Monday, 21 March 2011

Where's Jon gone?


I am on holiday for a couple of weeks...back April 3.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Reframing Libel: Conference papers now online


To coincide with the publication of the government’s draft Defamation Bill, the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University is making all the papers from the Reframing Libel conference available online.
Via Judith Townend

Libya says it will free New York Times journalists


Libyan government officials have told the United States State Department that four New York Times journalists who have been missing since Tuesday will be released, the paper has reported.

They are Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, both photographers; Stephen Farrell, a reporter and videographer; and Anthony Shadid, the Beirut bureau chief.

The Libyan government allowed the journalists to call their families on Thursday evening.

“We’re all, families and friends, overjoyed to know they are safe,” said Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times. “We are eager to have them free and back home."

Quotes of the Week: From super-injunctions to a local newspaper that, sadly, no longer functions

Daily Telegraph leader on Sir Fred Goodwin's super-injunction: "Fortunately, there is one thing that trumps the 'human right' to silence a free press, and that is the legal privilege of MPs to say anything they like in Parliament, which dates back to the Civil War. Secret super-injunctions are, in theory, extremely powerful instruments – but, thanks to that ancient freedom, this particular one lies in shreds."

Padraig Reidy, of Index on Censorship, tells the Telegraph: “The laws on injunctions and super-injunctions are stuck in the past and really do not take into account the speed and the way people communicate on the internet today. It is nigh on impossible once something has broken on social networking sites to put the cat back in the bag. On the internet there is a real sense of a right to information.”

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke unveiling the draft Defamation Bill: "The right to speak freely and debate issues without fear of censure is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society. In recent years though, the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific and academic debate, and investigative journalism. The Government's draft Defamation Bill will ensure that anyone who makes a statement of fact or expresses an honest opinion can do so with confidence."

John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship: “I know that certain publications will not write about billionaire businessmen because the costs of a single libel action could ruin them. The government’s draft defamation bill is a big step forward towards ending the practice of libel tourism which has led our Courts to silence free speech around the world. But without action to reduce the cost of a libel trial, reform will protect the free speech of some, but costs will silence others.”

International Federation of Journalists general secretary Aidan White: “The crisis in Libya is intensifying and the risks to journalists are increasing by the hour. As government forces turn their fire on Benghazi we can expect that journalists reporting from the city will face extraordinary threats. It’s important that media act to protect their staff.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, speaking at Cambridge University: "While the internet has in some ways an ability to let us know to an unprecedented level what government is doing, and to let us co-operate with each other to hold repressive governments and repressive corporations to account, it is also the greatest spying machine the world has ever seen."

David House, a friend of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of passing secrets to WikiLeaks, in the Guardian: "You can hear Bradley coming from a long way away because of the chains – his feet have chains on them, they go to a leather belt around his waist. His hands go into them and he has no free movement of his hands."

Woking News & Mail reader Rachel Tytherleigh on the closure of the paper: "My daughter, Lucy Constantine, has been a member of the WN&M's Press Gang for a couple of years now. She was looking forward to seeing her 10th birthday printed in the Press Gang section on March 24. Unfortunately, ...this can no longer happen."

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Woking weeklies bow out with readers' regrets


The Woking News & Mail published its last edition after 117 years today, following the decision by Guardian Media Group to close the weekly and its sister-title, the free Woking Review.

The News & Mail carried two pages of tributes from readers, which included:

"The closure of the News & Mail and the Woking Review is not just 'a shame', it is a calamity," wrote Pat Clack, of Send Road, Send.

"Did the public realise how important a good local newspaper was for a community?," asked Maurice Hibberd, of Westfield.

Rachel Tytherleigh added: "My daughter, Lucy Constantine, has been a member of the WN&M's Press Gang for a couple of years now. She was looking forward to seeing her 10th birthday printed in the Press Gang section on March 24.

"Unfortunately, ...this can no longer happen."

