ICE blogs

November 18, 2016

New journal devoted to Orwell

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 5:28 pm

Finally, it’s here: a new, peer-reviewed, bi-annual academic journal devoted to the life and works of George Orwell. George Orwell Studies is co-edited by Richard Lance Keeble, chair of the Orwell Society and Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln, and John Newsinger, Professor of History at Bath Spa University.

The launch issue is a bumper 158 pages! Articles include ‘Orwell, Poland and Polish Exiles in Paris and London’, by Krystyna Wieszczek; ‘George Orwell’s Conrad’, by Douglas Kerr; ‘Orwell and the Anarchists’, by David Goodway; ‘Only Donkeys Survive Tyranny and Dictatorship: Was Benjamin George Orwell’s Alter Ego in Animal Farm?’, by Tim Crook; ‘”The End was Contained in the Beginning”: Orwell’s Kyauktada and Oceania’, by Firas A. J. Al-Jubouri; ‘”The Lesser Evil”: Orwell and America’, by John Newsinger; ‘The Edges of the Empire: The Symbolism of Bladed Weapons in Orwell’s Burmese Days’, by Don Arp, Jr.; and ‘The Poet Who Wanted to Shoot an Elephant’, by Gerry Abbott – plus book reviews and news.

The journal carries a range of genres: short polemical pieces, articles of around 3,000 words, peer-reviewed papers of around 6,000 words, interviews, book and film reviews and news. Abstracts of 200 words for proposed pieces for issue No. 2 should be sent to Professor Keeble at by 1 February 2017.

Annual subs for the two issues are £25 including post and package. For Europe, the price is £28 and for the rest of the world the price is £30. Send cheques (made out to Abramis Academic) to Journals Fulfilment Department, Abramis Academic, ASK House, Northgate Avenue, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, IP322 6BB. Full details on purchasing are available at

October 27, 2016

Paxman ‘the enigma’

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:26 am

John Mair reviews A life in question, by Jeremy Paxman (London, William Collins)

Jeremy Paxman is a riddle wrapped up in an enigma. He is the best television journalist of this generation-in and out of the studio – yet surprisingly unconfident. Reading these, his early memoirs, he also appears an accidental man: lucky in school, lucky at Cambridge, lucky in the BBC. But it is luck made by a huge talent.

Paxman is aggressive in his work yet depressive in his private life. He admits in the book to regular therapy to compensate for an oppressive father (and the insecurity it brought). In the closed world of TV journalism, he is revered both for his professional skills but also for his personal kindness.

Reviewers should declare an interest. I have known’ JP’ for nigh on four decades. We spent a year as close colleagues on London Plus. One of the highlights of my own modest TV career was Paxo telling me during the Real Lives protest walk-out at the BBC in 1985 that he had almost resigned live on air that night in disgust over the corporation’s handling of the affair because ‘I knew only you would let me…’ We have been sort of friends (JP’s favoured mode) since. I am a huge fan.

As an interviewer he is unparalleled. Each encounter is a challenge. He prepares for it meticulously: on Newsnight he had a ‘brainstorming’ session each night with his producers just like a matador getting ready for the bull. His technique is simple: aim for the solar plexus with the first question. It is difficult to recover after that. Ask the hapless Chloe Smith, whose ministerial career was destroyed in five minutes by Paxo simply asking her: ‘When did you know about this decision – before or after lunch?’ Or ask Shaun Woodward, who was asked on winning St Helen’s for Labour in 2001: ‘Mr Woodward, did your butler vote Labour?’(Woodward was a rather posh defectee from the Tories who had taken his butler ‘Up North’). Or Tony Blair, who was asked whether he and President Bush ‘prayed together’.

The most famous grilling/toasting of them all then-home secretary, Michael Howard, asked 12/14 times in 1997 ‘Did you threaten to over-rule Mr Lewis?’ about a decision he had made. Paxo later claimed he was filling space. I think he is being economical with the actualité there. I produced a tribute dinner to him a decade ago. I sat him and Howard next to each other. It was très amusant; not a meeting of the minds.

Paxo giving interviewees a stuffing comes in a short tradition of British television losing its deference to politicians and authority. It was only five decades ago that Robin Day transferred his interrogatory skills from the courtroom to the TV studio. He, too, was an on-air bully but a pussy-cat face to face. I was his researcher for a while. Commentators say that the central Paxman dictum is that of Louis Heren, the legendary Times journalist, on politicians: ‘When a politician tells you something in confidence, always ask yourself: “Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”’ He denies it. Many have tried – and still try – to imitate Paxman on screen. Most fail, badly. In his book, Paxman damns all others bar Jon Snow with less than faint praise for their skills. Aggressive questioning is no substitute in itself for good research.

