ICE blogs

March 27, 2015

Campaign to free jailed journalists

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 10:17 am

The Committee to Protect Journalists has launched the Press Uncuffed: Free the Press campaign to raise awareness about the 221 journalists currently imprisoned around the world. The campaign, in partnership with students at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, highlights nine specific cases:

• Ilham Tohti, China, 2014
• Bheki Makhubu, Swaziland, 2014
• Reeyot Alemu, Ethiopia, 2011
• Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan, 2014
• Jason Rezaian, Iran, 2014
• Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Uzbekistan, 1999
• Mahmoud Abou Zeid (Shawkan), Egypt, 2013
• Ta Phong Tan, Vietnam, 2011
• Ammar Abdulrasool, Bahrain, 2014

The students, under the leadership of Knight chair at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism and Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post journalist Dana Priest, developed the idea of designing, producing, and selling bracelets bearing the names of the jailed journalists, and have launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign to raise money to produce the bracelets. For more details see www.pressuncuffed.org and https://www.cpj.org/.

March 26, 2015

Promoting media reform in run-up to general election

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, media policy — news_editor @ 10:01 am

Any publisher with a 15 per cent share in a designated market should be subject to a public interest test in respect of any merger or takeover. This proposal is part of A Manifesto for Media Reform, just launched by the Media Reform Coalition and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom in the run-up to the general election.

It says: ‘Our media are too important to be left to the bottom line of big business or the whims of government. We cannot rely on unaccountable private corporations or partisan administration if we want media that serve the many and not just vested interests.’

The regulator, Ofcom, must be made more accountable to the public. The manifesto also calls for the implementation of the arrangements for press regulation put forward by the Leveson Inquiry in 2012 – and for publishers to operate a ‘conscience clause’ enabling journalists to refuse to work unethically.

On the BBC, it says the licence fee is the best way of financing ‘but this should be collected as a progressive tax on households, with tiered rates for working households and free services for those in receipt of benefits’. ‘The BBC has responded to financial and political pressures by becoming too pro-establishment. We want to ensure that the BBC is strong enough to stand up both to government and commercial pressures.’

Lobbying for powerful interests and corporations is a £2 billion industry ‘but there are few rules governing its activities and no requirement for lobbyists to register or disclose their clients or activities’. The manifesto calls for clandestine lobbying to be outlawed and a fund established to allow civil society groups to carry out research in the public interest.

• The manifesto appears in the latest issue of Free Press, the journal of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (see http://www.cpbf.org.uk/body.php?subject=media%20regulation&doctype=sticky&id=3161).

November 2, 2014

Celebrating the genius of John Tulloch

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conferences — news_editor @ 4:44 pm

Richard Lance Keeble paid tribute at the ICE annual conference in London on 24 October 2014 to his University of Lincoln colleague Professor John Tulloch as the ‘quintessential journo: looking closely, witnessing with an ever critical, intelligent eye, curious about everything’

It is a great privilege for me to give a talk today in praise of my late friend and colleague John Tulloch. When I left City University for Lincoln in 2003 I was stepping into the unknown – but how lucky I was to work then alongside John for the last ten years of my full-time academic career. I could not have hoped for a better colleague. He was extremely supportive of my personal interests – such as peace journalism, investigative reporting, literary journalism – and we spent many hours thrashing out ideas late at night in his Lincoln home.

John could be shy and self-effacing in his relations with people. But he had a massive intellect; he was an extraordinary polymath: history, Indian culture, military aircraft, literature, music – from Bach to Bessie Smith and just about everything in between – the media, robots, the arts, politics, travel, second hand bookshops were a few of his obsessions. Just chatting to him was an education in itself. He estimated he had something like 20,000 books crammed into his north London home, university office and the terrace house he rented in Lincoln. But these books did not merely furnish the rooms: John had read them and more to the point he remembered what he had read. John was driven by an extraordinary curiosity about life. He was the quintessential journo: looking closely, witnessing with an ever critical, intelligent eye, curious about everything. I always remember as we went walking through the streets of say New Delhi, Paris or London he appeared to know the histories of every building we passed.