Via the It's News to Me blog by Hilary Gavin

Pakistan: 13 journalists murdered in 13 months


Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders reports that 13 journalists have been killed in the past 13 months in Pakistan.

RWB says: "With its tribal northwest, its border with Afghanistan, its tension with India and its chaotic political history, Pakistan is one of the world’s most complex nations and its journalists confront a daunting array of problems that include terrorist threats, police violence, the unbridled power of local potentates and dangerous conflicts in the Tribal Areas."

It adds: "The Pakistani media are still young and often inexperienced. Due to a lack of resources and ignorance of protective mechanisms, news media often send their reporters out on the most dangerous assignments without any kind of safety net. At the same time, the authorities have little consideration for a profession that keeps on raising awkward issues.

"Inadequate laws and a shaky constitution mean that media freedom is not yet fully recognized. Not to speak of all the subjects that are very dangerous to cover. It is easy to sue journalists over what they report and easier still to force them to shut up."

  • RWB has an interactive graphic with details of the journalists who have been killed and four interviews with Pakistani journalists about the difficulties they face and the battle to establish professional journalism in Pakistan.

'Newspapers at risk if copyright law not enforced'






The national and regional newspapers industry has responded to the Hargreaves’ Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, launched by David Cameron last year, by warning that the press is at risk if copyright law is not properly enforced.

A joint submission from the Newspaper Society and Newspaper Publishers Association points out that UK newspaper publishers invest over £1bn per annum in developing high quality content which is republished across a multiplicity of distribution platforms.

They argue that this investment must be underpinned by effective legal protection "so that publishers can be confident of their ability to use and disseminate the content created by them and their employees in any appropriate way, allowing the freedom to innovate and develop".

The NS and NPA say: "In our view, copyright law remains fundamentally fit for purpose. We take issue with David Cameron’s premise that the fact that Google did not inaugurate its business in the UK can be ascribed to the UK copyright regime."

They also claim: "A thriving publishing industry depends on fair remuneration for use of creative and journalistic content. It is copyright law that allows for this, but without proper enforcement the industry is at risk. Without effective, enforceable IPRs online there is a risk that the ‘virtuous circle’ of investment, returns and re-investment will be undermined. We are concerned, for example, that currently the UK courts do not award damages sufficient to discourage misuse."

The NS and NPA argue: "More needs to be done to enhance the credibility of alternative methods of resolving IP infringement cases, such as mediation services or ADR. Curtailing copyright infringement requires a combination of proper law enforcement, technological measures and public education."

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Guardian reporter Ghaith Abdul-Ahad freed in Libya but four NY Times journalists are missing

The Guardian reporter, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, (left) who was detained by the Libyan authorities two weeks ago, has been freed and left the country, the paper has reported.

Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger said on Twitter: "Guardian's Ghaith Abdul-Ahad freed and safely out of Libya. Heartfelt thanks to all who helped free him."

But the New York Times is reporting that four of its journalists reporting on the conflict in Libya are missing. They are Anthony Shadid, the Beirut bureau chief; Stephen Farrell, the reporter who was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2009 and rescued by British commandos; and two photographers, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario, who have worked extensively in the Middle East and Africa.

Editors at the paper said they were last in contact with the journalists on Tuesday morning New York time. The paper said it had received second-hand reports that members of its reporting team on the ground in the port city of Ajdabiya had been swept up by Libyan government forces.

The paper’s executive editor, Bill Keller, said :“We have talked with officials of the Libyan government in Tripoli, and they tell us they are attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of our journalists,” Keller said. “We are grateful to the Libyan government for their assurance that if our journalists were captured they would be released promptly and unharmed.

“Their families and their colleagues at The Times are anxiously seeking information about their situation, and praying that they are safe.”

