ICE blogs

May 19, 2015

Site leads the way on citizen journalism

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 11:31 am

The-Latest.com is rapidly emerging as an innovative, important citizen journalism website. Not content with carrying regular scoops and original features on national and international issues – often ignored by the mainstream media – it recently joined up with the BBC to produce a documentary on the thousands of men and women who came to Britain from the Caribbean colonies to fight Hitler. In fighting for king and empire: Britain’s Caribbean heroes was screened to acclaim on BBC4 on 13 May as part of a series marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

Co-produced by The-Latest’s Marc Wadsworth and Deborah Hobson, the film exposed the colour bar enforced by the British military until political protests forced a change in policy.

The one-hour documentary followed the production of Divided by race, united in war and peace by The-Latest.com, which has been screened by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and at South Africa’s Tri-Continental Film Festival, the Samosa Film Festival in Kenya and recently at the prestigious MipDoc event at Cannes, France. It also forms part of an educational schools project, supported by the Historical Association, that has been well-received by trade unions, students and teachers.

The-Latest.com also boasts a Facebook citizen journalism group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/6539928013/) with more than 3,500 members making it one of the largest independent, English language groups of its kind.

Marc Wadsworth the editor of The-Latest.com, commented: ‘The big growth in support for our website and its Facebook group shows the thirst that exists for “news from the bottom up” citizen journalism. It’s clear the public are cheesed off with the corporate-owned big media that serves the interests of the rich and powerful 1 per cent in Britain’s broken democracy. We are proud to be a strong alternative voice for the marginalised and unheard.’

• See http://the-latest.com/bbc-film-recognise-britains-caribbean-heroes#sthash.0UVxvJIe.dpufn and http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2015/may/11/unsung-heroes-of-the-caribbean-who-fought-for-britain-against-hitler

• The BBC documentary is available for viewing at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05v08b7/fighting-for-king-and-empire-britains-caribbean-heroes

• Organisations interested in screening Divided by race, united in war and peace can contact editor@the-latest.com.

May 7, 2015

On the ethics of celebrity interviewing

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 1:08 pm

The recent interview of the global superstar, Robert Downey Jr, by the Channel 4 News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy – when Downey stormed out in a huff – raises many questions about the ethics of celebrity interviewing. For instance, what is in the public interest? Should journalists agree to restrict their questioning to certain topics? Should they be allowed to dredge up misdemeanours from the past? Here, the former BBC journalist and now communications consultant, Barnie Choudhury, considers the many sides of these complex issues

Walk outing: A confession
Walking out of interviews is nothing new. The best and most famous names have done it. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, did so on CNN in November 2010. Few of us will forget the Bee Gees walking out after ten minutes of Clive Anderson’s rapier wit on his BBC1 talk show in 1996 with the infamous words: ‘You’re a tosser, pal.’ My favourite, though, is the then-defence secretary, Sir John Nott, who took umbrage in 1987 at being described as ‘a transient, here today, gone tomorrow politician’ by the late Sir Robin Day.

I, too, am a serial offender when it comes to interviewees walking out. Sourav Ganguly, the Indian cricket captain, walked away when I asked why he was always so sulky and rude. It was fitting, really, for he snubbed me at Lords, the home of cricket, in 2002. Then there was the former police minister, John Denham, who walked past me stony-faced after speaking at a National Black Police Association conference in November 2002 in Nottingham. It was memorable only because as I walked with him asking questions to no responses, we came to the exit to find it locked. It was then he unleashed his tirade. ‘You give journalists a bad name. You doorstep us and when we don’t answer you make us look bad. I’ll be speaking to your boss.’ To give him his due, the Leicester East MP did not walk out when he was surrounded by a media scrum in the run-up to the 2001 General Election. But he never did answer the simple question I put to him (‘Mr Vaz, how are you?’) after his return from collapsing during a television interview weeks earlier.

Questions: What is fair?
So what is fair? Downey’s walkout after being probed on his former drug habit and time spent in prison on 22 April 2015 does raise three fundamental questions:
a. Was Guru-Murthy’s line of questioning in the public interest?
b. When does the statute of limitations run out on past crimes and misdemeanours?
c. When is it acceptable to agree questions in advance?

