Occupy London using right wing Daily Mail story to bash BBC

Waithera JunghaeBy Waithera Junghae

The Occupy movement is using a right leaning story carried by the Daily Mail to drum up support for a demonstration tomorrow criticising the BBC for ignoring left wing concerns.

The ‘March Against Mainstream Media’, due to converge outside the corporation’s Portland Place headquarters on Saturday, is billed by organisers as a ‘call for a more responsible media’.

But the Occupy London twitter feed has highlighted a very mainstream London Journalism Centre (LJC) story, also picked up by the Daily Mail, which condemned the BBC for displaying a 1930’s statue whose creator was a child abuser. ‘Paedophile statue still greeting visitors’ the Occupy London’s twitter feed says next to a link to the original LJC story.

Occupy London, and its supporters, have been re-tweeting links to the article, first published in April, in a bid to garner support for tomorrow’s protest.

“We’ve had over 3000 unique visitors to our website today, all looking at this BBC Paedophile statue story,” said London Journalism Centre Director, Jamie Elliott. “And we had almost as many reading it yesterday. On a normal day, we would have about 50 unique hits in total.”

A Guardian poll this month revealed that 44 percent of Tory voters believed the corporation had a left-wing bias. The poll also showed that approximately 60 percent of the public thought the BBC’s news reporting was accurate and trustworthy.

Occupy first gained attention in 2011 when protesters rallied in New York and in 2012 when protestors were evicted after they set up a camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London.


Read the story which appeared in the Daily Mail in April below:

BBC Paedophile statue must go say sex abuse charities

By Jamie Elliott

Charities representing survivors of child sexual abuse are calling for a statue depicting a man and a naked boy on the front of the BBC’s London headquarters to be removed because its creator was a paedophile.

The organisations claim the graphic and prominently positioned sculpture by Eric Gill, who abused his sisters and two of his daughters, is hurtful and insulting to victims of abuse.

“It’s an insult to allow a work like this to remain in such a public place,” said Fay Maxted, Chief Executive of the Survivors’ Trust, a body which represents 130 organisations supporting survivors of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse.It is almost mocking survivors, it is intolerable.”

Peter Saunders, CEO of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) agrees.

“There’s a strong argument that this [the statue] should be removed,” he said. “These symbols are in people’s faces.”  The statue was especially inappropriate in the light of the recent Jimmy Savile scandal, he added.

Eric Gill statue above main entrance to BBC Broadcasting House

Gillian Finch, who runs CIS’ters, a charity that provides support for adult survivors of childhood incest, believes the work positioned directly above the entrance to Broadcasting House is a potential source of distress for people who have experienced abuse.

“I think victims of abuse would feel uncomfortable seeing that statue and would go out of their way to avoid it because it is a trigger and reminder of their vulnerability,” she said.  “This statue is obscene in terms of what we know now. By removing it the BBC would give survivors of child sexual abuse a visible indication that they are sincere about their statements relating to abuse issues.”

The work created by Gill in 1933 shows Shakespeare’s Ariel as a naked young boy held against Prospero in a full frontal pose.

Gill’s history of sexual abuse was exposed in 1989. His diary entries recorded that he had had sexual relations with two of his daughters, his sisters, and even his dog.

There were calls to remove Gill’s works from Westminster Cathedral in 1998, but these were rejected by the Catholic Church.  Parallels have been drawn with the recent controversy surrounding Graham Ovenden – an artist who was found guilty of indecency with a child – and the Tate’s subsequent decision to remove Ovenden’s prints from its gallery.

A BBC spokesperson told London Journalism Centre: “The statue of Ariel and Prospero on the front of Broadcasting House stands as a metaphor for broadcasting, executed by one of the last century’s major British artists whose work has been widely displayed in leading UK museums and galleries. There are no plans to remove or replace the sculptures at the front of Broadcasting House.”

Eric Gill is also the designer of the font used for the BBC logo. The font ‘Gill Sans’ was selected by the BBC when it redesigned its logo in 1997.

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Top journalist hits out at investigative reporting poll

Waithera JunghaeBy Waithera Junghae

A leading journalist has spoken out against the findings of a survey which rated the BBC as one of the top sources of investigative journalism in the UK.

Professor Gavin Macfayden, Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, told London Journalism Centre that the broadcaster should not have been included in the poll because the BBC was part of the establishment and online journalism did better investigative work.

“The BBC should not even feature,” he said. “There are some exceptions like Panorama, but the BBC would never take on the government. The internet is a good source of investigative journalism all round.”

