ICE blogs

April 21, 2017

Moab: How the media humanise the horror

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:59 pm

One of the main functions of the dominant media is to naturalise and humanise the horror of contemporary warfare. As Edward Herman comments: ‘Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on “normalisation”. This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done”. … It is the function of the defense intellectuals and other experts and the mainstream media to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.’

This process was particularly evident in the recent coverage of the deployment by the US military of its most powerful, non-nuclear bomb against IS fighters in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Significantly, the missile (the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) was dubbed ‘the Mother of All Bombs’ and the acronym ‘Moab’ quickly – and unproblematically – entered the lexicon of media/military jargon.

The nickname, Moab, clearly appropriates and updates the rhetoric of Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, who called the 1991 Desert Storm conflict ‘the Mother of All Battles’. In the end, up to 250,000 Iraqis were to be slaughtered by the US-led forces during those 42 days in which one massacre followed another.

But the application of the word ‘Mother’ draws on a long tradition in which the language of domesticity serves to strangely humanise the horrific. Horror, in this way, becomes a familiar part of our normal everyday lives. Mothers are normally associated with love, compassion and the creation of life. Here, the bomb delivers death and destruction. In the same way, the Hiroshima bomb was called ‘Little Boy’, the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki ‘Fat Man’. Edward Teller is known as the ‘father’ of the H-Bomb.

Brian Easlea, in his seminal, feminist history Fathering the unthinkable, of 1983, highlights the creation of nuclear weapons in the context of the masculinity of science. He sees the development of science as a process of domination over both nature and women. According to Easlea, men create science and weapons to compensate for their lack of the ‘magical power’ of mothering. In other words, the distorted psyche at the heart of masculinity and the ‘technical, phallic rationality’ it promotes gives birth not to life but death. Easlea quotes a note slipped to Truman at the Potsdam conference on 17 July 1945 after a successful test of the plutonium bomb that said simply: ‘Babies successfully born.’ And the President knew precisely what it meant.

In an exultant profile of the B52 bombers during the Gulf conflict of 1991 in the Sun of 24 January, a Major Cole is quoted as saying: ‘The devastation underneath these babies is incredible.’ In other words, the mass deaths to be inflicted by these bombers is to be a source of celebration, wonder even. Men again have given birth to massacres. A major general is quoted: ‘The B52 has a mystique about it. Because of its destructive power it has a sense of awesomeness.’

Following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, later generations (note that word) of nuclear weapons were given military status and a patriotic role. They were called ‘Corporal’ and ‘Sergeant’. ‘Honest John’ appeared later in the European theatre (another ‘humanising’ term). The devastating ‘Minuteman’ missile drew on the name of the heroic militiamen of the American revolutionary war who were trained to turn out at a minute’s notice. So in this way the missile takes its proud place in national folklore. Or they have been given names of classical gods: such as Polaris, Skybolt, Jupiter, Titan, Poseidon, Trident. In these various ways weapons of mass destruction have been assimilated into our culture to appear ‘natural’ and ‘civilised’.

During the Cold War, Paul Chilton (1983), drawing on George Orwell’s notion of newspeak, coined the term nukespeak. In this way, he was making three main claims. Firstly, there existed a specialised vocabulary for talking about nuclear weapons together with habitual metaphors. Secondly, that this variety of English was neither neutral nor purely descriptive but ideologically loaded in favour of the nuclear culture. And finally, that nukespeak was massively important since it affected how people thought about the subject and largely determined the ideas they exchanged about it.

But there was no massive conspiracy to inject this vocabulary into the culture: there were no Orwellian grammarians munching their sandwiches at the Ministry of Truth and rewriting the English language. The atomic bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were, indeed, weapons of mass destruction. Their deployment represented, according to Chilton, a revolutionary jump in military strategy. And inevitably it heralded a new order of experience in science, politics and the everyday. Chilton commented: ‘The language used to talk about the new weapons of mass extermination was partly an attempt to slot the new reality into the old paradigms of our culture. It was also no doubt a language that served the purpose of those who were concerned to perpetuate nuclear weapons development and deployment.’

Nukespeak then, as a specific linguistic register, drew on deep patterns of symbolic thought, on myths, religious beliefs, symbols, stereotypes and metaphors which we use to organise and normalise our everyday experiences. In August 1945, politicians together with the mainstream press spoke of the bomb mainly in terms of religious awe. For instance, while Truman was meeting Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam, an official report on the Hiroshima explosion was rushed to him. It said: ‘It was the beauty the great poets dream about. … Then came the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare to tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to the Almighty.’. The Times reported eye-witnesses: ‘The whole thing was tremendous and awe-inspiring,’ said a Captain Parsons of the US Navy.

