Thursday 26 August 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From Taliban already threatening and harassing journalists to Society of Editors withdraws 'UK press not racist' statement

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in a statement:
"Publicly, the Taliban have undertaken to protect journalists and respect press freedom but the reality in Afghanistan is completely different. The new authorities are already imposing very harsh constraints on the news media even if they are not yet official.The list of new obligations for journalists is getting longer by the day. Less than a week after their spokesman pledged to respect freedom of the press 'because media reporting will be useful to society,' the Taliban are subjecting journalists to harassment, threats and sometimes violence."

Jeremy Dear, International Federation of Journalists deputy general secretary, on journalists in Afghanistan: "
It is an incredibly challenging time for media workers. Many are fearful for their lives, women journalists are being prevented from working, some media have been forced to close, hundreds have fled or are trying to leave the country. At the same time others are trying to continue to work as journalsts but with a threat hanging over them and with severe restrictions on what they can report. Despite the propaganda that there would be no revenge by the taliban there have been reports of door to door searches for journalists and threats against many of them...We had one instance of a family being threatened and told the only way they would be left in peace is if their daughter - a journalist - married the local Taliban commander."

The Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement"As the Taliban attacks reporters, searches their homes, and takes two female state TV anchors off the air, CPJ calls on the group to stand by its public commitment to allow a free and independent press, and to guarantee that all journalists are able to work safely and without interference. CPJ also urges the United States to ensure the safety of Afghan journalists by facilitating safe passage out of the country and providing emergency visas."

Deutsche Welle (DW) Germany’s international broadcaster reports:
"Taliban fighters hunting a DW journalist have shot dead one member of his family and seriously injured another. The Taliban were conducting a house-to-house search to try and find the journalist, who now works in Germany. Other relatives were able to escape at the last moment and are now on the run. DW Director General Peter Limbourg issued a strong condemnation and called on the German government to take action. 'The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,' Limbourg said."

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet in a statement condemning the actions of anti-vaccine protestors who occupied the London headquarters of ITV News and Channel 4 News, targeted journalists including the Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow: 
"Journalists have to be free to go about their work without abuse and harassment. It is disturbing and concerning to see the vitriol being expressed against media workers – rhetoric that has been whipped up and cynically exploited in some quarters. Today’s occupation is not an isolated example – it’s the latest in a series of incidents in which reporters and photographers have been hounded and abused – in the streets, in their workplaces and even at their home. More needs to be done by the police and by employers to step up security and clamp down on abuse."

Iain Dale on Twitter on the political row over Jess Brammar being up for a new post overseeing the BBC’s domestic and international news channels.
"Given the BBC has banned its employees from defending @jessbrammar against misogynistic & unfair attacks, especially from the Mail, let me do so. Most political journos have 'views'. The key is if those views dictate their journalism. In my experience, she's a total professional."

BBC insider, quoted in The Times [£]: “What’s next, is the government of the day going to express an opinion on the next political editor of the BBC, or the next presenter of the Today programme or Newsnight? It’s disturbing. The BBC is now in a no-win situation. If the BBC doesn’t appoint her, then it looks weak, callow, and partial because it’s giving in to the government of the day about something so minor. If it does appoint her, it will be a massive culture war issue.”

Dawn Alford, executive director of the Society of Editors, in a statement: "Our previous executive director resigned following a statement he issued in which he said the press was not racist or bigoted. That statement didn’t accurately reflect the complex, challenging and changing processes that all society – including the media – is experiencing. It also did not reflect the continuing actions of the Society of Editors to support publishers in improving diversity and inclusion within our industry. We have taken down this initial statement from our website and consider this to be a formal withdrawal of it."


Thursday 19 August 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From appeal to help journalists in peril in Afghanistan to low pay leaves local press reporters stuck in financial time warp

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet in a statement on the plight of journalists in Afghanistan: “As the Taliban have taken control of towns and cities across Afghanistan, there has been a consequential rapid escalation of violence and threats against journalists and independent media. Media outlets have been forcibly closed down or taken over by the Taliban to broadcast their own propaganda. Staff have fled or are in hiding. Women journalists are being banned from working and are fearful for their lives. Many remaining media outlets have curtailed their reporting due to security concerns – as a result to date over 1,000 journalists and media workers have lost their jobs.