Macfayden was also critical of other results of the poll which rated the BBC, the Guardian and the Telegraph as the top three media organisations carrying out investigative journalism.

“The Guardian is strongest in print, and Channel four has done some good investigations,” he said. “But only a small percentage of the Telegraph’s output is on investigative journalism.”

Of the 1800 people surveyed for the YouGov poll, 61 per cent said that the BBC was good or very good at investigative journalism, while 58 per cent rated the Guardian good, and 53 per cent gave the Telegraph a high rating.

The poll also revealed that 65 per cent thought that investigative journalism in the UK was having a positive impact on democracy. Over a quarter of those surveyed (33 per cent) said that if investigative journalism by traditional media declined, the gap would not be “adequately fulfilled by citizen journalists through digital media.”

Nearly half of respondents said that there were “too many legal restrictions and risks for journalists these days” and 34% wanted a change in the law to help journalists carry out their work.

The YouGov poll was conducted in association with the London Press Club.

Journalists tortured in Ethiopean prisons

Waithera JunghaeBy Waithera Junghae

Ethiopean authorities regularly torture and abuse prisoners, including journalists, and use coercive methods to extract information and confessions, according to a new report.

Former prisoners have told campaign group Human Rights Watch they were slapped, kicked, and beaten with sticks and gun butts during interrogations. They also report being held in painful positions for hours, hung from the wall by their wrists and denied access to daylight.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) told London Journalism Centre it is very worried about media staff held in Ethiopean jails.

“We still have serious concerns about the situation of journalists and bloggers in prison like Woubshet Taye, Reeyot Alemu and Eskinder Nega,” IFJ’s Africa Director said. “We urge the Ethiopian Government to protect the professional independence and fundamental rights of journalists, and all media staff, and to investigate all violations of journalists’ rights.”

Ethiopian-Prison470 (1)

According to detainees’ families, prisoners have been denied access to a lawyer.

“Cutting detainees off from their lawyers and relatives not only heightens the risk of abuse but creates enormous pressure to comply with the investigators’ demands,” said Leslie Lefkow deputy Director for Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division.

The Human Rights Watch report documents abuses since 2010 and includes testimonies from 35 former detainees, including Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson who spent 400 days behind bars. The pair were arrested in 2011 for allegedly supporting a terrorist organisation and illegally entering Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has seen instability since the country’s disputed election result in 2005. The government has been clamping down increasingly hard on peaceful dissent. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, six journalists are currently imprisoned in the country and more than 40 have been forced into exile since 2007.

Bangladesh government censors news of massacre

By Almas Mia

The government of Bangladesh has been accused of censoring news of an alleged massacre during an anti-government rally which is said to have left thousands dead.

Mohamed Sharef Hussein, a political activist, claims the government lied about the numbers killed by security forces during the May 6 demonstration in the country’s capital.

“The death toll in Dakha has been obscured by the censorship of state media,” he said.

Government forces fire on protesters

The Daily Star, a state owned Bengali newspaper, claimed that only five people had died. However, internet reports suggest the true figure is as high as 2,500. Pictures published on the internet show the streets of Dakha strewn with dead and injured protesters.

The Foreign Minister for the Awami League (state government) insists that government media reports were correct.

“We are not hiding a higher death toll, everything reported is accurate,” he said.

Journalists are allowed to film or blog from council meetings

By Camilla Capasso

Local authorities must not bar journalists from council meetings for filming, blogging or tweeting about the proceedings a new guide issued by government has insisted. The move comes after a number of councils have been criticised for banning journalists who tried to use social media to report from such meetings.

Newspaper Society spokesman, Paul Sinker, told London Journalism Centre that the changing face of local news made the clarification of the rules essential.

“Local papers are in the process of evolving to become truly multimedia businesses and local news is now published through a wide variety of channels including live blogs, video, via smartphones and tablets, as well the printed local newspaper,” he said. “Local papers will inevitably seek to use these techniques when reporting on council meetings and it is quite right that they should be allowed to do so un-hindered.”

London Journalism Centre

Despite an existing law that allows filming, many councils still do not allow people to film public meetings. In2011, ablogger was arrested after filming a council meeting in Carmarthenshire and later ordered to pay £25,000 in damages.

The guide also corrects the mistaken idea that filming public meetings is prohibited under the Data Protection Act and it gives citizens practical information about the meetings – how and when they can attend council meetings and what documents they can request, for instance.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the new rules will make councils more transparent and reliable.

Sinker believes social media has become an important tool which helps local journalists scrutinise and challenge the decisions of the state.