Central to the manufacture of the myth of ‘humanitarian’ warfare over recent decades has been the constant propaganda focus on precise, clean weapons. War is a civilised, humanitarian business – that’s the essential message. Significantly, to justify the use of the GBU-43/B, on 13 April 2017, the American military afterwards said 94 IS militants had been killed in the ‘precise’ strike. There were no civilian casualties, they claimed.

- Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln and Visiting Professor at Liverpool Hope University, His analysis of war coverage since 1945, Covering Conflict: The Making and Unmaking of New Militarism, is shortly to be published by Abramis, of Bury St Edmunds.

March 17, 2017

Ethical Space special issue: Call for Papers

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:51 am

How do you feel? Ethical challenges in media treatment and representation of vulnerable people

Media reporting of vulnerable people is not a recent phenomenon but it is one that is increasingly dominating the 24/7 news cycle. The tensions involved in covering mass human migration, the Syrian refugee crisis, disasters and trauma, terrorist executions and acts of carnage all pose challenges to the journalist trying to report accurately, sensitively and ethically in extreme circumstances. In addition the use and misuse of social media, the evolving understanding of mental health and the growing acknowledgement of the rights of those involved in stories to have their say all suggest a more equitable and participatory journalism is necessary when reporting on ‘victims’ and the vulnerable.

These emotional and ethical challenges come as the media landscape is changing irrevocably. Traditional news outlets are under pressure to the extent that, although the vulnerable are the subject of stories, their involvement in the process can be minimal. Instead, some journalists are turning to ready-made content generated by citizens on social media. Is this ethical? Is this the way in which journalists should record the lives of vulnerable people? Social media also has had a significant effect on coverage of suicide. The death of actor Robin Williams resulted in some appalling coverage that revealed tensions between control of the media through regulatory systems and professional guidelines and the unregulated world of social media where the audience can access content that the media, when contemplating publication, are required to consider with extreme caution for fear of inciting copycat behaviour amongst vulnerable people.

What exactly do we mean by ‘vulnerable people’? Definitions vary according to different disciplines but one that is apt for media coverage is the Australian Government’s description of vulnerable adults: an individual aged 18 years and above who is or may be unable to take care of themselves, or is unable to protect themselves against harm or exploitation by reason of age, illness, trauma or disability, or any other reason.

Ethics is about taking the right action in difficult circumstances so thinking about vulnerability in ethical terms we should concern ourselves with the concepts of minimizing harm; fair and honest representation; truth and trust; accountability to those in the story, to the audience and to news employers, and independence of action.

We invite journalism scholars and practitioners to present articles that have a theoretical, analytical, critical, methodological and empirical approach which provide significant insights and understandings about the ethical challenges and potential benefits of media reporting of vulnerable people.

Topics authors might want to consider, but should not be limited to, include:
• Hearing the voices of the marginalised
• Approaches to interviewing/not interviewing vulnerable people
• Mental illness, access to the media and the issue of consent.
• Intrusion into grief/privacy versus fair representation
• Media representations of grief, bereavement, mental illness, suicide, disability, ethnic minorities, faith or sexual orientation.
• Using innovative practices to tell vulnerable people’s stories
• The influence of social media
• Engaging the audience in death, trauma and personal vulnerability e.g. overcoming compassion fatigue, including user generated content or offering audience interactivity
• Teaching ethics relating to media reporting of vulnerable people

Submission instructions
Send 200-word abstracts to the guest editors (addresses below) by 1 May 2017. Papers of around 6,000 words will be needed by 1 July. They will then be sent out for peer review. This process should be completed quickly – so final copy should go to the publishers by early August. The issue should appear in mid-September 2017.

Editorial information:
• Guest editor: Sallyanne Duncan, University of Strathclyde,
• Guest editor: Jackie Newton, Liverpool John Moores University,

The Legacy of Mata Hari: Women and Transgression

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conferences — news_editor @ 11:05 am

A one-day symposium at City, University of London, 28 October 2017

In October 1917, the woman known throughout the globe as Mata Hari was executed on espionage charges by a firing squad at Vincennes on the outskirts of Paris. Born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle (1876) in Leeuwarden, Holland, in 1905, she reinvented herself as the exotic dancer Mata Hari, trading on the fascination with colonial cultures in the fin de siècle. Although history has provided little evidence of her spying, Mata Hari’s French prosecutors condemned her as ‘the greatest female spy the world has ever known’, a vamp, a courtesan and a divorcee who had caused the deaths of 50,000 allied combatants.