His writings and conference presentations over the years covered a vast range of subjects: peace journalism, Indian newspaper history, press regulation, media coverage of the US ‘war on terror’, the BBC; investigative reporting, literary journalism, journalism education to name but a few. He wrote beautifully: his prose was bubbling with original ideas and wit: he was able to mix subtle theory, even sections of quantitative analysis, with elegant references to some of the many books he had read. Take for instance, his Ethical Space review of Robert Fisk’s The Age of the Warrior, in which the author serenades his cat: John took the opportunity to slip in mention other literary cats – of Keats, Christopher Smart and Dr Johnson for instance, complete with apt quotations, of course.

John could even include the word ‘bullshit’ in an academic essay and make it appear both apt and profound! Indeed, there was a cheeky side to his personality that came out in his writings: while constantly critical of the ‘dumbing down’ of the media he always wanted to celebrate the tabloids for their mischief-making. So he was quick to challenge John Lloyds’ stress on the need for ‘responsible journalism’ writing:

Don’t we need a less solemn vision of journalism that has some space for active mischief-making, and scepticism and suspicion of the motives of the powerful, even if some of that mischief is damaging even to the body politic.

John’s contribution to the 2012 ICE annual conference was so typical of the man. Amidst all the avalanche of media coverage of Leveson, John picked on what he called ‘the witchifying’ of Rebebak Brooks – who might otherwise have been so easily passed over as a Murdoch crony not worth any sympathy or academic attention. So he read carefully from his script:

Last year, Rebekah Brooks positively willed herself to be my subject. She is, as many have seen fit to tell us, hard to resist. Not the Cotswold-living lady who rides retired police horses, or the tabloid editor and compulsive chum of celebrities … But the woman in the middle of the bizarre process that seems to happen regularly, when for a short period, they become a subject of press interest, are objectified and, not to be too dainty about it, monstered.

And he continued:

Apart from the too tempting opportunities for portentous moralising, her case is fascinating for what it can tell us about contemporary media culture, the persistence of class-based attitudes and a sexism so engrained into our public life as to appear ‘natural’, old boy.

Notice the vitality and wit, the subtle shifts of tone and register of John’s prose. How elegantly it mixes subtle theorising, journalese and witty vernacular. All of this crammed into just a few score words.

John was a regular attender at ICE annual conferences, was books reviewer for Ethical Space and he was always there in an email or at the end of the phone line with some wise words of advice for the ICE executive group. Indeed, ethical concerns lay at the heart of all his writing and teaching. Like one of his heroes, George Orwell, he used book reviewing as a way of expounding his theories about life and journalism and everything. So on Anthony Feinstein’s, Journalists under fire, The psychological hazards of covering war: he wrote:

The concept of the journalist as emotionless ‘filter’, devoid of social context, history, ideology jumps up like a claymore mine. Damn such ‘filters’. Surely the appropriate professional filter for journalists about conflicts within which we are enmired is paranoia about authority, empathy for the victims, and anger at the stupidity, historical illiteracy, ambition and greed which brought this to pass. Held together, of course, by a steely effort to construct credible ‘facts’. Patrick Cockburn, Robert Fisk, John Pilger and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad spring to mind.

In his essay, ‘What moral universe are you from? Everyday tragedies and the ethics of press intrusion into grief’ published in Ethical Space, he outlined four essential journalistic ethical approaches:

• Firstly: the journalism is a ‘rough old trade’ argument: journalists are special and should not be subject to ordinary ethical codes. The PCC Code is primarily a public relations exercise, a deal with the political class to buy off political pressures.
• Secondly: the ‘virtuous journalist’ argument. Journalists should be subject to ordinary ethical codes but virtuous behaviour can only be based on the operation of individual conscience.
• Thirdly: the ‘cultural meliorism’ argument. Voluntary codes can ‘improve the culture of journalism’ gradually via training and contracts.
• And finally: the ‘structural determinism’ argument. Codes and conscience will count for little in a newspaper industry run by media combines to maximise profit.