  • The Committe to Protect Journalists reports there have been more than 300 attacks on journalists covering political unrest across the Middle East and North Africa. Four journalists have been killed in the region, dozens of reporters detained and assaulted, and widespread censorship imposed.
  • “The disappearance of the four New York Times journalists has come amid a climate of violence and hatred towards the media that is being sustained and encouraged by the Gaddafi regime,” Reporters Without Borders said. “In a recent public address, Col. Gaddafi described foreign TV stations as ‘stray dogs.’ His foreign minister said journalists who entered Libya ‘illegally’ would be regarded as Al-Qaeda supporters.”

    RWB added: “The recent arrests of journalists and the violence to which some of them have been subjected suggests that the regime is carrying out its threats. It is doing everything possible to prevent the world from seeing its counter-offensive against the rebels.”

    BBC News reports NYT journalists freed to Turkish Embassy in Tripoli.

Telegraph welcomes draft Defamation Bill and urges that it be guaranteed parliamentary time


The Daily Telegraph in a leader today welcomes the draft Defamation Bill and the recognition by the Government of the need to reform the libel laws.

It says: "There is now general acceptance that these antiquated, unbalanced and illiberal laws are damaging this country's reputation for free speech. Frivolous actions are brought in order to shut down responsible journalism or stifle legitimate academic opinion."

The leader also gets in a reference to the type of super-injunction granted to Sir Fred Goodwin. "Our libel laws work against the interests of justice and a free press, a trend compounded by the alarming expansion of judge-made privacy law through the imposition of blanket reporting bans known as super-injunctions."

It says of the proposals in the draft Bill: "A new requirement that any allegedly defamatory statement must have caused 'substantial harm' to a client's reputation before an action can proceed is particularly welcome. So, too, are the public interest safeguards to protect academics and others from being sued simply for expressing views – even if they are defamatory.

"The Government is to be congratulated for recognising the need for what would be the first wholesale reform of our libel laws since 1843. It now needs to make good these fine ambitions by guaranteeing parliamentary time for the legislation."

The leader also makes the point that it is "the small publications, local newspapers and individuals who are hardest hit by the excessive costs of defending themselves in the courts, and are often forced to settle rather than contest cases they might otherwise win".

Unreported World: Courage of Mexican journalist


Unreported World, Channel 4's foreign affairs documentary strand, returns later this month for its 21st series and will include the story of Mexican crime journalist Lucy Sosa who works for a newspaper whose journalists have been murdered by criminal gangs.

The documentary shows how Sosa lives in constant danger working for El Diario in Ciudad Juárez, which covers the murder capital of Mexico where last year 3,000 people were killed in the battle between drug cartels.

She took over the crime beat from Armando Rodríguez Carreón who was shot dead in November 2008 while taking his daughter to school.

Asked about how she feels about seeing her murdered colleague's desk and photo in the newsroom, Sosa says: "It gives me courage, when I'm afraid I will quit."

She wears a T-shirt on which is written: "Without Journalists There Is No Democracy."

The new series of Unreported World starts on Friday, March 25 at 7:30pm with India's Leprosy Heroes by reporter Seyi Rhodes and producer Richard Cookson.

For the first time Unreported World will not be geo-blocked meaning the series can be viewed online across the world.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Gaddafi and Japanese earthquake dominate news


Colonel Gaddafi's bid to put down the uprising in Libya and the earthquake in Japan were the stories that dominated the UK news agenda in the week ending Sunday, March 13, according to journalisted.

Colonel Gaddafi, striking back against rebels while the world discusses a no-fly zone, generated 526 articles; the earthquake in Japan triggering a deadly tsunami and fears over destabilised nuclear reactors, 500 articles; Prince Andrew's friendship with a US convicted sex offender, sparking calls for him to resign as UK trade envoy, 168 articles; and Lord Hutton's recommendations for reform to public sector pensions, including a rise in retirement age from 60 to 65, was covered in 128 articles.