"Government action to date has been insufficient, vague and lacking in urgency. This is needlessly contributing to the distress and fear of journalists and their families. Urgent government support must be put in place to secure access to the airport and onto military planes back to the UK. That means visas need to be approved swiftly, we have already seen too many days of inaction."
  • The International Federation of Journalists has established a special appeal within its IFJ Safety Fund and the NUJ is asking all members to make a donation at:

The Committee to Protect Journalists executive director Joel Simon in a statement:
“The United States has a special responsibility to Afghan journalists who created a thriving and vibrant information space and covered events in their country for international media. The Biden administration can and should do all within its power to protect press freedom and stand up for the rights of the vulnerable Afghan reporters, photographers, and media workers.”
  • CPJ has registered and vetted the cases of nearly 300 journalists who are attempting to reach safety, and there are hundreds more whose cases are under review.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reporters Without Borders (RSF): “We will respect freedom of the press, because media reporting will be useful to society and will be able to help correct the leaders’ errors. Through this statement to RSF, we declare to the world that we recognise the importance of the role of the media.”
  • RSF said in a report in 2009: “The reign of the Taliban from 1996 to 2001 was a dark period in Afghanistan’s history.” All media were banned except one, Voice of Sharia, which broadcast nothing but propaganda and religious programmes.

Dominic Raab, quoted by the Guardian:
 “We recognise the bravery of Afghan journalists and those that have worked tirelessly to support them in the pursuit of media freedom and the defence of human rights. The vibrant Afghan media is one of the greatest successes in Afghanistan in the last 19 years, and it should be celebrated and protected.”

Times of Malta
"Yorgen Fenech has been indicted for the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, meaning he will face a trial by jury for the journalist’s 2017 murder. The business mogul faces charges of complicity in murder and criminal association, with prosecutors understood to be pushing for him to be sentenced to life in prison for the former crime and an additional 20 to 30-year sentence for the latter one."

BBC Moscow correspondent Sarah Rainsford on BBC News on having to leave Russia: " I'm being expelled and I've been told that I can't come back, ever. I've really loved trying to tell the story of Russia to the world but it is increasingly a difficult story to tell. I have to say, though, I wasn't expecting this to happen. There were clear signs for Russian media: there have been really serious problems recently, for Russian independent journalists, but until now, for the foreign press, we'd somehow been shielded from all of that. But this, I think, is a clear sign that things have changed. It's another really bad sign about the state of affairs in Russia and another downward turn in the relationship between Russia and the world."
  • BBC director-general Tim Davie said in a statement: "Sarah is an exceptional and fearless journalist. She is a fluent Russian speaker who provides independent and in-depth reporting of Russia and the former Soviet Union. Her journalism informs the BBC's audiences of hundreds of millions of people around the world. We urge the Russian authorities to reconsider their decision."

The Observer
in an interview with Nosrat Bazoft, the mother of journalist Farzad Bazoft who was executed in Iraq in 1990 while on assignment for the paper:
"Nosrat says she still seethes with fury over the UK government’s response after her son was incarcerated at Abu Ghraib, kept in solitary confinement, starved and beaten. She holds the then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, personally responsible. 'She didn’t do enough. Everything was her fault. She could have stopped the execution. The British government had the power to stop it. They were exporting so much trade to Saddam that they had the leverage,' Nosrat said. The release of official government files in 2017 confirmed that Thatcher’s government opted not to take any action in retaliation for the execution of Farzad for fear of harming lucrative exports to Iraq."

Guido Fakes reports :
 "When the Daily Mail intended to follow up a Guido exclusive that Len McCluskey had shared a hotel room with Karie Murphy (Corbyn’s then-chief of staff), McCluskey’s consigliere and legal chief Howard Beckett immediately muscled in, insisting the story was 'untrue, vexatious and malicious' and that 'such allegations are open to legal action by the parties concerned'. In no uncertain terms, he threatened to sue any paper that printed the story.  Except the story wasn’t untrue or defamatory...Now that McCluskey has a book to sell, he’s admitted to the whole thing, claiming 'we wanted our relationship to be kept private, away from the public gaze', and that they were very much more than just 'close friends'."