And he concluded: ‘My own prejudice would be to support the virtuous journalist argument but this is only feasible if journalists establish a right to refuse instructions that breach the code.’

Another of John’s heroes was Charles Dickens. And in writing about him in a chapter for a book I edited, The Journalist Imagination, he was able to articulate his profound belief in the cultural and political value of journalism as literature.

One obvious reason for the low status of English journalism has been its perceived lack of creative control by the author compared to the control allegedly associated with the ‘artist’. Arguably one of the malign effects of Romanticism in English culture was to define the ‘true’ artist’s status as not having a patron but a soulful relationship to the audience that precluded writing for anything as vulgar as the market. Certainly, the issues of creative control and his relationship to the mass audience tantalized Dickens.

Ethics also lay at the heart of John’s promotion over many years of journalism and media studies as academic disciplines. As far back as 1996, in the wake of an outburst of Fleet Street and Jeremy Paxman attacks on media studies, he wrote:

Media studies is not a discipline it itself but a field where a number of other disciplines meet – among them history, politics, economy, sociology and law. Far from being ‘incoherent’ in Paxman’s ignorant formulation, this field is a key meeting place to gain an understanding of the forces which shape our lives. Mediawork is strong in all the fashionable transferable skills – teamwork, self-presentation, research, negotiation, communicating with different audiences – that we are asked to value in higher education.

On the Westminster part-time Masters in Journalism Studies, he said: ‘We hope the theory provides a critique of current journalism and a forum for the discussion of ethical and political issues, encouraging students to be aware of the potential consequences of their activity.’

John was very much part of the John Mair/Keeble book factory system which has produced 12 books over recent years. For John, it meant bashing out massively referenced chapters to very short deadlines. Significantly Ian Sinclair, the Morning Star reviewer, always singled out John’s chapters for special praise. And that was not surprising. Whether writing on trust in the media, or the ability of literary journalists such as Gitta Sereny and Gordon Burn to confront evil, or on US and UK newspaper’s coverage of torture and rendition John was always original and insightful. His prose the fruit of years of reading, reflection and pedagogic commitment, lives on to remind us of his genius.

• Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism, joint editor of Ethical Space, and chair of the Orwell Society. He edited with John Tulloch Peace Journalism, War and Conflict Resolution (Peter Lang, New York, 2010) and two volumes of Global Literary Journalism: Exploring the Journalistic Imagination (Peter Lang, New York 2012 and 2014).

STUART HALL; THE RELUCTANT CARIBBEAN?’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, conferences — news_editor @ 4:40 pm

ICE CONFERENCE. OCTOBER 24TH 2014 JOHN MAIR

They were born ten years apart and died thirty five years apart. One assassinated by agents of his country’s government, the other of old age. Yet these two Caribbean mega-brains bear comparison. They are both towering intellectual figures of the region. But in this paper I want to ask what would Stuart Hall have achieved ‘back home’ if he had been more like Walter Rodney and simply more West Indian. Why was he such a reluctant Caribbean?

Rodney achieved much intellectually-his How Europe underdeveloped Africa is still a masterpiece and also politically in his lifte time. So much so that on his first return to the Caribbean from teaching in Africa he was excluded from Jamaica and his job by the government of Jamaica. People rioted in the streets in his support. How many intellectuals have achieved that?

He returned to Africa and then home to Guyana and another job offer given and withdrawn at the University of Guyana. Rodney then set up a radical, multi-racial, political party –The Working People’s Alliance -which so got under the skin of the dictator Forbes Burnham that he had him brutally killed in June 1980.A Commission of Inquiry In Guyana is currently investigating the exact circumstances of his life and death.

Rodney’s legacy lives on in the Caribbean and much further afield.