Covered little, according to journalisted, were Mexico's youngest police chief, Marisol Valles Garcia, abandoning her post and allegedly seeking asylum in the US after death threats, 10 articles; US military trials to resume at Guantanamo, contrary to Obama's campaign promise, 9 articles; the three BBC journalists captured, beaten, and subjected to mock torture by security forces in Libya, 7 articles; a protest in Ivory Coast on International Women's Day, in response to shootings of female anti-Gbagbo demonstrators during an earlier protest, 4 articles

    New Defamation Bill promises an end to 'unreasonable threats' of being sued for libel



    The Government has unveiled its draft Defamation Bill promising a long awaited reform of the libel laws and the ending of "unreasonable threats" of being sued for libel.

    Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: "The right to speak freely and debate issues without fear of censure is a vital cornerstone of a democratic society. In recent years though, the increased threat of costly libel actions has begun to have a chilling effect on scientific and academic debate, and investigative journalism.

    "The Government's draft Defamation Bill will ensure that anyone who makes a statement of fact or expresses an honest opinion can do so with confidence.

    "However it is never acceptable to harm someone's reputation without just cause, so the Bill will ensure defamation law continues to balance the needs of both sides and encourage a just outcome in libel cases."

    The draft Bill includes provision for:

    • A new 'public interest' defence which can be used by defendants in defamation cases.
    • A requirement for claimants to demonstrate substantial harm before they can sue.
    • Reducing so-called “libel tourism” by making it tougher to bring overseas claims which have little connection to the UK in the English courts.
    • A single publication rule, meaning repeat claims for libel cannot be made every time a publication is accessed on the internet.
    A consultation paper has also been launched alongside the draft Bill, which includes questions on a number of other areas. These include the role of the internet, and a new court procedure to cut court costs in libel actions by encouraging early resolution of key issues.

    The Government will then consider whether these measures should be included when the Bill is put before Parliament.

    The consultation is open from today until 10 June.

    The Libel Reform Campaign welcomes the government’s draft defamation bill as a good step in the right direction – but Parliament needs to go further in key areas

    The Libel Reform Campaign led by English PEN, Index on Censorship and Sense About Science have welcomed the draft bill as "a great starting point" to ensure the first overhaul of "our archaic" libel laws, but calls upon Parliament to go further in key areas.

    In particular, the campaign calls for:

    • A stronger public interest defence.
    • An end to the ability of corporations to sue for libel.
    • More protection for web-hosts and internet service providers from liability for the words of others.

    John Kampfner, chief executive of Index on Censorship, said: “I know that certain publications will not write about billionaire businessmen because the costs of a single libel action could ruin them. The government’s draft defamation bill is a big step forward towards ending the practice of libel tourism which has led our Courts to silence free speech around the world. But without action to reduce the cost of a libel trial, reform will protect the free speech of some, but costs will silence others.”

    Sun says Panorama used private eye it exposed


    The Sun says today that a private eye accused by Panorama of illegal news gathering for the News of the World has claimed he also worked for the BBC programme.

    Jonathan Rees was said by last night's BBC1 programme to have introduced a NoW executive to a computer hacker who then obtained sensitive emails from an Army intelligence officer.

    But the Sun quotes Rees saying of the BBC: "I think the old adage pot, kettle, black is at play here." His lawyer said: "Mr Rees has worked as an inquiry agent for Panorama."

    It is claimed by the Sun, part of the same News International group as the News of the World, that Rees worked for Panorama on at least two programmes in the early 1990s.

    The BBC told the Sun said it was "not aware" Rees worked for Panorama, but said the programme had used private eyes.

    The BBC has issued a statement: "Jonathan Rees claims to have worked on a Panorama film in the early 1990s but does not claim to have deployed then the sort of illegal practices exposed by last night’s programme.

    "The BBC has searched archives dating back 25 years and can find no record of the programme he describes ever being broadcast. We have not been presented with any evidence by Mr Rees to back his claim and have also been unable to find any record of payments to Mr Rees or his company."