“Through their reporting, whether in print, online or mobile, local papers perform a fundamental role in ensuring that the public are able to witness and fully scrutinise the workings of local public bodies,” he said.

More help for freelance war reporters

By Camilla Capasso

A new organisation has been launched to help protect freelance war reporters.

The Frontline Freelance Register will support the work of freelancers reporting from war zones by offering them the kind of back up staff reporters get from media organisations.

The founder of the register and managing director of the Frontline Club London, Vaughan Smith, told London Journalism Centre that the initiative will give freelancers a voice.

“We want to encourage freelancers to work towards best practice on safety and help build clear industry standards so that the freelancers can demonstrate professionalism to their main customers, the news organisations,” he said.

The freelance register will also make sure that its members observe responsible newsgathering standards. The organisation has drawn up a code of conduct which includes safety recommendations and an ethics code.

Freelancers signing up to the register are required to learn about safety – where and when to use bullet proof clothing for instance – and to uphold and defend the principle of free speech.

Smith has been working on this project for a long time.

“I have been planning to launch a body to represent freelancers who take risk in the course of their work for a decade or so, “he says. “It became a reality when I met up with Emma Beals and a freelancer crowd working in Syria who were seeking to lobby for better support and acknowledgement.”

Around the 20% of journalists are currently employed on freelance contracts but, according to Smith, the media industry has difficulties determining its policies for freelance war reporters.

“We want to promote a more accurate picture of these independent operators,” he says, “They are fast becoming the most experienced war journalists in the trade as the industry struggles to accommodate the risks”.

Newspaper reporter ‘worst job in the world’

By Camilla Capasso

Being a newspaper reporter is the worst job of 2013 according a recent survey. Print journalists are facing low pay and higher levels of stress than ever thanks to budget cuts, longer working hours and the pressures of the internet.

The study carried out by US jobs website CareerCast ranked Journalism lower than waiting tables, collecting garbage or dentistry, deeming it the most stressful job out of 200 professions surveyed. The study took into account pay levels, stress, working environment, physical demands and career prospects.

Freelance journalist and BBC broadcaster, Gavin Evans, was not surprised by the findings. Financial pressures on newspapers are taking their toll he told London Journalism Centre.

Survey ranks newspaper reporter below garbage collector

“Journalism has always been a stressful job,” he says. “One difference is that journalists tend to get out of the office less than they did before because employers have cut down on staff. Going out of the office to investigate a story takes longer. That means that journalists are doing more stories in the same period of time.”

When the survey was first published 25 years ago, print journalists fared much better – the job was ranked 126 out of 200.

According to Jill Insley, freelancer and former head of The Guardian consumer team, the advent of the internet may go some way to explaining the CareerCast survey results.  The web has had a big impact on newspaper advertising revenue, she points out, which, in the last decade has shrunk by 60%.

“Newspapers have still not learnt how to make money out of websites,” she says. “All the advertising is just disappearing off there at appallingly low rates and that means that print newspapers are all losing money and that the staff have been cut as a result.”

The Internet has resulted in an explosion in online versions of newspapers. As a result, in the past five years, print newspaper daily circulation has fallen by 22.5% .During the past decade, journalists have been trying to adapt the format of standard newspapers to the demands of the web. This has strongly altered the traditional roles of reporter and editor as online journalism places more power in the hands of the user, allowing the reader to take part in the process of news production

Evans, however, argues that the internet is integral to journalism.

“I’m not sure we can talk about competition of the web because journalists are part of the web,” he says. “You might say that there is competition from citizen journalists, people in the streets taking pictures and reporting stories”.

Thanks to new technologies, citizens can now play an active role in the process of collecting and reporting news stories. The survey report by CarrerCast says that the growing ranks of “citizen journalists”, who do it for free, are putting traditional journalists under pressure.

According to Evans, however, citizen journalism can be a positive factor for traditional journalists: “They force newspapers to offer something different, they force journalists to offer something more, something better and it serves as a additional means of news gathering which didn’t exist before,” he says.

In the past ten years, journalism has faced drastic changes. But for those who truly love the profession, the job is still rewarding.

“Being a journalist is still incredibly interesting, it gives you an enormous amount of freedom to explore avenues that you wouldn’t otherwise get to go down,” Insley says, “It’s intellectually demanding and stimulating. I can’t think of a batter job, to be honest.”

What do journalists think? Three minute podcast with Jill Insley (Guardian editor until 2012) and Gavin Evans (New York Times, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Observer)

Council newspapers for the chop

By Camilla Capasso

A new law is set to stop councils distributing free newspapers in competition with the local press.

