Manchester

Manchester

It was with profound sadness that we heard the news of the Manchester bombing. This act of cruelty was all the more atrocious because it deliberately targeted the young and vulnerable.

Those who set themselves apart by committing acts of extreme brutality, and those who support them, have often been warned of the consequences of their actions.

Violence spawns violence.

Anger spawns anger.

Hate spawns hate.

Our response, however, will be different. We cherish our values. We stand for compassion. We stand for sincerity. We stand for loyalty. We stand for hope. We stand for an inclusive society rather than a small minded world based on exclusivity. We stand with all of good heart. We stand together, strengthened, not cowed, by this piteous act.

This act redoubles our resolve to protect our vulnerable, most particularly the very young and the very old, the weak and the dispossessed – And to prevent them from all harm. And in so doing build a world founded on love and fellowship and complete freedom from fear.

The 2017 International Media Awards

After an interval of a number of years the International Media Awards, are going ahead at last under the auspices of the International Communications Forum. They will take place on the 28th of June this year in Whitehall, London. Esteemed guests will be arriving from right across the Middle East, from places as disparate as Libya, Afghanistan and Israel.

The last time the International Media Awards were held was in 2013, in which there were seven award categories including The Peace through Media Award, Photography and Visual Media Award, Lifetime Achievement Award,  Cutting Edge Award, Breakaway Award, The New Media Award and Award for Outstanding Achievement. The 2013 winners include notable photojournalist Sir Donald McCullin CBE, the South-African born Israeli author Benjamin Pogrund. jounralist and author of the award-winning book ‘Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands’, Rachel Shabi.

Historically, The International Media Awards have been organised to celebrate principles of ethical journalism, including the precepts of truth and accuracy, fairness and impartiality,  humanity and finally, accountability. These concepts may have become neglected in the post-truth age we currently live in, where alternative facts are given as much credibility as honest journalism. It is, therefore, vital to honour the commitment and professionalism credible journalists have when uncovering the truth about the most complex political tides the world faces today.

Please see the following link for a collection of interviews from the winners and supporters of the 2013 International Media Awards held at the Oxford and Cambridge Club, Pall Mall, London on the 11th of May 2013.

 

The attack on Britain’s parliament

We are profoundly saddened, as is everyone we know, by the lone wolf attack on Britain’s parliament by an individual who must presumably be an ISIS / Daesh sympathiser.

What makes a man commit an atrocity of this kind in which innocent civilians are killed? Any attack that deliberately targets civilians is morally repugnant in the eyes of humanity at large, and is to be presumed utterly reprehensible in the eyes of any God the attacker may or may not believe in.

The worst of it is that any atrocity is by definition one of the worst crimes conceivable because atrocity breeds atrocity as retribution breeds retribution and a cycle of violence is spawned.

Forgiveness is difficult; moreso for some of us when we suppress our natural reaction to those that target the innocent. And in this instance a number of the injured were children. And the natural reaction of at least some of us is to wish any such attacker may burn in hell.

However there is a place beyond forgiving – for some acts can never be forgiven except by the righteous and there are precious few of those in this world. But there is a place beyond forgiving in which we show compassion, mercy and love to our enemies and their victims alike.

The enemies of humanity (whether Daesh / ISIS, or Al Qa’idah, or indeed any who deliberately target non-combatants of any kind) expect and deserve our outrage. Indeed they often act as they do in order to provoke our hatred.

We defeat them best, and their entire ideology of exclusivity, when we find it in our hearts to offer them our pity, and face down their self-consuming hatred with our own ideology of inclusivity, compassionate mercy, and love.

God will judge them, we should not. Nor should we allow extremists the satisfaction that their actions may have in some way instilled in us any sense of fear in regard to tomorrow. We have no need to worry about tomorrow. God is already there.

New UK Press Regulations: Are we Impressed?

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers” 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A new press regulation plan has been proposed by the UK government, formally known as Section 40 of the Crime Courts Act 2013, in response to the Leveson Inquiry. The plan is being put forward to protect national interests by regulating and assuring only trustworthy and reliable articles are published.

Under the new scheme, publishers must sign up to the UK’s first ever independent regulator; Impress. If newspapers do not sign up, they would have to pay the cost of any legal action against them, regardless of the merit of the lawsuit. The ‘regulator’, however, would be funded by the kind of people who are often subject of investigations. The leaking of the Panama Papers is a good example of a situation which would not have been published under the new proposed regulations; the publisher simply wouldn’t be able to afford the defamation claims against the reporter. The new regulations do not protect the reporters, rather it ties their hands and benefits the oligarchs and the wealthy; the primary funders of the scheme.