    Monday, 14 March 2011

    Tusa to speak at 'Save the World Service' meeting


    Former director of the BBC World Service John Tusa is among speakers tomorrow night (Tuesday March 15) at a public meeting, organised by the National Union of Journalists, in the House of Commons to defend the World Service against government cuts.

    The union says: "The BBC World Service is a story of continuing success: ten years ago it had 153 million regular radio listeners and today, the figure is 180 million - representing one in every 25 adults in the world.

    "Journalists are rightly proud of their part in creating that success, but the proposed cuts will damage the BBC World Service as well as cut Britain’s influence in the rest of the world."
    The NUJ says the cuts will mean:
    • Thirty million short-wave listeners will no longer be able to hear the BBC World Service
    • Another twenty million listeners could lose their signal if other changes being considered for English and twelve remaining shortwave services go ahead
    • Job cuts will result in a noticeable drop in quality especially in the core area of World Service News, in the Language Services and in BBC Monitoring
    • The Europe Today programme, whose expertise is used throughout the BBC, is to disappear in the cuts. The Politics UK programme is also going.
    • Plans also include shutting down the medium wave World Service in English to Europe, and more than a dozen other services including Caribbean, Russian, Chinese, Azeri and Vietnamese, together with short-wave services in Indonesian, Kyrgyz, Nepali, and Swahili. These services are scheduled to close next week.
    Other closures have already taken place - BBC Portuguese service to Africa, the Spanish Latin American service (BBC Mundo), and the services to Serbia, Albania and Macedonia.

    The ‘Save the BBC World Service’ meeting will be held at the House of Commons, committee room 14, starting at 6.30pm.

    Pic: Jon Slattery

    Tobias Grubbe talks census and sensibilty

    Gentleman journalist Tobias Grubbe, the creation of Michael Cross and Matthew Buck, in his latest adventure on telegraph.co.uk gives his opinion on the census and other worldly matters.

    Panorama to expose the 'dark arts' of journalists


    Panorama says it will tonight expose the full extent of the "dark arts" employed by journalists across the industry to get their story, in a programme called: Tabloid Hacks Exposed.

    It says the programme, broadcast on BBC 1 at 8:30 reveals a dishonourable history of law breaking that went beyond phone hacking and questions the police inaction that let it continue.

    Panorama claims a senior News of the World executive obtained e-mails hacked into by a private detective. it says Irish edition editor Alex Marunchak was sent ex-British intelligence officer Ian Hurst's private e-mails in 2006. Marunchak denied Panorama's allegations.

    The News of the World has told Panorama: "To date, Panorama has provided us with no evidence of wrong doing in relation to the private detectives featured in your programme. Moreover, the Crown Prosecution Service found no evidence that the reporters involved were aware those sources were acquiring material by corrupt means.

    "Unlike some of our critics, the News of the World secures proof of wrongdoing before making serious allegations. As demonstrated by recent events, we will not tolerate misconduct by staff and will act decisively when presented with new evidence."

    IFJ warning as first journalist is killed in Libya


    The International Federation of Journalists has warned that journalists working in Libya are facing acute dangers after an Al Jazeera cameraman was killed in what appears to have been an ambush near Benghazi.

    The death was reported as a Brazilian reporter who was freed from detention in Libya urged Moammar Gaddafi's government to release a colleague from the Guardian who is still held. Andrei Netto, a correspondent for Brazil's Estado de S. Paulo, fears for the fate of his colleague Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, an Iraqi national working for the Guardian who was detained with him.

    The IFJ and its Iraqi affiliate are calling for the Gaddafi government to release the journalist who has been missing since March 6.

    The first media death reported in Libya is that of Ali Hassan Al Jaber who was shot while returning to Benghazi from a nearby town after filing a report for Aljazeera from an opposition protest. Unknown fighters opened fire on a car he and his colleagues were travelling in.