Stuart Mcphail Hall left the Caribbean to come to Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar in 1951. His mother came too. He never properly returned intellectually or politically to Jamaica. Hall’s influence was intellectual and significant mainly in the white man’s world of the Metropolitan centre. His legacies are the New left Review Policing the Crisis and the canon of cultural studies in universities. The latter is double edged.
But the Big Question is just why did Stuart Hall abandon the Caribbean in his mind and his work?

One of the few times he applied his powerful intellect to his homeland was in the Walter Rodney Memorial lecture at the Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick in 1993. Some clues lie in that text.

His initial premise was that Caribbean writers simply would not ‘leave worrying away’ about Caribbean identity. Hall understood the importance of that identity in the colonial and post colonial times where the question of identity dominated artistic endeavour.

But the origin of that identity is so disparate as to be dissolute. Just what Is the or a ‘Caribbean Identity’- Where does it reside? With the Caribs of the region, the African slave trade, the indentured Indians, the portugese traders or the European colonialists-my forefathers- who brought many of them to those parts under various forms of duress. Racial purity is a near chimera. How many of you for example know that East Indians as they are called are the majority ethnic group in Trinidad and Guyana and not far behind in Surinam?

It is all a ‘mix up’ as they say in the west indies. -very much like Hall’s own family background-;black, indian, white, jewish portugese. All human life is there in Stuart , His family were unsure of who they were but sure they who were not…pure black. His sister was stopped from marrying a Barbadian doctor whose skin was too dark. The fine graduations are what matters. My own mother who was nearly white had first cousins who were nearly black!
Race dominated Hall’s childhood and still dominates in the modern Caribbean. Black v brown v white v near white v carib . Hall was made acutely aware of them growing up in the Jamaica of the 1940’s. So was I in the Guyana of the 1950’s, full on race riots were yet to come but the tension was ever present.It still is.

So too the rewards(or sins) of colour gradation. In the banks in Georgetown the closer you were to white the closer you were being allowed to serve customers.

The Caribbean was and is in essence a series of diasporas from many native lands. It is still transitional.

Did Hall’s racial confusion dominate his ambivalent relationship with his mother and mother’s land? Did he really know who he was racially and culturally?
On his first return to Jamaica fifteen years after leaving for Britain Hall’s own family asked him ‘I hope they do not treat you as one of those immigrants over there’. ’Those’- the Jamaican. Bajan, Grenadian, Guyanese bus and tube drivers, nurses and so on -the Windrush generation tempted to the Colonial mother land to fill labour gaps before the 1961 Act all but closed the door were different to stuart.

They lived in a different world. Hall had been well whitened by Merton College Oxford at undergraduate and post-graduate level and the founding of the New Left Review by this point. His Anglo-Caribbean identity was always it seems to me transitional.

Hall did re-discover, like Rodney, his African origins through Franz Fanon. Rodney went to research and teach in Africa, Hall to my current knowledge never did. But Hall was also a fan of the Martiniquais poet and politician Aime Cesaire and his work . Cesaire very firmly remained a Caribbean but a French Caribbean-an heir to the 1789 legacy of liberty, equalite and fraternite but also acquetly aware of his African heritage….

Hall like others looking for meaning chronicled the rise of Rastafarianism in jamaica. The desire to worship a long lost Africa a literal Africa and an imagined chiliastic religion with a dead leader from afar from there is one I still find bizarre. Rastafarianism provided and provides some hope for the hopeless in poor areas like trenchtown in Kingston Jamaica but what else?

It also gave the world Bob Marley –another racial mix up(black/white irish/Jamaican. Hall naturally embraced Marley warmly,
Post independence from Britain in 1962 Jamaica had to some extent found itself as a ‘nation’ of sorts .In the words of Rodney and Marley it had ‘grounded’ itself. Post independence Jamaica had a series of racial ‘mix up ‘prime ministers usually with the surname Manley or Seaga)
In the 1950’s only ‘proper English’ had been allowed in public discourse. When Hall returned in the 60’s,he found to his surprise that the new regimens(had allowed the street language of creole and patois to break into the hallowed airwaves of Radio Jamaica. Hall called it a ‘cultural revolution’ and one which he applauded.