The public relies on reporters to have a broad scope of information about what is going on around us and in other parts of the world. Their freedom allows a range of theories and ideas to be tried and tested. If their level of truth and accuracy is questionable, then as the public, we have the freedom to personally choose and filter our sources of information. Freedom of press is no threat to our nation, rather its censorship would undermine the very values which support the heart of our country’s freedom. We have to ask ourselves who the regulations have been set up to protect. It certainly compromises the investigation for reporters with a regulated frontier.

Furthermore, the regulation challenges the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights which promises the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Although Section 40 seeks to generate ‘trustworthy’ resources, if there is such a thing in our post-truth political culture, it simultaneously breaches the public’s freedom of opinion and expression by withholding from them information which might be enlightening. The public can use this information to put pressure on to create a more accountable and transparent system. Perhaps Section 40 would be doing the nation more damage than good.

Imposing Section 40 in the hope of punishing reporters who care little for truth is being done at the expense of their freedom; the freedom of press. Reporters would no longer be able to exercise their right to circulate opinions in print without censorship from this independent regulator. It surrounds reporters with egg shells, threatens publishers with possible bankruptcy for crossing a line which seeks to silence them, and surrounds the few who are exposed to scandal with a protective bubble.

Social Media’s role in combatting extremism.

A recent Select Committee report has highlighted a number of issues regarding the Government’s policies on extremism.  Among them were calls for social media giants Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to take far more responsibility in tackling radicalisation and extremism on the internet.  The companies have inadvertently become a platform for Daesh’s ideology, and are consciously failing to implement the right strategy to combat it.  A large proportion of its propaganda, recruitment process and latest news are readily available to read through posts, groups, videos, photos and tweets.  Facebook and Google informed the commissioners of the report that they proactively inform law enforcement agencies about terrorist material.  On the other hand, Twitter told the commissioners it does not do this, explaining that the site ‘is public, that content is available so often it has been seen already’.

Is the report’s condemnation of social media companies enough?  Are their calls for greater transparency by publishing quarterly statistics on how much data has been taken down going to put an end to online extremism?  I believe more should and can be done to take on this growing problem, which left alone, could make the internet an even deadlier weapon.  Simply removing data and assigning small teams to monitor the situation makes very little sense when recognising that social media is the primary platform for extremist groups.  Companies with an enormous reach on the internet need to combat radicalisation and extremism with greater force.  The ease of creating a YouTube channel, a twitter account or a Facebook group in today’s world, and the fluency at which the information is duplicated and spread in a matter of seconds, paints a very threatening picture.

Resilience and faith have stood the test of time on countless occasions.  Online open movements for all faiths, ideologies in the name of love, empathy, forgiveness and freedom possess a robust and pure answer to radical ideologies.  We should be combating extremist ideology with our own extremist ideology, one of compassion and empathy towards people belonging to any faith and those belonging to none at all.

By Nihal Patel

A Biased Media – Us vs Them?

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The tragic attack in Nice on Thursday 14th of June, Bastille Day, is one of utter heartbreak. Currently, 84 citizens are dead including 10 children, with 202 more civilians injured. Already the Western world is provoked and sympathetic towards the situation in France, with landmarks such as the Palace of Westminster to be lit up in the French colours to show the British people’s solidarity with the French, and the growing rise of Facebook’s “flagtivism’. This notion of solidarity is something which should be praised, as it highlights humanitarian support.

However, it must be noted that there was a considerable lack of solidarity, flagtivism and landmarks draped in national colours when just as horrendous bomb attacks occurred in places such as Turkey and Iraq. The most recent terrorist attacks in Iraq similarly happened on a national holiday, Eid, and during the holy month of Ramadan. Yet where was the media coverage? The bombings in the capital of Iraq killed over 200 people two weeks ago, but on the media it seemed to be less important than the terrorist attacks that happen here in the West. When media coverage has a greater focus and emphasis on what happens in the West it almost seems to suggest that the deaths of Westerners are far more significant than the deaths of those in Middle Eastern countries.

This is not to say that the tragic deaths of those in Nice are less important than those in the Middle East — they were equally as shocking and devastating. The media now needs to combat such acts of cowardly terror through pushing aside ancient orientalist notions of Us vs Them, and truly take up the belief of “#AllLivesMatter” by reporting with equal concern of those closer to home as well as further away. The only way we can fight such attacks is we support each other in solidarity — ethnicities aside.

The Media’s Role in Brexit

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In the post-Brexit hysteria, the media has been accused of following a biased and one-sided agenda, and failing to consider many of the deeper issues of Brexit. Leading up to the EU referendum, the media gave extensive coverage of the hot-button topics of immigration, the economy, and the conduct of the campaign itself; however, technical questions and consideration for the relationship between the UK and the rest of the world were widely ignored.