On the centenary of her death, this symposium hosted by City, University of London acknowledges Mata Hari’s significance as an icon of feminine seduction, political betrayal and female transgression into male spheres of influence. This multi-national, cross-disciplinary event drawing from history, politics, cultural studies, literary journalism, the visual and performing arts, museum studies, translation studies and feminist studies will bring together biographers, academics, novelists, performers and curators from the Fries Museum. Contributors will address the cultural multiplicity of the anxieties about women in the public sphere that Mata Hari symbolised both during the First World War and as enduring concerns. Speakers will discuss Mata Hari’s legacy in the identification of transgressive women today, especially those in the political sphere and those involved in global or domestic conflicts. Presentations from cultural historians on Mata Hari’s historic influence on dance, cinema and representation of the female body are also welcome.

Proposals are invited for 20-minute papers or for conference panels on any aspect of Mata Hari and her legacy. Possible topics include but are not limited to:

• Mata Hari’s significance as a female icon during the First World War
• Representations of Mata Hari and female agents in theatre and film from the early 20th century
• Fictional and journalistic representations of female espionage agents
• Literary, cinematic, artistic and journalistic representations of transgressive women
• Representations of the female vamp and the performance of femininities
• The queer transgression of Mata Hari
• Post-colonialism and female erotic performance in the early twentieth century
• Women, war and espionage
• The creation and significance of female icons in the fin de siècle and beyond
• Female transgression and museum studies
• Cultural anxieties about female representation in political and domestic spheres

A publication based on the symposium is envisaged.

Please send proposals (300 words max. plus biographical paragraph of 200 words max.) to Dr Julie Wheelwright ( and Dr Minna Vuohelainen ( no later than 30 May, 2017.

March 2, 2017

Sports Journalism: ethical vacuum or ethical minefield?

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:17 am

Institute of Communication Ethics Annual Conference

27 October 2017, Frontline Club, London W2 1QJ


Sports content is a crucial aspect of many media organisations’ output. But while the ethical issues surrounding news journalism are closely scrutinised, the ethical dilemmas facing sports journalism are often neglected, or even unacknowledged. Issues of media regulation remain highly contentious in the UK, but how does sports output and the conduct of sports journalism departments fit into this debate? Is the balance of power between sports journalists and sports media relations executives shifting decisively in favour of the latter? How have sports journalists responded to the issues arising from the digital revolution?

The conference aims to provide a space for analysis and discussion on the varied ethical issues confronting sports journalists. Topics might then include:

* Too cosy a relationship? Sports journalists and sports PR managers

* Does sports journalism need a separate industry code?

* Taking the (click)bait: are website visitor targets undermining high-quality sports journalism?

* Covering diversity in sports – issues of representation in sports coverage

* Using social media as a sports journalist: the ethical issues

* Sports journalism and ‘entrapment’: the ethical issues involved in an undercover investigation

* Branded content – is it in danger of killing independent sports journalism?

* “Fans with typewriters”. How prepared are sports journalists to cover ‘hard’ news on top of the regular diet of press conferences and matches?

* How should ethics and regulation be taught to sports journalists, both in industry and on training courses?

* Fan sites: when citizen sports journos challenge the news values of corporate media’s sports coverage

* Sports celebrities – and the ‘human interest’ bias of the media

* Local sports coverage – the necessary manufacture of ‘imagined communities’?

These issues – and more – will be of interest to academics, journalists, sports media relations practitioners and students working in the field of sports communications.

Please send 200-word abstracts to Dr Daragh Minogue ( and Tom Bradshaw ( by 1 July 2017.

February 20, 2017

A show about watching

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 2:41 pm

Veillance, an immersive, audio-visual artwork about data surveillance and mutual watching by Ronan Devlin, is to be exhibited at Bangor University, beginning 24 February. The work, which takes the internet as its medium, self-generates in real time in response to audience browsing activity, some of which is projected (creatively) on to the walls for all to see.

The work was commissioned by the Space and supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Arloesi Pontio Innovation, and made in collaboration with Vian Bakir, Ant Dickinson, Carwyn Edwards, Michael Flückiger, Gillian Jein and Andy McStay.

For further information check out the website and follow the project on Twitter @veillanceinfo.

February 17, 2017

Media Against Hate

A campaign to counter hate speech and discrimination in the media has been launched by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ). Together with a range of partners, including Article 19, the Croatian Journalists’ Association, the Community Media Institute, Community Media Forum Europe and the Media Diversity Institute, the EFJ is planning a series of training workshops for media professionals and representatives of civil society organisations and media regulators across Europe ‘to exchange best practice and promote mutual learning’.