The  bill announced in the Queen’s speech to Parliament last week will strengthen existing rules and give the Secretary of State power to check whether or not a local authority is complying with restrictions on the publication of council newspapers. Where the code is being flouted, a court order can be issued.

Despite a 2011 government code of practice which says that councils should not publish newspapers more than four times a year, many councils have carried on publishing weekly titles in competition with local papers. In England alone around 150 council publications carry private sector advertising.

Editors of local papers have complained for some time that publicly funded council free-sheets soak up advertising revenue which would otherwise go their way and are hastening the decline of the local press.

Newspaper Society spokesman Paul Sinker told London Journalism Centre the legislation was long overdue.

“Council newspapers and their websites compete with independent local newspapers for private and public sector advertising, the lifeblood of independent local newspapers in their areas,” he said. “It is vital that this unfair competition, which causes real damage to local newspapers, be stopped as a matter of urgency”.


Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “This bill extends the government’s localism agenda – ensuring robust scrutiny of council spending, strengthening the role of direct democracy and protecting an independent free press.”

The new bill is expected to become law by 2015.

New website aims to revive investigative journalism

By Aaran Fronda

A new crowd-sourcing website has been launched to stem what its creators claim is a decline in investigative journalism caused by faster news cycles, plunging newspaper circulation and falling advertising revenues.

Investigate.ie invites the public to submit news tip-offs and story ideas which, if they are considered newsworthy, are then investigated by professional journalists.

Stories already broken by the site include an expose of the plight of Kidney donors who received no financial help to compensate for weeks of lost income whilst recovering from their operation.

Maria Delaney and Peadar Grogan, the journalists behind Investigate.ie, say that because Investigative journalism is time and labour intensive, many traditional newsrooms no longer have the resources to commit to such stories.

“I think our site will help sustain investigative journalism and cut down on the time involved in researching an investigative news story,” Grogan told London Journalism Centre. 

Investigate.ie plans to partner with traditional media outlets to sell their stories, as well as offering other online media services, such as audio and video reports, data visualisation, and live blogging.

Director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism, Gavin MacFayden, is all for the new venture.

“Anything which encourages whistle blowing and opposition is a good thing and we need more of it,” he told London Journalism Centre. “Support for investigative journalism just doesn’t exist. Political parties are hostile to investigative journalism in various forms. As an institution they don’t like it and don’t trust it.”

However, MacFayden warned that there are also problems associated with the Dublin based website’s crowd-sourcing approach.

“There are limitations with regard to reliability of sources and information received,” he said.

To submit a story idea or tip-off visit: www.investigate.ie



Richmond MP speaks out against Heathrow expansion plans

By Kris Amin

Zac Goldsmith, Conservative MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston, has reiterated his strong opposition to Heathrow expansion during local campaigning, insisting “the economic case for it is deeply flawed”.

Mr. Goldsmith is convinced there is no need for a third runway at Heathrow while other options exist to increase the number of flights to and from the capital.

“London, as a whole, has more capacity than any city in Europe, bar Paris,” he said. “The priority is using the capacity we have, not centralising activity in one area. Stansted is only about half-used, and there is capacity at Gatwick.”

He contested the view of supporters of the expansion, who argue business travellers prefer Heathrow because of its faster connections to central London.

“If we improve surface transport links (to Stansted), it could easily become the destination of choice for business travellers from the East,” he added.

Supporters of expansion warn the UK will lose out on investment and jobs should the government delay increasing capacity at Heathrow.

According to Adam Marshall, Director of Policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, business leaders in high-growth economies value direct flights to London.

“Nine out of ten of these business leaders say direct flights influence their inward investment decisions; while eight in ten say they would trade more with the UK if flight connections were improved to their home market,” he said.

Mr. Marshall supports expansion, calling for “new runways, at Heathrow and elsewhere,” in order to safeguard the UK’s status as a global aviation hub.

Tom Nolan, Policy Adviser at the British Chamber of Commerce, added: “UK exporters will never reach their full potential unless capacity is increased.

“It is very important that the UK maintains a hub airport. If Heathrow was not to expand, it would lose that status. Not only would that be bad for the whole economy, it would have a devastating impact on the West of London economy,” he added.

While national debate focuses primarily on the economic credentials of increasing capacity at Heathrow, local residents are assessing the impact of an increase in flights on their quality of life.

The results of a local referendum on any future expansion, organised by Richmond Council, will be announced after the online voting deadline of 16 May.