    “The crisis in Libya is intensifying and the risks to journalists are increasing by the hour,” said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. “As government forces turn their fire on Benghazi we can expect that journalists reporting from the city will face extraordinary threats. It’s important that media act to protect their staff.”

    The IFJ says that media must heed warnings being issued by the International News Safety Institute which warned that journalists need to be increasingly aware of the risks to them particularly as there is antipathy towards foreign news crews.

    “We see hostility to journalists from all sides in this volatile situation,” said White. “All reporters are at risk, but foreign media staff face particular problems.”

    Last week the IFJ condemned government attacks on media which may be contributing to a hostile atmosphere. “We mourn the loss of our colleague in Benghazi and we do not want more casualties,” said White. “All sides must respect the rights of unarmed media staff that is why we urge the government to release the detained Guardian journalist and to allow all media to report freely.”

    Saturday, 12 March 2011

    Social media speculation puts pressure on judges to lift Sir Fred Goodwin's super-injunction


    Judges are facing growing pressure to lift the super-injunction obtained by Sir Fred Goodwin amid speculation on the internet about the nature of the information he is trying to protect, claims the Daily Telegraph today.

    The existence of the injunction was revealed under parliamentary priviledge on Thursday by John Hemming, the back-bench Liberal Democrat MP, during a business debate in the House of Commons.

    The Telegraph says: "The terms of the injunction are so strict that the Telegraph is prevented from disclosing any details, but social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook were rife with speculation about why the former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive had taken out the injunction."

    Padraig Reidy, of Index on Censorship, tells the Telegraph: “The laws on injunctions and super-injunctions are stuck in the past and really do not take into account the speed and the way people communicate on the internet today.

    “It is nigh on impossible once something has broken on social networking sites to put the cat back in the bag. On the internet there is a real sense of a right to information.”

    Hemming told Parliament that the super-injunction even prevented Sir Fred from being identified as a banker and asked: “Will the Government have a debate or a statement on freedom of speech and whether there’s one rule for the rich like Fred Goodwin and one rule for the poor?”

    The Telegraph says in a leader comment today: "Sir Fred “the Shred” Goodwin, who presided over the near-collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, retired on an annual pension of £342,000 and also received a lump sum of almost £3 million. We have no idea whether he used any of this cash for legal fees to obtain a secret super-injunction banning the publication of information about him. But if it did cost him a lot of money, he must be regretting it. For, although the court granted Sir Fred’s wish, this week a Liberal Democrat MP revealed in Parliament one of the things the injunction was supposed to conceal: the very fact of its existence.

    "Given their extreme nature and the public controversy that they engender, super-injunctions do not seem to be particularly hard to obtain. Over the past few years, British courts have been strangely eager to grant these gagging orders, whose basis lies in human rights legislation inspired by Europe. It is hard to avoid the view that judges are forging a privacy law on the hoof.

    "Fortunately, there is one thing that trumps the “human right” to silence a free press, and that is the legal privilege of MPs to say anything they like in Parliament, which dates back to the Civil War. Secret super-injunctions are, in theory, extremely powerful instruments – but, thanks to that ancient freedom, this particular one lies in shreds."

    Friday, 11 March 2011

    Survey shows social media's growing influence on business journalists as a source for stories


    Social media is the most increasingly influential source of information on stories published by business journalists, according to an online survey conducted by the Brunswick Group.

    But, the survey says, social media
    does not influence journalists to the extent of their own research or more traditional information sources.

    Twitter provides the most valuable sources of information, yet blogs are the most likely to be the foundation of a published article.

    The survey concluded that: "On balance social media is seen to have a positive effect on the quality of journalism, and will be increasingly important to the angle and content of published stories"

    Other findings were:

    • Nine in ten journalists, who responded to the survey, claim to have investigated an issue further for their work due to information sourced from social media.
    • Two-thirds claim to have written a story that originated via social media, giving rise to up to one in seven of all published stories.
    • Journalists based in North America are more likely to use and believe in the importance of social media than those elsewhere.
    Click on the chart to increase size.