Different newspapers loyally backed either the Leave or Remain campaign; the Daily Mail had the most pro-Brexit articles followed by the Daily Express, Daily Star, the Sun and the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Mirror, the Guardian, and the Financial Times had the most pro-remain articles. On both sides, however, these papers gave far too little detail until it was too late, and now that Brexit has become a reality, papers which backed Leave are now changing their tune. The Daily Mail was not only gloating after the results came in but also warning about the economic problems that now lie ahead. Similarly, The Express began to discuss the affect of Brexit on the pound after the vote, but had never discussed the topic during the campaigning.

Additionally, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, press coverage of the EU referendum campaign was “heavily skewed in favour of Brexit in the first two months of the campaign.” This study took two sample days of coverage per week for the first two months after David Cameron’s February 20 Cabinet meeting. Of 928 articles about the referendum, 45% were in favour of Brexit while 27% were in favour of remain. The remainder were ‘mixed or undecided’ or did not adopt a position. The study also looked at the specific arguments made on each side. After removing articles about the campaigns themselves, 33% of arguments were about the economy and business followed by 29% about sovereignty, 18% about migration, 14% about regulations, and 6% about terrorism and security.

The bias of the media towards Leave is not particularly surprising since according to Al-Jazeera, UK papers set the agenda for broadcast journalism. About 70% of these papers are conservative, and they echoed Leave’s message about fear of immigrants. The BBC attempted to reject this trend and remain impartial for fear of being accused of biases, which was frustrating to Remain supporters who wanted the BBC to endorse their side and make up for the lack of media coverage for their campaign.

It is not only the media that should be criticised for false statements, however, but the politicians themselves. Now that they have succeeded, the Leave campaigners appear to be backtracking on some of the statements and promises they made leading up to the vote. Ukip leader Nigel Farage distanced himself from the statement that £350m spent on EU contributions could be allocated to the NHS. The Guardian reports that Daniel Hannan, Tory MEP, said that Brexit voters will be “disappointed” if they think that there will no longer be any immigration from the EU.

While a completely impartial media would be the ideal, a biased media is only a problem because of our complete reliance upon it. Politics and government are currently largely in the hands of a small group of elites who control the media’s agenda. This agenda controls public opinion because our education system has not successfully taught us to dig deeper and think for ourselves.

As Damian Tambini of the London School of Economics Media Policy Project puts it, “The urgent question is how media policy needs to adapt: not to maintain blind trust in the system but to establish due trust: the sense that democracy genuinely and demonstrably is a fair fight, and one in which the search for truth and the common interest is paramount.”

To deserve a democracy where our voices carry weight, we need to stop blaming the media for its information and lack thereof and think for ourselves. It is our responsibility to have a full understanding of what we are voting for, as we can blame the media all we want but we will still have to live with the consequences of our decisions.

Daily Express Claims Fake Statistics

The Daily Express (Thursday 1st October, 2015)

Headline Reads: Asylum Claims Hit Record High.

Giles Sheldrick, writes that “648,195 asylum seekers applied to begin a new life in Europe” in 2015. In this claim he asserts that the EU has been faced with a record number of asylum seekers over the past eight months. Sheldrick names the “EU data body Euro-stat” as his source later in the article. The statistics provided by this organisation do not match those of Sheldrick’s. Although the article is correct in its assertion that asylum seekers applications are on the increase, the correct statistic shows an “increase of almost 95 thousand applicants in relation to the year before”.

In using these false statistics the author unnecessarily contributes to the wider anxieties of the British public and those within the EU.

The Telegraph’s One Sided Approach.

The Telegraph (October 9, 2015) Headline Reads: “Why is the world ignoring a wave of terror in Israel?”.

As tensions continue to rise in the West Bank numerous journalists have attempted to highlight the causes and solutions. In doing so, one such journalist, Arsen Ostrovsky, completely disregards the nuances of the conflict. In his article for the Telegraph he writes that “such acts of pitiless slaughter are the direct result of a pervasive Palestinian infrastructure headed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, indoctrinating hate, inciting violence and instilling a worldview justifying such gruesome acts”. Nowhere within the article does Ostrovsky highlight the issues of Israeli occupation, IDF brutality or the continual violations to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The implication of such comments, renders Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority the root cause of the violence.

Such a retelling of recent events within the West Bank only seeks to create further divisions and ruptures.

Bowen of the BBC talks Turkey

Jeremy Bowen spoke on BBC’s Radio 4 Today Program this morning. He was reporting from Istanbul on the bombing of the recent pro peace rally that resulted in so very many deaths. He then went on to describe the turmoil in the country in the aftermath of the bombing. He emphasised our need to be concerned since Turkey was a key ally in the fight against ISIS. But the point is that this is wrong. Mr Bowen should know full well that whatever its public pronouncements to the contrary, Turkey supports ISIS and has always supported ISIS. This is disingenuous.