A by product of rastfarianism and a symbolic return to Africa Reggae music was a product of that Cultural renaissance. This was not historic in nature but simply a counter to the much softer commercial ska music which it replaced.

‘Identity is not in the past to be found but in the future to be constructed’ as Hall put it in his 1993 Rodney.

Bit like hall himself, The reluctant and confused Caribbean. It does seem to me that Rodney firmly considered himself black whilst Hall was unsure. Was his intellect European or African or Jamaican? What might he have contributed to Caribbean life if he had gone back and engaged earlier that he did and engaged politically as well as intellectually? .Would he like Walter Rodney have ended up on the mortician’s slab the result of provoking through joining the intellect to political action.

I wonder Stuart Hall will forever remain the ‘reluctant caribbean’

John Mair was born and partly brought up in the Caribbean in the then British Guiana.He has returned much since to the land of his foremothers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Yesu Persaud Centre for Caribbean Studies at the University of Warwick and has been for the last decade. He is also an Associate Fellow at the University of Guyana.

October 7, 2014

Protests over threats to Sydney peace journalism centre

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 2:22 pm

A campaign to save the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS) in its present form has been launched at the University of Sydney. Jake Lynch, director of the centre who spoke at last year’s annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics, commented: ‘There is an agenda within the university to demote us to a sub-section of another academic department. This would put our role in public advocacy for peace with justice at risk, and also risk compromising our research, including on peace journalism.’ The terms of reference for the review are to evaluate:

1. the financial sustainability of CPACS in the context of past and potentially future student load and research income;
2. the quality of teaching and supervision of students;
3. its research performance;
4. current administrative arrangements;
5. the overall strategic fit of the centre with the strategic plans of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences and the university more generally;
6. its performance in relation to its commitment to advocacy for peace with justice in collaboration with other peace centres and agencies.

Prof Lynch added: ‘If you are, or were, a student at the centre, please write addressing point 2. If you have worked with ideas generated through our research, please write addressing point 3. If you appreciate our advocacy work, please write addressing point 6.

Written submissions should be emailed to arts.dean@sydney.edu.au (with a copy to jake.lynch@sydney.edu.au). If you do not wish for your submission to be included in the final report which will be made public, your submission should be marked ‘confidential’. The deadline for written submissions is Friday, 17 October.

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

July 26, 2014

The need for highest standards in brave new world exploding with social media

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 3:53 pm

William Morris reflects on the current state of media ethics on becoming Chairman of the International Communications Forum (ICF)

Few are old enough to remember the heady days before the newspaper revolution when computers replaced hot metal. But having been brought up in and around newspapers as a copy boy, I can remember the smell of the ink and the dirt and the clatter of the little presses and the deafening hum of the big monsters that rolled rivers of newsprint three stories into the air and back down again. For many of us those days are gone. Gone too are the great teams of investigative journalists. The Sunday Times’s ‘Insight’ team was, perhaps, the last of these but even they have long disappeared into the mists.

In those days who were the guardians of ethical journalism? The broadsheet proprietors cared about their reputations. And even the tabloid newspaper owners cared in some measure. Editors in chief took pride in the standards they adhered to. Even subeditors had a conscience, though then as now they could be staggeringly ruthless.

Have things changed? Well yes and no. Men and women of conscience still run some of our newspapers. Men and women of vision and mission still comprise many of our radio and television broadcasters and newspapermen. But the pressures are perhaps greater. For most journalists, spending a week working on a story is a luxury they can only dream of. Was it ever thus? Perhaps they always had to churn out copy but there was, I believe, more space for investigative journalism, if only because proprietors once had deeper pockets and more journalists to share the load.

Many Western papers have less than little time to sub copy anymore because of ever tighter budgets. There are the exceptions such as the Washington Post with its awesomely professional and well-staffed Foreign Desk (I must confess a bias because my daughter works for the Post) but such exceptions are rare.