University of Gloucester senior lecturer in journalism Paul Wiltshire on his blog on the difficulties recruiting new reporters into local journalism despite a boom in jobs:
 "Of our most recent cohort of graduates, only two have for the moment gone into news reporting. I’m delighted for them, and they’re doing well. But that’s out of 17. Why so few, particularly when there are so many jobs out there and so many editors are desperate for staff? Well, let’s cut to the financial chase. There is still at least one publisher starting trainees on as little as £17,100 a year...When our students can easily get two-and-half grand more than that for entry-level social media, PR or content creation roles, who can blame them for turning up their noses?...

"For decades, the industry built its business model on a belief that young staff will suck up poor pay and conditions because the media jobs market is so competitive, and that if it doesn’t work out with one reporter, there’ll be another coming round the corner in a minute to take their place at the interview table. If the difficulties so many editors are now facing don’t show the madness of that business model, nothing ever will. Some of the new, specialist roles which have been advertised in the last few months have come with more imaginative salaries. But general reporters – the people who form the beating hearts of newsrooms, real or virtual – are still stuck in a financial time warp."

Thursday 12 August 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From journalists appalled by proposed changes to Secrets Act to it's August and Llama Drama Ding Dong! is back

deputy editor-in-chief James Slack interviewed by on the proposed changes to the Official Secrets Act:
 "Every journalist I have spoken with at The Sun and elsewhere is appalled that the government is even considering doing something so draconian, and which could have such a profoundly damaging impact on the public's right to know. Look at what ministers are proposing. The lack of public interest defence would have a chilling effect on the media's ability to report wrongdoing, hypocrisy, and criminal negligence. It would also make it far less likely that whistleblowers would be prepared to come forward in the first place."

Tim Dawson on the NUJ website on the Boris Johnson-Nick Ferrari interview on LBC: "Had the leader of any other administration performed Johnson’s radio-studio volte farce, free-speech campaigners would have rightly celebrated. An undertaking from someone whose commitments are so malleable, however, is all but worthless. So, if the executive can’t be trusted, we must take the issue to parliament. Support from cross-party MPs and Lords is the only certain approach to safeguarding journalistic freedoms."

Justin Borg-Barthet in the Guardian on libel reform: "London is a favourite destination for the powerful to bring lawsuits that may be perceived as attempting to shut down public scrutiny and discussion, rather than to achieve a satisfactory legal outcome. Of course, all litigation is costly and not without risk. But often the threat of a defamation or data protection lawsuit in London is enough to stop material that may be considered of public interest from being published at all. Seemingly regardless of the truth of the matter or the public interest in knowing about it, a small group of London law firms appear only too happy to send threatening letters across the globe in an attempt to shut down reporting....

"In the European Union, discussions are under way to introduce measures that address lawsuits known as Slapps (strategic lawsuits against public participation). A coalition of NGOs has produced a model law that would require courts to dismiss exaggerated or vexatious claims at an early stage. Equally importantly, courts would be required to shift costs to the Slapp claimants, imposing penalties and fines that could deter abusive litigation. Of course, any laws adopted by the EU’s institutions no longer apply in the UK. Those efforts need to be mirrored by homegrown legislation in the UK’s legal systems."

Roger Lytollis, author of Panic As Man Burns Crumpets on Press Gazette: "This year Newsquest, Reach and JPI Media are all recruiting journalists for their websites. The numbers are a fraction of those made redundant in the past decade, but it’s a step in the right direction. The question is the same as it’s been for at least 15 years. Are enough readers willing to pay for local news, whether through subscriptions, donations, paywalls, or buying one of those old-fashioned things called a newspaper? Maybe, if it’s worth paying for. If publishers have enough staff, including some with the experience to know their patch and to guide the many newcomers. And if publishers trust that readers want to read local news and features, not press releases and clickbait. Paying for journalism shouldn’t be seen as a strange idea. It might even reduce the onslaught of online abuse against journalists by challenging the view encouraged for too long by publishers: that their work is worthless."