Yet he is a creature of the format. Give him a gladiatorial one-on-one and he thrives. Get it wrong and he shows his contempt and looks very ordinary. I think of the Channel Four Referendum debate in June 2016. It was a total dog’s dinner and Paxo as MC was not going to make that turd shine. Likewise, a long discarded Question Time look-alike two decades ago, You decide with Jeremy Paxman. Paxo could never make that base metal shine either.

But television history will also remember Paxman as one of the great film reporters. From Spotlight in Northern Ireland through to Tonight and Panorama on the BBC, he has understood the central yet understated role of the reporter on film. Words, well-crafted but few. Plus presence on screen. One speaker at the Paxo tribute dinner had interviewed him for his first job in Belfast. After he left the room, the BBC appointments panel turned to each other and asked: ‘Do you think we impressed him?!’ Homing his reporting skills during ‘the Troubles’ was the perfect journalism academy: one mistake and you could be on the way to being a dead man with the terrorists. He has never lost those skills.

He dominated Newsnight for nigh on a quarter of a century. Since his ‘retirement’, it has lost kudos, gravitas and audience. When he was the ‘anchor’ (an Americanism very apposite in this case) woe betide any new programme editor with ideas like using new media or having a weather forecast. Paxo killed them simply by being withering on air. On form, on the night he was superb. A great journalist prepared to do his homework and to dig and dig until he got to what he considered to the truth or kernel of the story. Not the science of propulsion but a lesson for all wannabes now and in the future.

But who is Paxman? Some clues come across in the book though he protects his personal privacy very well. The product of a solid middle class family, less solid once his father left the Navy and guaranteed status for the uncertain world of Midlands manufacturing. Keith Paxman ultimately failed in that and left his family behind for a new life in the Southern seas. His mother, Joan, was much less flaky and rich enough through inheritance to put her children through the local (minor) public school, Malvern College. Even there, institutional straitjackets were bust by JP. He was rusticated twice, fortunately the second time after he had achieved a Cambridge scholarship. There, the ‘accidental man’ was lucky again falling into student journalism.

But you will not discover a huge amount about Paxman the man from these 300-plus pages. Those secrets are left on his therapist’s couch. This book is a good read as you would expect from a good journalist. Will it answer your questions about the meaning of life and media, will it face up to the great cultural studies issues of our times? Barely. His skill is not grand theory but practice day after day. Appreciate it, honour it – but most of all salute a master of the craft.

John Mair

September 13, 2016

US investigative journalist charged

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics, human rights — news_editor @ 10:42 am

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for prosecutors in the US state of North Dakota to drop all criminal charges against broadcast journalist Amy Goodman, who hosts the global news programme Democracy Now! She faces criminal trespass charges following her reporting on protests against the construction of an oil pipeline opposed by Native American tribes in the region.

Goodman filmed security guards using dogs and pepper spray to disperse protesters. Morton County Sherriff’s Department issued a statement saying protesters had entered private land after breaking down a fence while Democracy Now! reported on its website that an officer from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation acknowledged in an affidavit that Goodman was seen in the video identifying herself as a journalist and interviewing protesters. If convicted, Goodman could face a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail.

Carlos Lauría, senior programme coordinator for the Americas at CPJ, said: ‘This arrest warrant is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest.’ The complaint also cites Cody Charles Hall, an organiser of the protest, who was arrested on September 9, denied bail and jailed over the weekend, according to press reports.

Energy Transfer Partners hopes the pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, across land close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Protesters say the project risks polluting the water supply, and would run through burial sites and other locations they hold sacred.


June 9, 2016

Ethics teaching focus for conference

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 8:11 pm

‘Teaching ethics: Why bother?’ is the title of the annual conference of the Institute of Communication Ethics, to be held on 21 October 2016, at the Frontline Club, London W2 1QJ.

Ethics is now well established as a compulsory subject in the many communication studies degrees (journalism, public relations, media production, etc). Yet while universities might encourage ethical working routines in their students, very often when the student arrives in the workplace they find they have very little influence on the overall operation. Communication organisations tend to be hierarchically structured with power tending to be held by a small group of executives (often male) at the top. Why then bother with ethics at universities?