A website,, aims to gather relevant news items relating to ethical standards, freedom of expression issues and media diversity. The Media Diversity Institute commented: ‘The media and journalists play a crucial role in influencing both policy-making and societal opinion on migration and refugees. As hate speech and stereotypes targeting migrants and refugees proliferate across Europe, balanced and fair media reporting is needed more than ever.’

• See

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

January 11, 2017

Spiked: The murder story of the 20th century

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 6:11 pm

So, more than one hundred years after the assassination of the ‘mad Russian monk’ Rasputin (dubbed the ‘murder of the 20th century’), The Times has finally decided to open its archive and reveal its correspondent’s reporting of the event. Given the close ties between the secret state and Fleet Street, this delay is perhaps not so surprising after all!

The Times’s official history had always admitted that its coverage of the killing of Grigori Rasputin, at the centre of Romanov court intrigues before the revolutions of 1917, had been censored following intervention by the Foreign Office. The then-editor decided that ‘the details, though of lurid interest, were not fit for the columns of The Times’. For the first time, on 7 January 2017, the newspaper revealed the actual despatches sent by its veteran correspondent, Robert Wilton, of the killing on 29 December 1916.(1)

Rasputin, he wrote, had been shot in the basement of the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov, an Oxford-educated aristocratic – a one-time member of the Bullingdon Club and married to the Tsar’s niece. Wilton continued: ‘Prince Yusupov did the shooting. Conjointly with other young Princes of the Blood … they had decided some time ago to “remove” Rasputin because they regarded him as the cause of a dangerous scandal affecting the interests of the dynasty.’

But still more interesting is the likely role (missed by Wilton) of British intelligence in the killing as part of its attempts to keep Russian fighting in the First World War. Samuel Hoare, the MI6 station chief in Russia, certainly believed Rasputin was endangering the Russian war effort. But MI6 still refuses to open up its archive on the assassination.

Soon after the killing, Prince Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lt Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, confessed to being involved in the killing.(2)

Moreover, according to Yusupov’s account, which rapidly became the accepted version, he lured Rasputin to his palace and fed him cyanide-laced cakes. When these did not take effect, he fired a shot at the monk’s heart. Returning to the murder scene an hour later he was astonished to discover Rasputin still alive. The monk leapt to his feet, attacked Yusupov, then fled into the courtyard where he was gunned down by another conspirator, Purishkevich.

But a number of researchers agree that this account is a fabrication with the chief suspect in the murder now being a certain Lt Oswald Rayner. As Ben Macintyre, the author of an excellent biography of the Soviet spy Kim Philby (2014), reported in The Times, Rayner was a 28-year-old MI6 officer and close friend of Prince Yusupov from their time at Oxford.

As early as 2004, the Daily Telegraph reported that Richard Cullen, a retired Scotland Yard commander who had been studying the case with Andrew Cook, an intelligence historian, had concluded, on the basis of a new forensic analysis, that Rayner had fired the fatal final shot to Rasputin’s head.(3)

The Telegraph also quoted a memo sent between Rayner’s two superiors in St Petersburg, John Scale and Stephen Alley, which read: ‘Although matters have not proceeded entirely to plan, our objective has clearly been achieved. Reaction to the demise of “Dark Forces” [a codename for Rasputin] has been well received by all …’

Both Giles Milton, author of Russian roulette: How British spies thwarted Lenin’s global plot (2013) and Michael Smith, author of Six: A history of Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (2010), also suggest that Rayner was the killer of Rasputin.(4)

Despite all this mounting evidence, the intelligence service is still refusing to officially admit its role. As Macintyre concludes: ‘The Times has opened up its archives (including less creditable parts, such as spiking the murder story of the century). MI6 should do the same.’


(1) See Macintye, Ben (2017) British spy’s link to murder of Rasputin, Times, 7 January p. 28

Richard Lance Keeble, director of ICE and joint editor of Ethical Space

December 13, 2016

259 journalists in jail around the world

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:02 pm

Some 259 journalists are currently in jail around the world – the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

Turkey where there were at least 81 journalists behind bars topped the list. Dozens of other journalists remain imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to second place with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia follow as the worst jailers of journalists.

CPJ executive director Joel Simon commented: ‘Journalists working to gather and share information are performing a public service and their rights are protected under international law. It is shocking, therefore, that so many governments are violating their international commitments by jailing journalists and suppressing critical speech.’ Turkey was at the vanguard of this authoritarian trend. ‘Every day that Turkey’s journalists languish in jail in violation of that country’s own laws, Turkey’s standing in the world is diminished.’

