ICE blogs

December 17, 2010

Pilger: ruthlessly exposing media failures over conflict coverage

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

Robert Beckett reviews John Pilger’s latest film which highlights the failures of the mainstream media in their coverage of conflicts since 1945

The war you don’t see is a powerful documentary film made by John Pilger, one of the world’s great investigative journalists. More than a documentary, Pilger’s film is ruthless in its aim of questioning war reporting and the role of the media in conflicts since 1945 - though much of the focus is on the recent wars of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine.

There are three questions at the heart of the film: what is the role of the media in war? why do journalists beat the drum of war? and how are crimes of war reported when they are [our] crimes?

Citing detailed film and documentary evidence and using expert witnesses, Pilger builds a case that is simply devastating. Both the 24/7 media and the Western military are implicated in a deceit that has the innocent starved, tortured and murdered in their thousands using the tools of modem technological warfare, and in the name of democracy (or should that be hypocrisy?).

Some of the footage is simply disgusting, demonstrating how it is that callous and deluded men kill children, women and unarmed foreigners in other countries, in the name of freedom. For a full archive of Pilger’s immense and valuable catalogue of documentary journalism see: http://www.johnpilger.com/videos. John Pilger has donated his entire archive to the University of Lincoln which is in the process of digitalising it.

- The war you don’t see: a documentary film by John Pilger (97 mins); in UK cinemas from 13 December 2010. The John Pilger site will stream the film in the Video section at some point this year.

December 8, 2010

Hounding of Wikileaks condemned

Reporters Without Borders, the press freedom campaigning organisation, has condemned the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure being directed at cablegate.wikileaks.org, the website dedicated to the US diplomatic cables. RWB is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

After publishing several hundred of the 250,000 cables it says it has in its possession, WikiLeaks had to move its site from its servers in Sweden to servers in the United States controlled by online retailer Amazon. Amazon quickly came under pressure to stop hosting WikiLeaks from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and its chairman, Sen. Joe Lieberman, in particular.

Ousted from Amazon, WikiLeaks found a refuge for part of its content with the French internet company OVH. But French digital economy minister Eric Besson said the French government was looking at ways to ban hosting of the site. WikiLeaks was also recently dropped by its domain name provider EveryDNS. Meanwhile, several countries well known for their disregard of freedom of expression and information, including Thailand and China, have blocked access to cablegate.wikileaks.org.

Reporters Without Borders commented: ‘This is the first time we have seen an attempt at the international community level to censor a website dedicated to the principle of transparency. We are shocked to find countries such as France and the United States suddenly bringing their policies on freedom of expression into line with those of China. We point out that in France and the United States, it is up to the courts, not politicians, to decide whether or not a website should be closed.’

Earlier, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) condemned the political backlash being mounted against WikiLeaks and accused the US of attacking free speech after it put pressure on the website’s host server to shut down the site.

‘It is unacceptable to try to deny people the right to know,’ said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ‘These revelations may be embarrassing in their detail, but they also expose corruption and double-dealing in public life that is worthy of public scrutiny. The response of the United States is desperate and dangerous because it goes against fundamental principles of free speech and democracy.’

The IFJ is also concerned about the welfare and well-being of Assange (who was arrested on 7 December on sex charges and later refused bail) and Bradley Manning, the United States soldier in Iraq who is under arrest and suspected of leaking the information.

- See: http://www.ifj.org/en/articles/ifj-condemns-united-states-desperate-and-dangerous-backlash-over-wikileaks

December 6, 2010

There, but for the grace of god…

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 9:01 pm

Barnie Choudhury reflects on Jim Naughtie’s unfortunate Spoonerism on BBC’s ‘Today’ - and remembers some nerve-wracking ‘two-ways’ he had on the programme with its daunting presenters

I was dropping my fourteen year old daughter off at her school when it happened. I almost crashed the car. Olivia looked at me aghast and then asked: ‘Did he just use the “C” word? On Radio4?’ (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/listen_again/default.stm). Poor Jim Naughtie. There but for the grace of god, I thought.

Let me declare an interest. The ‘Today’ programme is my early morning wake up call. It was the programme which made my - and many others’ - career. I adore Jim, John, Evan and Justin. Sarah is wonderful and I still miss Carolyn Quinn and Sue McGregor.

I’ve been interviewed by all of them in what the industry calls a ‘two-way’. I took precautions. I made sure I woke up at least an hour before my slot, showered, shaved and was completely awake. These pesky presenters, you just don’t know what will come out of their mouths.

You see, doing ‘Today’ was, for me at least, a very big deal. It wasn’t an ego thing - well not completely. I was simply nervous about getting it wrong because I knew who was listening. Every single person in government. Every single serious politician in opposition. Every single police officer who hopes to be a Chief Constable. Every single academic worth his or her salt. Oh, and rumour has it, Her Majesty the Queen as well.

Everyone will be familiar with the infamous six-o-seven slot (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3090681.stm) - the one which caused Alistair Campbell to go to war with the BBC. The result: the scalps of a decent reporter, a brilliant Director-General and a down-to-earth Chairman. Getting it wrong wasn’t an option.

What made things worse was that you always had a sense that John, Jim et al. knew more than you. They had been so well briefed. One morning I was greeted by a cheery Jim, croissant in one hand and the daily papers in the other: ‘Ah, Barnie, so we’re talking about the Council of Europe then…’ I could see where he might have got that idea - but it wasn’t what I’d intended to talk about. So I dashed to the computer and got the BBC Analysis section on the Corporation’s intranet to read up on the Council of Europe. Boy, did I sweat. And wouldn’t you know it, Jim didn’t ask me one single question on the CofE.

It is so easy to get it wrong on live radio and television. Live broadcasting can be exciting - but frightening at the same time. My personal nightmare, from which I have never recovered and which comes back to haunt me, was Friday, 17 February 2006. I am seated in the High Court listening to the case of Lotfi Raisi. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4725606.stm). For some reason I’m not understanding what’s going on. The problem is that I have to do a two-way with Julian Worricker on News 24, as it was then, as soon as the case is finished.

It was a disaster, a train wreck, a car crash…oh boy, the producer ran out from the satellite van screaming at me. I still have the recording of my appearance somewhere. You know the dreams where you’re running through treacle or trying to get to a place and you’re being held back? Well, that’s how I felt as the words tumbled out of my mouth - and I’m in a cold sweat thinking about it now.

So back to Jim. The papers had the story immediately. The Guardian has helpfully put the offending ten seconds on its website and it is also on YouTube. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/06/james-naughtie-today-jeremy-hunt). The BBC, though, has done something rather strange. It has accepted Jim made an error. It has allowed Jim to say he’s sorry, several times. But it has edited out the offending piece of broadcasting from its ‘Listen Again’ player. Come on, BBC! It was an honest mistake. And, for the rest of the programme, you could tell it had an affect on this fine broadcaster, one of our national treasures.

And what about the man whose name was mangled - the Culture Secretary, Jeremy HUNT? He did what I hope I would do in a situation like this: he laughed it off. Mr HUNT tweeted http://twitter.com/jeremy_hunt: ‘They say prepare for anything before going on “Today”, but that took the biscuit…I was laughing as much as u Jim, or shld I say Dr Spooner.’ Ten out of ten, Sir. Someone to watch, me thinks. This is the right way to deal with something that can happen to anyone. One thing I love about the British is our shared ability to laugh at ourselves - and please, I implore you, long may it continue.

Barnie Choudhury,
Senior lecturer,
School of Journalism,
University of Lincoln

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