What then does this mean for ethical journalism? It means that the journalist becomes the guardian of media ethics. It is a world in which we each take our own responsibility for what we do. We no longer have the moral conscience of the sub or the editor to fall back on. The editors themselves – for the most part – are still great women and men of conscience and principle. They still do heroic work shaping the overall vision of their publications. The great names are there. Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the London Guardian is a classic current example. But can Rusbridger even begin to read more than a small proportion of the vast quantity of copy the Guardian churns out in its online and print editions? Most modern editors are simply too busy to concern themselves on a day-to-day level with being the conscience of their junior reporters.

So, is xenophobia an issue? Sure it is. Media stories about classic pariah groups, the gypsies, the Romanians, the Arabs, the ‘Islamists’ and so forth, can descend into obscenity so easily and we don’t even notice. One Jewish writer I know wrote a whole opinion piece titled ‘LONDINISTAN’ and does not understand, to this day, that the mere headline (and it was of her choosing) was pejorative. She would be horrified to be called racist and, of course, she is not, just more than a little thoughtless perhaps.

In a similar vein, is desensitisation to violence an issue? Of course. Here in the West we think nothing of broadcasting images of brutality and torture if they are screened past the ‘9 o’clock watershed’, with little consideration given to the fact that many pubescent, vulnerable children are unlikely to head for their beds before midnight. And in the rest of the world things can be worse. The images of blood and violence on television sets in countries such as Israel and Iraq are breeding a generation desensitised to gore to such a degree that it is truly flabbergasting.

Is disinformation an issue? Absolutely. The current Syrian civil war has bred such a flood of intelligence agency feeds, as did the Iraq war little more than a decade ago, that it is near unbelievable. And most, I repeat, most, of these stories are published without serious qualm or question. My late father, a newspaper editor himself, had a maxim: ‘A story without a source is a source of trouble.’ This maxim we still use in our Media Ethics Code. He had a far better one too. It ran: ‘When in doubt, cut it out.’

So where do we go from here? Perhaps the key is that a number of prominent journalists make a public commitment to truth in Gandhiesque fashion. An affirmation that Absolute Truth is their standard. Or is that too extreme? Too fanatical? Undoubtedly we need to do something. If the editors can no longer always be our bellwethers we must find new heroes, new women and men we can point to and say: ‘They believe in fair play.’

Ethical journalism requires standards of vigilance that are unprecedented precisely because we are our own moral guardians and cannot lean on our bosses any longer. We should embrace that challenge with excitement. It heralds a better age. We are no longer children. We must stand up for ourselves. Gandhi once wrote (and I paraphrase slightly): ‘By experience I have found that people rarely become virtuous for virtues’ sake. They become virtuous by necessity. Nor is there anything wrong in becoming good under the pressure of circumstances.’ Raghvan Iyer, Gandhi’s main disciple, added: ‘Human life is an aspiration, a continual striving after perfection, and the ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses.’

Exactly! Herein lies a role for organisations like the International Communications Forum. We should extol virtue and excellence where we find it, through every means possible from the razzmatazz of the International Award to the private and personal accolade. And where necessary we should gently and respectfully cajole and criticise, through conferences and seminars if nowhere else. And we should support, nurture and foster media ethics, by doing everything from extolling the merits of media ethics codes to encouraging training in best practice.

Just as physicians and other health care professionals swear a Hippocratic Oath to practise medicine honestly, perhaps the ICF should promote our own oath of journalistic integrity which members of the trade could swear to in an effort to bolster internationally recognised standards of media ethics. After all, the world has changed. In a brave new world exploding with social media, demonstrations are called on Facebook, corruption is exposed in blogs, and reputations are destroyed by Twitter. In an era in which the internet provides an arena in which citizen journalists abound, it is the professional press that must adopt the highest standards of media credibility if they are to have a distinct place of their own, a territory that is truly theirs, in a world peopled with rumour and the viral tweet.