For the first time since 2008 Iran is not among the top five worst jailers since many of those sentenced in the 2009 post-election crackdown have served their sentences and been released. The Americas region, which had no jailed journalists in 2015, appears on this year’s census with four journalists in prison. The vast majority of journalists in jail worked online and/or in print, while about 14 per cent are broadcast journalists.

The prison census does not include journalists who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups such as freelance British journalist John Cantlie, held by the Islamic State. These are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’ and CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are in these categories in the Middle East and North Africa.

• See

December 9, 2016

Phillip Knightley: The supreme journo

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:55 am

Phillip Knightley, the investigative reporter who has died aged 87, was a wonderful story-teller. Once he told my students at City University (where I was a journalism lecturer from 1984 to 2003) how, when he was a rookie reporter in the late 1940s on a suburban Australian rag, the news appeared to have dried up for the next edition so his editor asked him to invent a story. Phillip promptly wrote a ‘report’ about a man (he dubbed him ‘the hook man’) who terrorised women on the local buses by lifting up their skirts with a clothes peg. So the front page splash headline: ‘”Hook man” terrorises women on the buses’ duly appeared on the Friday. Not surprisingly, Phillip worried about the response of the local cops to his invented ‘exclusive’. Monday passed without any call from the cops. Then on Tuesday, he received a call from the local police station. ‘Is that Knightley?’ the cop asked abruptly. ‘Yes,’ he responded nervously. ‘Well,’ the cop continued, ‘you know that “hook man” – we’ve caught him!’

In every respect, that was a typical Phillip story: extremely funny – but was it true or false: fact or fiction? In reality, the story as well as being extremely entertaining was a device to encourage his audience to be sceptical.

Indeed, Phillip was for me the supreme journo: always sceptical, fiercely intelligent, courageous, witty, highly sociable, politically astute – as well as being a brilliant writer and story teller.

His achievements in journalism and publishing were vast: major roles in The Sunday Times’s investigations into the thalidomide scandal and Kim Philby, the British intelligence chief exposed as a Soviet spy; twice awarded the Journalist of the Year award; closely involved in the work of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – and so on.

But his contribution to the development of journalism education in this country was substantial too. His major texts (The first casualty, his seminal history of war reporting; The second oldest profession, on spying, and his autobiography, A hack’s progress) are essential reading for all journalism students. They capture the best elements of journalism: original, clear writing, the synthesis of a vast amount of often complex information, a political awareness, an immediacy; a sense of history and a fascination with the complexities of human nature. As he wrote at the end of A hack’s progress: ‘So my advice for the new generation of journalists is to ignore the accountants, the proprietors and the conventional editors and get on with it. And your assignment is the same as mine has been – the world and the millions of fascinating people who inhabit it.’

Moreover, Phillip clearly enjoyed the contact with students and his appearances at City University and more recently at the University of Lincoln (after I became a professor there in 2003 and where Phillip was appointed a Visiting Professor) always drew big, appreciative crowds. He was also inspirational in smaller, workshop settings, forever keen to share his knowledge of investigative techniques and his spin on various tricky ethical/political dilemmas. For instance, intriguingly, he never had a bad word to say about cheque-book journalism.

Phillip spent a lot of his career writing on the intelligence services – but he was never seduced by the lure of the secret world and very critical of the hacks who got too close to the spooks. As he wrote: ‘…although journalism is riddled with people working for intelligence services, I would stay clear of the game.’ In his autobiography, he concluded wryly: ‘The main threat to an intelligence agent comes not from the security service in the country against which he is operating but from his own centre, his own people.’ And he bravely revealed that the Philby scoop was, in fact, a highly managed operation. The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) ‘knew beforehand what we were about to publish each week. The editor-in-chief of The Sunday Times, Denis Hamilton, had come to an agreement with the service’. So much for intrepid investigative reporting!

Phillip was also an activist journalist. For instance, in 1999, I organised a meeting at the Freedom Forum in London protesting at Fleet Street’s coverage of the Nato attacks on Serbia and Phillip immediately agreed to speak on a panel. At international forums and in media articles (in both the prestigious press and alternative, progressive journals), he constantly criticised government and military moves to censor and sanitise the reporting of war – and journalists’ failure to confront the secret state effectively. As he reflected: ‘I know now that the influence journalists can exercise is limited and that what we achieve is not always what we intended. It is the fight that counts.’

Richard Lance Keeble,
Joint editor, Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics

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