    Top two managers to leave Northcliffe Media











    The two most senior executives at Northcliffe Media are to retire, it was announced to staff today, reports HoldtheFrontPage.

    Managing director Michael Pelosi is bowing out after 22 years with the company, with his place to be taken by Steve Auckland, currently managing director at Metro.

    Auckland is a former managing director of Yorkshire Post Newspapers and began his career in media as a classified sales executive with the company.

    HTFP says Pelosi is to remain with the company until the end of the year, but in a different role working with Associated Newspapers group managing director Kevin Beatty on group-wide initiatives.

    Also standing down is Pelosi's deputy, Alex Leys, who is retiring after a 28-year career with the company, which included editing the Lincolnshire Echo and Derby Evening Telegraph.

    Linda Grant, currently group commercial development director, will replace Auckland at Metro.

    Daily Mail and General Trust executives have been reported saying that the company is interested in any "worthwhile approaches" for Northcliffe. There has also been speculation that Trinity Mirror may be interested in taking control of Northcliffe in return for giving DMGT cash and shares.

    Pics: Pelosi (left); Leys (right)

    Sun splash shreds Sir Fred's super-injunction


    The Sun's splash today shows the way the super-injunction granted to the former boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Sir Fred Goodwin, has been torpedoed by an MP using parliamentary privilege and failed to keep his name out of the press.

    Lib Dem MP John Hemming asked in the House of Commons yesterday: "In a secret hearing, Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him from being identified as a banker."

    He then asked: "Will the Government have a debate or a statement on the issue of freedom of speech and whether there is one law for the rich, such as Fred Goodwin, and another law for the poor?"

    The MP's question raised speculation about the nature of the information which Sir Fred is trying to protect, but the media is prevented from disclosing any details under the terms of the injunction.

    Quotes of the week: From is Piers Morgan returnable? to Fred the Shred's super-injunction

    James Wolcott in Vanity Fair: "Many questions torment America in its dark night of the soul, questions more urgently pressing, and yet it must be asked: How did we get stuck with Piers Morgan? Who is he, why is he here, is he returnable?"

    Daily Mail leader on BSkyB deal being given green light by Jeremy Hunt: "It’s all very smelly. Yesterday was a sorry day for our supposedly independent media regulator, a bad day for Mr Cameron (who had Christmas dinner at the home of a News Corp boss) because after the Coulson imbroglio he will stand accused of being closer to Mr Murdoch than ever.It is also a gloomy day for consumers who will eventually face a world with less choice and a deeply depressing day for those who, against the odds, try to believe that there is still a smidgeon of integrity in British politics."

    Kelvin MacKenzie in the Independent: "I cannot understand this decision. Why was Sky News powering ahead? Where do you think they got their investment for HD and to expand their reporter coverage? Why was it News Channel of the Year? It was because of News Corporation. I feel sorry for those people because previously they had certainty. It's going to end up with some clapped-out independent CEO who wouldn't normally be able to run a sweet shop. It will lose Rupert Murdoch's personal dynamism and News Corporation's executive dynamism."

    Daily Star reporter Richard Peppiatt’s "I quit" letter to proprietor Richard Desmond: “ 'The flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil sets off a tornado in Texas.,Well, try this: 'The lies of a newspaper in London can get a bloke’s head caved in down an alley in Bradford.' If you can’t see that words matter, you should go back to running porn magazines. But if you do, yet still allow your editors to use inciteful over insightful language, then far from standing up for Britain, you’re a menace against all things that make it great."

    City University's Professor George Brock on XCity online looks to the future: "People will regularly ask whether in a world in which anyone can publish instantly to anyone, anything called “journalism” is needed. They will discover that trying to discover and describe the truth is best done by people trained to do it well."

