchdog role that the traditional mainstream media have so often failed to provide?
- Has the framing of the WikiLeaks story by the mainstream media undermined rather than endorsed the role of whistleblowers?

Abstracts (of 200 words) on these and other related issues should be sent to ICE director Prof Richard Lance Keeble, of the University of Lincoln, (rkeeble@lincoln.ac.uk) before October 2. Papers chosen for the conference will be published in a special edition of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics (which has gained an A ranking in the Australian equivalent of the RAE). Leading figures from the world of academia and the communications industries will give keynote talks to the conference.

March 18, 2009

a newspaper and its wartime past

Filed under: News, Headlines, journalism, politics, conflict, human rights, new books — news_editor @ 9:26 pm

The German newspaper publisher, M. DuMont Schauberg, has published a history of its Nazi past. According to Deutsche Welle (via EJC media news), this is the first such historical reappraisal by a German newspaper group. The consequences of the loss of independence were clearly more severe within 1930s-40s Germany than many other places, but I wonder how many other media groups will be willing to follow its lead. History belongs to the victors, but maybe not their own history. I’ve not seen accounts from within the BBC, for example, of its promotion of colonialism, and the official Reuters history doesn’t search very deep either.

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