The conference aims to provide a space for timely reflection on some of the many issues confronting teachers of ethics in universities. Topics might then include:

• My curriculum: Highlighting innovative ways of teaching ethics.
• A critique of the major textbooks in the field.
• What examples of ‘good’ practice are used?
• Critiquing professionalism: the pros and cons of industry codes.
• What place has the political economy critique in ethical debate?
• Best practice: Promoting inclusivity and challenging discrimination.
• The ‘guest speaker from the industry’ syndrome: Pros and cons.
• Using Facebook, Twitter as teaching aids: The ethical issues.
• The dangers of anglo-centrism: Promoting the international perspective.
• Post-Edward Snowden revelations: Transforming the privacy/confidentiality debate.
• Beyond the free press myth: Ethics and the Secret State.
• How important is it to cover the classics (Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Bentham, Mill, MacIntyre, Rawls etc)?
• Considering women war reporters: Beyond male stereotypes.

These possible issues – and more – will be of interest to those teaching in a range of disciplines: media ethics, journalism, public relations, political communication, media sociology, surveillance studies.

Please send 200-word abstracts to Dr Fiona Thompson, director of ICE ( by 1 July 2016.

Special issue of ES

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 8:10 pm

A special double issue of Ethical Space, co-edited by Judith Townend (Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London), Denis Muller (University of Melbourne) and Richard Lance Keeble (University of Lincoln), has been published in print and online (open access).

Titled ‘Beyond clickbait and commerce: The ethics, possibilities and challenges of not-for-profit media’, it features discussion and research papers by a range of academics considering alternative models for funding news and journalism around the world.

Authors include Mel Bunce (City University London); Lyn McGaurr (University of Tasmania ); Dave Harte (Birmingham City University); Jocelyn E. Williams (Unitec Institute of Technology); Clare Cook (University of Central Lancashire); Jonathan Heawood (IMPRESS/UEA). Details: Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics, Vol. 13, Nos 2 and 3. Available at

June 8, 2016

How the press hides the global crimes of the West

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 10:00 am

Richard Lance Keeble

One of the essential functions of the corporate media is to marginalise or silence acknowledgement of the history – and continuation – of Western imperial aggression. The coverage of the recent sentencing in Senegal of Hissène Habré, the former dictator of Chad, for crimes against humanity, provides a useful case study.

The verdict could well have presented the opportunity for the media to examine in detail the complicity of the US, UK, France and their major allies in the Middle East and North Africa in the appalling genocide Habré inflicted on Chad during his rule – from 1982 to 1990. After all, Habré had seized power via a CIA-backed coup. Indeed, while coverage of Chad has been largely missing from the British corporate media, so too was the massive, secret war waged over these eight years by the United States, France and Britain from bases in Chad against Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar Gaddafi.(1)

By 1990, with the crisis in the Persian Gulf developing, the French government had tired of Habré’s genocidal policies while George Bush senior’s administration decided not to frustrate France in exchange for co-operation in its attack on Iraq. And so Habré was secretly toppled and in his place Idriss Déby was installed as the new President of Chad.

Yet the secret Chad coups can only be understood as part of the United States’ global imperial strategy. According to William Blum, in his seminal history of the CIA, Killing Hope (2003), since 1945 the US has intervened in more than 70 countries – in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia.(2) Britain, too, has engaged militarily across the globe in virtually every year since 1914. Most of these conflicts are conducted far away from the gaze of the corporate media.(3)

Reporting of the Habré sentencing has been predictably consistent across all the leading newspapers in the UK and US. Thus the focus has been on the jubilant reactions of a few of the victims of Habré’s torture and rape, on the comments from some of the human rights organisations involved for many years in the campaign to bring the Chad dictator to justice – and on the fact that it was the first time an African country had prosecuted the former head of another African country for massive human rights abuses. Only a tiny part of the reporting has mentioned the West’s role in the genocide. None of the reporting has placed the Chad events in the broader context of US/Western imperial aggression.

The story in the Guardian, by Ruth Maclean, was typical. Some 21 paragraphs were devoted to the report (‘After 26-year wait, victims of Chad’s former dictator weep tears of joy as he is convicted’). But only in the last one (appearing almost as an after-thought) was there any mention of US complicity: ‘The US State department and the CIA propped up Habré, sending him weapons and money in return for fighting their enemy, Muammar Gaddafi.’