The Information Commissioner’s Office defines public interest as ‘the public good, not what is of interest to the public, and not the private interests of the requester’. If you accept this definition, then the test is fairly clear: offending social mores is clearly not in the public interest. The case of the former Formula 1 racing boss, Max Mosley, was not. He was photographed at a ‘Nazi sex orgy’ and the court quite rightly (in July 2008) decided the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World had invaded his privacy. It was not in the public interest because he did not commit a crime, nor was he in public office where he could influence or be influenced. I make the distinction of public office because recent history shows how a sex scandal can damage the careers those in power. In September 2014, Brooks Newmark, the Conservative Minister for Civil Society, resigned after being found sending explicit photographs of himself to women over the internet.

The public interest test is important because an erosion of ethical values could lead to the introduction of strict privacy laws. The former Daily Mirror editor and now Professor of Journalism at City University London, Roy Greenslade, believes that privacy laws will inhibit journalism and he is probably right.

Dredging up the past: Is a ‘statute of limitations’ needed?
So when is it OK to dredge up the past? In the UK, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (1974) means that with the exception of immigration transgressions, most crimes have a shelf life. Can we argue that after a while, those in the public limelight, who have served time or admit to committing crimes, should be allowed the freedom not to talk about their past? A statute of limitations, if you like. It is unlikely that a journalist will agree when it comes to celebrities, politicians and public officials. Downey obviously did not want to talk about anything except his new film. But some celebrities will. Four years after going to jail, the pop star, George Michael, spoke about his ‘horrific’ time’ there. So it depends on the situation, the relevance and the star. We should never underestimate timing in a celebrity’s life. Stars with fading careers, desperate for publicity will probably answer any question because they need attention and the money. At the same time, those who have cultivated a brand or have more to lose and are more guarded with their comments. What appear to be innocuous questions may lead to a revelation which creates bad headlines. The interview by the BBC broadcaster Simon Mayo with actor Naomi Watts springs to mind. Watts had portrayed the late Princess Diana in a film but for some reason Mayo contends she cut the interview short in September 2013 – and we will never know why.

Journalism works on the principle that reporters ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable, and expect an answer, unless there is a legal reason not to do so. Equally, an interviewee has the right not to answer.

Rules of the game: The PR side
Interviewing today has become a game and you need to follow the rules. I should know, it is my job to protect clients from making a gaffe. I would not allow any client of mine to face a grilling alone and neither would I permit them anywhere near a journalist without a fully prepared strategy, which will include a mock interview. I make sure I know the line of questioning so there are no surprises and then plan for the worst, just in case. I hone the messages to perfect sound bites. Paradoxically, I also acknowledge that the prevalence of spin doctors, media trainers and communications experts make it increasingly difficult to get authentic answers.

Today, politicians and VIPs will have press officers to intervene just in case carefully laid plans are swept aside. If your client messes up, you, the spin doctor, are at fault. Politicians and VIPs will not answer difficult questions. Instead they will have been trained to ‘reframe the question’ to give the message they want to get over. Indeed, politicians and VIPs are afraid to tell unpalatable truths because the consequences could wipe out shares, guarantee ridicule and cost careers. Who can forget the PR disaster that was Tony Hayward, the former Chief Executive of BP? He was the boss during the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 – and who admitted his company were ‘not prepared’ to deal with the fallout. Hayward may have wanted ‘his life back’ but it was an inappropriate comment, especially when people had died and your company was responsible for a major environmental disaster.

No self-respecting journalist will reveal what questions they will be asking. Doing that means only staged answers are given and we may as well return to the early days of television when interviewers asked: ‘Is there anything you’d like to tell the nation Prime Minister?’ Staged or planted questioning is a deception and journalists disrespect their readers and viewers by engaging in that. Why should the public trust journalists ever again if they made such deals? Yet we know it happens. I am told that the pressure to get that scoop, that access, to be in the know, means some journalists will even send the copy, including the headline, to the subject in advance. My fear is that the more journalists give away, the less the public will be able to trust what they read or see.

The responsibility – easily lost amidst the din of the 24/7 news cycle
By his own admission, Sir John Nott’s encounter with Sir Robin Day delayed his eventual slide into obscurity. He took Sir Robin’s comment and made it the title of his memoirs. What is perhaps regrettable is that, according to Nott, Sir Robin felt he had let down his profession when, in fact, he had simply done his job. Indeed, journalists need to remember their profession holds decision-makers to account for reporters are in the privileged position of probing those the public may never get to meet. It is a huge responsibility often lost in the din of the 24/7 hour news cycle, PR and spin.