And it is exciting, truly exciting, that that should be the case.

The war of lies and deception

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 3:50 pm

The press have sunk to a predictable new low in their reporting of the air disaster in Ukraine - as Cold War rhetoric and misinformation returns, argues Barry Turner

The reporting by the world’s press of the destruction of a Malaysian airliner is a reminder of how nasty and manipulative the press can be when a tragedy arises from the current civil war in Ukraine.

Both sides of what has now become an entirely polarised debate about Russia’s involvement in Ukraine are equally to blame in producing the crudest of propaganda in the name of journalism. The Western press howls with moral indignation at the Russian president going so far as to blame him personally for shooting down the aeroplane. The Russian media and its international propaganda platform, RT, continually refers to the disaster as a ‘crash’ or at worse suggests the aircraft was a victim of the Ukrainian government’s actions in the Russian-speaking part of the country. The resignation this week of RT’s Sara Firth in protest at the coverage of the disaster is an embarrassment to the station perhaps as much as the sight of Sky TV’s news reporter Colin Brazier rummaging through a dead passenger’s luggage while the Western press howls about looting.

While the UK tabloids scream in horror at the treatment of the bodies and the alleged looting of passengers’ luggage and the Russian press blames Ukrainian military and air traffic control, the most obvious explanation for this tragedy is almost entirely missing from the popular press. The Western press continually insinuates that the use of a ‘sophisticated’ surface-to-air missile is evidence that the Russians were behind the attack. But this is nonsense. The system most likely to have been used is an old-fashioned but highly effective radar-guided missile. At least one of the vehicles carrying four of these is known to be in rebel hands. And, let’s remember, the rebels are not ‘farm boys’: the majority of them have served in not only the old Soviet forces but in the Ukrainian army too. There is no shortage of civilians in former Soviet republics with the knowledge of how to use this weapon.

The most likely explanation for this appalling tragedy is that an over-zealous rebel in charge of a powerful weapon system fired it at the commercial airliner by mistake. This does not seek to mitigate what is still a criminal act but it does place it in a proper context. What benefit would it have been for the rebels to have deliberately shot down a neutral civilian jet? At the time of the missile strike 478 civilians had been killed in the Donetsk region and 1,392 severely injured by bombing and shelling. On 15 July, a Ukrainian military aircraft bombed a civilian apartment building in the city of Snizhne. Little has been reported on these outrages with the exception of a very good article in the Economist (of 19 July)

In short, the reporting of the fighting in Ukraine has now descended into the pits of cynical propaganda – just as it was promoted by the press 100 years ago at the beginning of World War One.

• See also http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/06/propaganda-war-ukraine.html

July 3, 2014

Protests over moves to jail journalist for not revealing sources

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:33 am

Some 50,000 people have already signed a petition protesting at threats by the Obama administration to jail a journalist for not revealing his sources.

In State of War (2005), New York Times reporter James Risen revealed a bungled CIA attempt to set back Iran’s nuclear programme in 2000 by supplying the Iranian government with flawed blueprints for nuclear bomb design. The CIA’s tactic might have actually aided Iranian nuclear development.

Now five organisations – RootsAction.org, the Nation, the Center for Media and Democracy, the Progressive, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and the Freedom of the Press Foundation – have launched a campaign to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to end legal moves against Risen.

The Freedom of the Press Foundation has condemned the administrations effort to force Risen to reveal a source ‘one of the most significant press freedom cases in decades’ while Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg comments: ‘The pursuit of Risen is a warning to potential sources that journalists cannot promise them confidentiality for disclosing executive branch criminality, recklessness, deception, unconstitutional policies or lying us into war. Without protecting confidentiality, investigative journalism required for accountability and democracy will wither and disappear.’

• The online petition can be read at act.rootsaction.org. See also http://zcomm.org/zmagazine/an-assault-from-obamas-escalating-war-on-journalism/.

« Previous PageNext Page »

Powered by WordPress