In a follow-up editorial on 1 June 2016, the Guardian again left mentioning the West’s role until the last par: ‘Many questions still remain unanswered, including several concerning the responsibility or complicity of Western countries, such as France and the US, which actively supported Habré during the cold war years, turning a blind eye to his methods.’

The Telegraph adopted a similar approach. Aislinn Laing, based in Johannesburg, reported briefly: ‘Mr Habré, 73, is a former rebel leader who took power by force in Chad in 1982 and was then supported by the US and France to remain at the helm as a bulwark to Muammar Gaddafi in Libya.’ (4)

Adam Lusher, in the Independent, devoted just eight words to contextualising the trial: ‘Hissène Habré was once backed by America’s Cold War-era CIA.’ (5)

In the New York Times, buried in par. 24 of a 27-paragraph report by Dionne Searcey are these words: ‘Mr. Habré took power during a coup that was covertly aided by the United States, and he received weapons and assistance from France, Israel and the United States to keep Libya, to the north of Chad, and Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, then the Libyan leader, at bay.’

Similarly, in Paul Schemm’s 23-paragraph report in the Washington Post, his par. 15 reads: ‘Supported by the United States and France in his wars against Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Habré was accused of killing up to 40,000 people and torturing hundreds of thousands.’(6)

Neither the Los Angeles Times (7) nor the Belfast Telegraph (8) could find any space to mention the West’s complicity.

Intriguingly, the final paragraph in the Guardian’s report also included a statement by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, which ‘acknowledged his country’s complicity’: ‘As a country committed to the respect for human rights and the pursuit of justice, this is also an opportunity for the United States to reflect on, and learn from, our own connections with past events in Chad.’ But how hypocritical is this rhetoric given the fact that the US today is still supporting human rights offenders across the globe – including the current dictator of Chad, Idriss Déby. Moreover, the Western powers, the US and France in particular, are using Chad as a major base for their covert military operations in Africa.(9)

A number of newspapers have commented on how the case set an important precedent for holding high-profile human rights abusers to account in Africa. Yet there has been little mention of the extraordinary background. For in June 2003, the US actually warned Belgium that it could lose its status as host to Nato’s headquarters if the Habré case went ahead on the basis of a 1993 law, which allowed victims to file complaints in Belgium for atrocities committed abroad. Campaigners determined to bring Habré to justice only then shifted their attention to Africa.

William Blum comments in the ‘Introduction’ to Killing Hope (p. 13) on the US’s secret wars: ‘With a few exceptions, the interventions never made the headlines or the evening TV news. With some, bits and pieces of the stories have popped up here and there, but rarely brought together to form a cohesive and enlightening whole; the fragments usually appear long after the fact, quietly buried within other stories, just as quietly forgotten…’
How perfectly this both predicts and explains the corporate media’s coverage of the Chad dictator, Hissène Habré!

(1)See Targeting Gaddafi: Secret Warfare and the Media, by Richard Lance Keeble, in Mirage in the Desert? Reporting the ‘Arab Spring’, edited by John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble, Abramis, Bury St Edmunds, 2011 pp 281-296

- Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln. He has written and edited 36 books including Secret State, Silent Press (John Libbey, 1997), a study of the US/UK press coverage of the 1991 Gulf conflict.

May 27, 2016

Film wins recognition

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 5:25 pm

Pratap Rughani, a member of the executive group of the Institute of Communication Ethics, has come runner-up for the ‘Best Practice Research Portfolio’ award from the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) for his film Justine (http://Justine]Justine) and the research content it developed.

The film, a portrait of a young woman who rarely speaks, has featured at many film festivals (including the Human Rights Film Festival in Denver, Colorado). It seeks to develop new forms of filming and post-production based on a method of navigating the ‘art of not knowing’ with empathic looking and listening.

Dr Rughani, who is Reader and Course Leader in the Documentary Film MA at the London College of Communication, is now aiming to create a free online teaching resource to help students acquire a clear insight ‘into the ethics and research context of art and film practice that asks challenging questions about how to represent radically different Others’.

May 23, 2016

CPJ launches anonymous submission system

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:26 pm

The Committee to Protect Journalists has launched a special submission system allowing journalists to contact the organisation with reports of press freedom violations safely and anonymously.