Notes
• Barnie Choudhury, a former BBC network correspondent, is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Council for England, Director of Communications (Interim) at the University of East London, Associate at the National Police College and crisis communications consultant.

Surveillance Act ‘threatens journalism’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 1:05 pm

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe has criticised legislation in France that will expand government surveillance and threaten journalistic activities. The measure was backed by French parliamentarians despite criticism from rights groups. OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic commented: ‘If enforced, these practices will impact the right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources and their overall work. … If confidentiality of sources is not safeguarded within a trusted communications environment, the right of journalists to seek and obtain information of public interest would be seriously endangered.’

The legislation was drafted by the ruling Socialist Party just days after a group of armed Islamists attacked France’s popular satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on 7 January killing a dozen members of the magazine’s staff.

The newly approved bill provides blanket-approval for the wholesale interception and storage of communications metadata, which include information about the location and size of internet-based communications exchanges and the identities of those sending or receiving electronic messages. The legislation also includes a provision for the setting up of a National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques to supervise the use of surveillance powers by France’s six intelligence agencies and handle complaints from the public relating to communications interception.

The bill was backed by 438 votes for – with just 86 against. Most parliamentarians from the three main parties – the Socialist Party, the rightwing Union for a Popular Movement, and the centrist Union of Democrats and Independents – supported the bill. The Radical Party of the Left also voted for the bill but the Communist-led Left Front and the Greens voted overwhelmingly against the bill.

• See http://intelnews.org/

April 24, 2015

Eritrea ‘most censored country in world’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 12:36 pm

Eritrea and North Korea are the most censored countries worldwide, according to a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists. The survey is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has crushed independent journalism, producing a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest or flee into exile. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars - none of them having been tried in court or even charged with a crime. Fewer than 1 per cent of the population goes online, according to UN International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 per cent of the population owning one.

In North Korea, where just 9.7 per cent of the population has cell phones, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that newsreel was re-edited recently to remove leader Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

Seven of the ten most censored countries – Eritrea, Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Iran, China and Myanmar – are also among the top ten worst jailers of journalists worldwide, according to CPJ’s annual prison census. More than half of the journalists imprisoned globally are charged with anti-state crimes, including in China, the world’s worst jailer and the eighth most censored country. Of the 44 journalists imprisoned – the largest figure for China since CPJ began its annual census in 1990 – 29 were held on anti-state charges. Other countries that use the charge to crush critical voices include Saudi Arabia (third most censored), where the ruling monarchy, not satisfied with silencing domestic dissent, teamed up with other governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council to ensure that criticism of leadership in any member state is dealt with severely.

In Ethiopia – number four on CPJ’s most censored list – the threat of imprisonment has contributed to a steep increase in the number of journalist exiles. Amid a crackdown on bloggers and independent publications in 2014, more than 30 journalists were forced to flee. Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, which criminalises any reporting deemed to ‘encourage’ or ‘provide moral support’ to banned groups, has been levied against many of the 17 journalists jailed there. Vietnam (sixth most censored) uses a vague law against ‘abusing democratic freedom’ to jail bloggers, and Myanmar (ninth most censored) relies on its 1923 Official Secrets Act to prevent critical reporting on its military.
In Cuba (tenth most censored), the internet is available to only a small portion of the population, despite outside investment to bring the country online.

The list of most censored countries addresses only those where the government tightly controls the media. In some countries, notably Syria, conditions are extremely dangerous and journalists have been abducted, held captive, and killed, some by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad but also by militant groups such as the Islamic State.

• For full report see https://cpj.org/2015/04/10-most-censored-countries.php.

April 1, 2015

Protest over arms link of new BBC Trust vice-chair

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 4:25 pm

The appointment of Roger Carr, chairman of BAE Systems, as vice-chair of the BBC Trust has been strongly opposed by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.

Matthew Burnett-Stuart, for CAAT, said: ‘BAE Systems is Europe’s biggest arms company and has armed dictatorships and human rights abusers around the world, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Israel. Now its chairman, Roger Carr, will be paid £70,610 a year of taxpayers’ money as vice-chairm of the BBC Trust.

‘The BBC is supposed to be run in the public interest. Arms companies don’t care about culture, broadcasting or the public good. All they care about is arms sales and gaining legitimacy while they line their pockets.’ Last year the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson, was forced to pull out of speaking at a banquet for arms dealers following a high profile campaign by CAAT.

A protest petition can be accessed at https://www.caat.org.uk/get-involved/act-now/petition/bbc.

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/.

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.

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