What price Freedom of Speech in Russia?

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In Russia, the opportunity for free expression is being thwarted.

Under Putin the content of mainstream media has become dispiritingly predictable. Fines and penalties are levied on media not conforming to the Kremlin’s political narrative. As a result independent outlets have either closed down due to lack of funds or been forced into self-censorship. The remaining mainstream media companies are either state controlled or funded by government loyalists, effectively silencing the voice of the opposition.

There are many examples. When the 2013 Moscow mayoral elections were on, the state run RIA media agency would often quote Alexei Navalny, the anti-government candidate, in its campaign news reports. Needless to say Putin’s deputy chief of staff, Alexei Gromov, contacted the agency’s editor-in-chief warning her that a state news agency must not work against the state’s own interests by promoting the opposition.

At the end of 2011, mass anti-government protests were organised through social media, highlighting the effectiveness of the internet as a tool for political mobilisation. In response to these demonstrations the government introduced new legislation allowing them to censor and block internet content.

Online space for the public debate of sensitive issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and LGBT rights, has begun to shrink and people have even been arrested for blogging. In the same way that media companies were forced into self-censorship, members of the public have now become increasingly insecure about limits of acceptable speech. Combine this with the spate of arrests during the 2017 anti-corruption protests and it becomes clear that the opportunity for public dialogue is being stifled in all areas.

Putin’s brand of authoritarianism treats freedom of expression not as a right but as an impediment. This ‘we-know-best’ policing of anti-government ideas reflects the insecurity of Putin’s government. 20th century political history tells you that fear mongering and the suppression of dialogue are the foundations on which oppressive governments are built. The Russian people must be granted their right to receive and disseminate opinions of all types.

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International Media Awards 2017

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Copyright © Matthew Tomkinson 2017

 This year saw the return of the International Media Awards after a four year interval.  The awards recognise journalists and editors who have made outstanding contributions towards fostering understanding in the Middle East and around the world. Over 150 people from the world of business, politics and the media were in attendance to celebrate the work of some of the most dedicated journalists who in many instances have put their very lives on the line in the name of credible journalism and exposing the truth.

 The prizes are divided into several different categories including the Peace through Media Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award, the Cutting Edge Award, the Breakaway Award, the New Ground Award and the Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting Award. As is tradition, winners are given the gift of an olive tree, a symbol of peace to represent their sacrifices and untiring efforts.

 “Thank you to all the people who work and worked with me, thank you to the people who risked their lives and lost their lives with me” said Fabio Scuto on the collection of The Peace through Media Award, given to journalists who have contributed to a more accurate understanding of the Middle East throughout their careers. His heartfelt words were a reminder of the overwhelming risks that journalists across the world take in service of the truth, and the tragic human cost of fighting for a more peaceful world.

 This year, prizes were won by Fabio Scuto of La Stampa; Imad Karam, a Gazan film maker; Rogel Alpher of Haaretz; Geoffrey Lean, Britain’s longest serving environmental correspondent; Adel Darwish, a veteran Westminster based reporter; Iona Craig, a journalist dedicated to uncovering the Yemeni crisis; Ohad Hemo, a correspondent for Palestinian affairs on Israel’s most watched TV channel; Gareth Browne of the Times; Jack Merlin Watling of NewsFixed; Christine Garabedian, a London based documentary film maker; Nomak Kroshnaw, a BBC freelance producer; and Lyse Doucet OBE, the Chief International Correspondent of the BBC.

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.

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.

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.

Wall Street Journal’s Claim of Russian/Iranian/Syrian Coordination

The Wall Street Journal (September 22, 2015)

Headline reads: ‘Syria’s Allies Seen Coordinating’

In a wide-ranging article, Jay Solomon and Sam Dagher have charted behind-closed-doors meetings between senior members of the Russian, Syrian and Iranian governments. In particular, they claim that General Soleimani (of the Iranian Qods Force) flew to Moscow to meet with Russian officials earlier this year. This claim is directly rejected by the Russian government. Solomon and Dagher only justify their claim through reference to ‘U.S. and Europeans officials’. These anonymous officials do not constitute credible sources, and publishing an unverified claim does not clarify the complicated situation on the ground in Syria.

The Media Credibility Index (MCI) Updates

Dear followers,

Here you will find frequent and concise cases of inaccurate, misleading and/or unsourced articles found in many of the leading national news sources. Our focus is on foreign affairs and on issues that have an international dimension. In due course, the MCI will expand to write a comprehensive in-depth report of the credibility of the English-language press and broadcasting.
In one years time, we will issue quarterly interim reports in which we highlight the best practice and those news sources that could do better when it comes to accuracy and credibility in general.

Keep up to date on our page and our twitter account.

MCI
September 2015