SecureDrop is an open-source, encrypted submission system for news organisations that journalists can use to submit messages and files to the CPJ without revealing their identity, location, or the contents of their messages to potential attackers. To submit information to the CPJ via SecureDrop, journalists should download the latest version of the Tor browser, then use it to visit CPJ’s SecureDrop address at 2×2hb5ykeu4qlxqe.onion.

SecureDrop, which was created by the late activist Aaron Swartz and investigative journalist Kevin Poulsen, is now maintained and developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. CPJ technology programme co-ordinator Geoffrey King said: ‘SecureDrop combines a high level of security, which is inherent to the system, with an interface that is easy to use.’

Tom Lowenthal, CPJ staff technologist, commented: ‘We live in a world where ubiquitous government surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies. Even comparatively free states like the US and UK engage in mass surveillance, and many other states use technology to harm journalists and suppress journalism. In this environment, tools like SecureDrop will continue to be necessary for the effective practice of journalism without putting reporters or their sources at risk.’

• See

April 16, 2016

EU rulings ‘put press freedom at risk’

New EU rulings on whistleblowers and ‘right to be forgotten’ laws put press freedom at risk, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The passage of the European Trade Secrets Protection Act is particularly controversial. A number of MEPs and members of the press including Elise Lucet, a France2 investigative journalist whose petition against the Bill gathered half a million signatures, warned: ‘The trade secrets directive still raises doubts as to whether journalists and whistleblowers are appropriately protected.’ And Martin Pigeon, of the non-governmental organisation, Corporate Europe Observatory, told the BBC: ‘It would have potentially criminalised the release of Panama Papers.’

The Data Protection Package also raises concerns. Despite assurances from the commission, the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling, under which search engines can be ordered to de-list entries from web searches, has been carried over under a ‘right to erasure’ provision. According to George Brock, Professor of Journalism at City University London: ‘Contrary to what is often claimed, the [new] regulation does not solve the problems caused by the Google Spain case of 2014 which established the right for individuals to ask major search engines, such as Google, for internet links to be taken down if certain conditions are met. Instead of a specific remedy to an identifiable problem, the regulation is sweeping in its scope and powers and its approach to weighing free expression against privacy remains unbalanced.’

Members of the press in EU countries are already facing challenges, with Germany considering using the law against insulting a country’s leader to bring charges against a television comedian for allegedly insulting the Turkish president, and a photojournalist in Spain being fined €601 under the country’s so-called gag law after posting a photograph of a policeman making an arrest. In France, photojournalist Maya Vidon-White has been charged under a law banning the publication of photographs showing victims of terror attack, according to Associated Reporters Abroad.

• See Jean-Paul Marthoz at

March 1, 2016

Arab journalists bear the brunt of press freedom

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 12:37 am

Muhamed Hassan outlines the plight of Arab journalists fighting for media freedom

According to an independent Jordanian centre which aims for the protection of journalists and press freedom in the Middle East, the year 2015 proved dangerous for media staffers: 58 journalists died in 19 Arabic states, with 30 of them killed by Daesh, 69 journalists were kidnapped, and 3,863 violations were committed against them. It confirms that Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia as the most dangerous countries for journalists.

Meanwhile, a quick look at the headlines of the two press freedom groups, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows how serious the situation is for journalists in Iraq:

1. Mounting deadly danger for journalists in Iraq – 11 May 2015;
2. Journalists targeted for covering anti-corruption protests – 12 October 2015;
3. Kurdish security forces unleash wave of terror on media – 17 October 2015.

Recently, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) in Iraq, revealed that some media teams for Al Hura and Rudaw news outlets were attacked, with their equipment damaged, by official military personnel in recently liberated Ramadi despite obtaining permission to cover their work. JFO wants Iraqi ministries of defence and interior, and international human rights organisations to investigate these incidents.

No doubt the hopes of the ‘Arab Spring’ to usher in democracy and transparency in the Middle East have fizzled out so fast that nothing seems to have changed except that the politicians were evasive enough to camouflage the new era with broken promises.

Many Arab countries are plagued with the emergence of organised terrorism, and the process of democracy has had a battering at the hands of old and newly formed dictators and militant groups.

Journalists are the lifeblood of a truly democratic society. Without their investigative work, politicians and influential figures would find it easy to ride roughshod over the masses. They help shed light on the malpractice of those who are in power.

But to achieve that, they are harassed, kidnapped, imprisoned and murdered, and as long as the Middle East remains volatile and unstable, the battle for press freedom will remain a daily fight.

• See

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