Thursday, 2 September 2021

Media Quotes of the Week: From tv crew feel guilty as forced to leave Afghanistan to civil servants are gutting the UK's Freedom of Information Act

Sky's chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay on leaving Afghanistan:
"The operational commanders wanted us to stay to the very end and leave with them, but the orders to remove us came from the MoD or from Whitehall, or both. We had fought to stay for days but ultimately we found ourselves on a military base and we were being ejected - there is nothing you can do. It was all conducted in a cordial manner, but we WERE kicked out. I suspect the prospect of the withdrawal being filmed in heart-breaking detail was a risk the government wasn't prepared to take, because this will end badly for thousands, I guarantee it...

"We felt guilty we were leaving - myself, my producer Dominique, Sky colleague Martin, and Toby. An easy exit for a group of journalists guaranteed safety by our soldiers and our governments. I'll take the jibes and the scorn for leaving. But I will say this: if we hadn't been there, nobody would have seen any of the scenes of horror and desperation that have engulfed this entire operation, none of the incredible work by the British military, and the Foreign and Home Office staff."

Sharif Hassan on Twitter: 
"Alireza Ahmadi, a dear journalist friend and his younger brother, were among the dead victims of yesterday’s #KabulAirport attack. He worked for different local media outlets for over a decade as a writer, photographer and reporter, giving voice for his people. RIP brother."

A female reporter in Kandahar, quoted by The Times [£]: “The Taliban’s ban of female journalists from TV and radio is not a surprise for me. It was expected as the Taliban started stopping women from work in media, banks, activism and other jobs before they took Kabul. Today, no female presenter or anchor were seen on TV in Kandahar. It’s very sad. I know many female journalists who are in hiding or have fled. There is no space left at all for working women in Afghanistan.”

Hugh Tomlinson in The Times [£]:  "The boom in Afghanistan’s free press was hailed as one of the greatest virtues to come out of the years of conflict that followed the US-led invasion in 2001. The birth of independent broadcasters and radio stations provided job opportunities for a new generation of educated, young Afghans, including many women given the chance to work for the first time. In the months before the final Taliban offensive, however, female journalists and media workers were murdered, apparently to frighten women out of the workplace."

Piers Morgan on Twitter: "I’m delighted OFCOM has endorsed my right to disbelieve the Duke & Duchess of Sussex’s incendiary claims to Oprah Winfrey, many of which have proven to be untrue. This is a resounding victory for free speech and a resounding defeat for Princess Pinocchios. Do I get my job back?"
  • The Times [£] reports: "Morgan said that ITV would have to make a public apology if it wanted to restore him to Good Morning Britain. ITV sources said that executives had no 'current plans' to give him his job back, although there is speculation among insiders that the broadcaster may return to its star presenter. 'I’d put money on it,' one source said."

NUJ broadcasting organiser Paul Siegert in a statement on claims the Government is going to set the BBC licence rise below the rate of inflation:
"Cutting funding to the BBC, via a below inflation rise in the licence fee, will mean the BBC will be able to offer less to the public - less local and national news, less journalism, less on the radio, website and TV, and less diversity and less quality programming and output."

The Sun in a statement: “On 17 September 2019 we published a story titled ‘Tragedy that Haunts Stokes’ Family’ which described a tragic incident that had occurred to Deborah Stokes, the mother of Ben Stokes, in New Zealand in 1988. The article caused great distress to the Stokes family, and especially to Deborah Stokes. We should not have published the article. We apologise to Deborah and Ben Stokes. We have agreed to pay them damages and their legal costs.”

The Guardian in a leader: "Whitehall is too fond of secrecy. It is absurd to think that it was once forbidden to name the heads of the UK intelligence services. In the past decade, revelations from WikiLeaks to Edward Snowden to the Pegasus project have demonstrated the extent of official impunity when it comes to national security. The sensible political response would be to halt such actions and impose a system of oversight and democratic control. Putting state activities beyond sight with laws that control the press would represent a new stage in the growth of authoritarian government in Britain."

Ray Snoddy on Mediatel:
"Can anything save Channel 4 now from an unnecessary, pointless and potential damaging privatisation? At least the Channel seems to have a new, powerful ally – God – or at the very least, Bishops of the Church of England. Archbishop Cottrell of York has written to Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden saying that Channel 4 offers 'something unique and precious in the British public service broadcasting ecology' and how important it was that such important programming should not be lost. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines was even sharper in his denunciation. The privatisation plan was 'ideologically driven and therefore short-sighted and wrong, ' he wrote. The voice of the bishops might have achieved more purchase from devout Anglican Theresa May than the occasional, convenient Catholic, Boris Johnson."

Chris Cook in the Financial Times on the Freedom of Information Act:
 "There was no golden age of the FOIA: reporters always needed to disguise what they actually wanted. The law gives the government the right to keep some types of information secret, and many civil servants have long seen their job as stretching those bits of law to cover any information that might be important. Some institutions, particularly the Cabinet Office, have habitually disobeyed the law. Increasingly, though, it appears officials are openly trying to keep secrets secret...MPs are unlikely to vote for the removal of the Freedom of Information Act: after all, it would look pretty rum. But they do not need to. The civil service is quietly gutting it."


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