International Federation of Journalists general secretary Anthony Bellanger in a statement on the US appeal to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the UK: “President Joe Biden must end the years of politically motivated prosecution of Julian Assange by finally dropping the charges against him. The criminalisation of whistleblowers and investigative journalists has no place in a democracy. Condemning Assange would not only endanger his life but also fundamental principles of press freedom.”

Steve Vines in the Observer:
 "As someone who has not only been a journalist but also founded several businesses in Hong Kong, it seemed to me that this place had a unique ability to bounce back and survive the fiercest of storms. The realisation that, at least in the near term, this resilience has been decisively crushed made me contemplate the previously unthinkable – leaving."

The International Federation of Journalists in a statement: “The IFJ is happy about the recent decision of the US government to resettle Afghan journalists working for US media outlets as refugees in the United States. The IFJ also urges the US government to move ahead with the implementation of this decision as soon as possible in order to protect media workers who are at risk.”

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) have published a joint report  describing the methods for persecuting journalists the Lukashenko regime in Belarus has developed in the past year: 
"Nearly 70 journalists have been subjected to serious violence by the security forces. The report includes the accounts of some of the victims, such as Natalia Lubneuskaya of the Nasha Niva news site, who sustained a knee injury when a rubber bullet was deliberately fired at her, and reporter Ruslan Kulevich, who was held for two days although baton blows had fractured both of his hands at the time of his arrest. Prison conditions are often appalling. Belsat TV reporter Alena Dubovik was jammed with 50 other women detainees into a cell meant for four people, was beaten while half naked and was denied food for 24 hours. The Belarusian Association of Journalists, RSF’s partner organisation, has tallied nearly 500 arrests and detentions of journalists in the past year."

Tom Hamilton on Twitter:
"Keir Starma needs to get involved in the alpaca row purely to create the conditions for the headline STARMER LLAMA DING-DONG."
  • According to the Daily Mail,  Starmer has got involved in the alpaca row and upset Labour members: "Voters are cancelling their Labour Party memberships after Sir Keir Starmer said Geronimo the embattled alpaca must be slaughtered."
The Times [£] reports: "A minister has dismissed the case of Geronimo the alpaca as an 'August story' and insisted it must die as animal rights activists marched on No 10...Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, said the case was an August story; suggesting it would not make the news at any other time of year."
  • The famous 'Llama drama ding dong!' headline appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post above a story about a llama that escaped and caused havoc in a school playground. It was the title of a book of headlines by former Press Gazette editor Tony Loynes. It was also featured in comedian Dave Spikey's book featuring funny headlines, which was wonderfully titled: "He took my kidney, then broke my heart."

A pedant writes: "While often conflated, alpacas and llamas differ in key ways. The most-distinguishing physical differences between alpacas and llamas are their size, their hair, and their face shapes." 

[£] =paywall

Thursday 5 August 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From Johnson's assurances on Official Secrets Act count for nothing if proposals aren't dropped to justice still sought for murdered journalist Martin O'Hagan after 20 years

The Times [£] in a leader: "With an airy wave of the hand, Boris Johnson dismissed the threatto public interest journalism from the government’s review of the Official Secrets Act. 'Not for a minute' would proposals for lengthy prison terms for journalists and whistleblowers prevent the exposure of scandals of national importance, the prime minister said. This is simply untrue. The proposals contained in the present consultation are the greatest threat to public interest journalism in a generation and Mr Johnson’s assurances count for naught unless it is abandoned."

The Financial Times in a leader:
"The fourth estate must be free from the threat of prosecution simply for doing its job. That includes holding the government to account, for which [Priti] Patel’s colleagues have provided more than enough fertile ground. The Home Office’s plans are still, mercifully, at an early stage and are yet to even reach bill stage. Patel’s introduction to the consultation claims the government wants to thwart 'attempts to interfere in democratic processes'. She could start by binning the proposals."

Martin Bright, acting editor, Index on Censorship, in a letter to The Times [£]:
"It is indeed troubling that a prime minister who considers himself a journalist demonstrates so little solidarity for fellow members of his trade. Media freedom is an increasingly precious commodity in a world where objective truth is under constant attack. It is to be hoped that Boris Johnson remembers where his loyalties should lie and consigns this ill-considered new secrecy law to the authoritarian dustbin, where it belongs."

British media organisations in a letter to Downing Street requesting urgent sanctuary for Afghans who worked with British journalists, as reported by The Times [£]: 
“There is an urgent need to act quickly, as the threat to their lives is already acute and worsening. If left behind, those Afghan journalists and media employees who have played such a vital role informing the British public by working for British media will be left at the risk of persecution, of physical harm, incarceration, torture, or death.”

HoldTheFrontPage reports: "A regional publisher is set to spark a digital news war in the UK’s 'major metropolitan centres' with a series of new launches – creating 45 jobs in the process. JPIMedia has announced it is launching new websites to cover Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Glasgow, with further launches to follow in London, Birmingham, Bristol and Wales. All eight cities are currently home to news sites run by rival publisher Reach plc."

David Aaronovitch in The Times 
[£] on the antivaxers [£]: "The most serious threats from this new movement are widespread disinformation (mostly pseudoscience) and violence. A determined culture of countering disinformation — as embraced by the BBC and by this newspaper in employing specialist data journalists — is more useful even than social media takedowns. It just needs to be spread."

BBC News reports: "A public inquiry into the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has found the state responsible for her death. The report said the state had failed to recognise risks to the reporter's life and take reasonable steps to avoid them. Caruana Galizia died in a car bomb attack near her home in October 2017."

John Kampfner in The Times [£] on the libel proceedings against journalist Catherine Belton's book: Putin's People
How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West: "The issue around libel law is not whether these individuals are entitled to defend their reputations or whether journalists are required to conduct due diligence on their work. It is about a system stacked in favour of the powerful that stifles legitimate investigation. What is remarkable about Belton is her determination to see this through. She could have done what many journalists do and removed anything contentious. As I re-read my piece before sending it over, I just snipped out a couple of lines. It’s easily done."

Catherine Belton on Twitter: "I'm incredibly grateful to @HarperCollins (@WmCollinsBooks) and its legal team for their tremendous support and their staunch defence of Putin's People. It would not be possible to defend the book against this claim or write on matters of considerable public interest without them."

Bill Browder in the Telegraph: “This threatens to be the biggest legal pile on I’ve ever seen and it risks deterring future journalists from writing about Putin’s wealth. English libel laws need to be amended to prevent these cases being brought in the future.”

David Leigh on Twitter: "Personally, if I were a UK lawyer, I like to think I wouldnt choose to act for Russian oligarchs against authors in return for very large sums of money."

Suzanne Moore on substack:  "I have worked for several papers: The Independent, The Mail on Sunday, The Guardian and The Telegraph and although everyone imagines them to be very different, my overwhelming experience is that while the ideological tone comes from the top, most of the people that I have worked with on a day-to-day basis are similar. This is not what many want to hear.  They want to hear that the Mail is staffed by evil, small-minded idiots while The Guardian is staffed by living saints. In fact, in many ways these two papers have been the most similar places to work for as they both know who their readers are and reflect them back to themselves."   

Irish Times
group managing director Liam Kavanagh reporting a 89,688 year-on-year rise in digital and home delivery subscribers:
“It was an excellent year in extremely difficult circumstances. We found a new level in paid subscribers, which was very heartening for us. You can’t get a better compliment than a reader paying for your product.”

NUJ Belfast and District branch chair Robin Wilson, on an Amnesty International backed call for a new investigation into the murder of journalist Martin O'Hagan (pictured) in Lurgan nearly 20 years ago: “It is unconscionable that as the 20th anniversary of Martin’s murder approaches no one has yet been brought to justice for it. We believe that an independent investigation should be initiated into his killing at a matter of urgency. It’s vital that those who attack journalists and our right to report are brought before the court. Impunity sends a signal, especially in a context where journalists are subject to recurrent hate speech and threats, that perpetrators of such abuse need fear no legal consequences. "