    Dan Sabbagh on MediaGuardian:"So unconfident are the banks in the future of newspapers, or at least Johnston Press, that the interest rate on its borrowings is 10%. Usury is the word that springs to mind. Yet, despite the lack of faith, the crumb of comfort, of sorts, is that at least JP is profitable. Local newspapers, in short, are not a bust proposition - rather one that was milked too hard in the good times - and weighed down by too much debt in the bad."

    Editor Colin Parker on the closure of the Woking News & Mail and Woking Review by Guardian Media Group: “It is a shame these two newspapers, it seems, will be added to the list of local publications across the country that have ceased to exist.The papers have been at the forefront of holding to account local authorities, reporting on community events, and following the ups and downs of our town’s football club."

    Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming in the Commons: "In a secret hearing this week Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him being identified as a banker. Will the government have a debate or a statement on freedom of speech and whether there's one rule for the rich like Fred Goodwin and one rule for the poor?"

    Thursday, 10 March 2011

    NUJ fears over plans to axe BBC local radio: 'At least 700 jobs could go and stations may close'


    The NUJ has condemned proposals which the union says could see BBC local radio services being axed as part of a programme of savage spending cuts.

    The union says staff are to be briefed tomorrow (Friday 18 March) about a series of proposals for the future of local radio – including plans to produce local breakfast and drive-time shows only with all other programming being delivered by Radio 5 Live.

    It claims: "BBC staff fear the plans would mean the loss of at least 700 jobs and the possible closure of some stations."

    The NUJ has called on the BBC to “step back from the brink” and protect the important role of local radio.

    NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “Local radio plays a crucial role in keeping local communities informed. These proposals would rip the heart out of local programming and effectively sound the death knell for local radio.

    “The BBC’s plans would be a blow to quality journalism at the BBC and fly in the face of public commitments to localism and transparency. Local radio programmes are produced by local people for local audiences yet these decisions are being taken far away from communities and behind closed doors.

    "The BBC must step back from the brink and protect local radio services. If they do not we will actively resist plans which threaten to inflict such devastating damage to local radio services.”

    Update: A BBC spokesman has told the Guardian: "No decisions have been made so it would be wrong to speculate. It is of course only right that BBC staff have an opportunity to input ideas about shaping the BBC's future.

    "The [delivering quality first] sessions are designed to provoke discussion among staff about the way the BBC works and any decisions coming out of the process would be subject to approval by the BBC Trust."

    MP names Fred Goodwin in super-injunction case


    Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, has obtained a super-injunction banning the publication of information about him, it has been disclosed on the floor of the House of Commons, the Daily Telegraph reports.

    It says: "The existence of the draconian injunction - so strict it prevents Sir Fred being identified as a banker - was disclosed by John Hemming, a back-bench Liberal Democrat MP, in a question during a business debate at the House on Thursday morning. His comments are protected by parliamentary privilege."

    Hemming said: "In a secret hearing this week Fred Goodwin has obtained a super-injunction preventing him being identified as a banker.

    "Will the government have a debate or a statement on freedom of speech and whether there's one rule for the rich like Fred Goodwin and one rule for the poor?"

    The Telegraph says: "The terms of the injunction are so strict that the Daily Telegraph cannot reveal the nature of the information that Sir Fred Goodwin is attempting to protect."

    Libel law: What should a Defamation Bill contain?


    On the eve of the introduction of the Government's new Bill to reform the libel laws, the Libel Reform Campaign group today published a new document: What should a Defamation Bill contain?

    The campaign says the Defamation Bill should include:

    • easier ‘strike out’ of trivial or inappropriate claims
    • more effective and clearer defences
    • modernisation to accommodate the internet
    • rebalancing of the law to protect the ordinary individual or
    responsible publisher
    • a reduction in costs (and therefore more equal access for all parties)

    The campaign says the measure of the Bill's success will be:

    • whether there are fewer bullying and trivial cases
    • whether the chill on free speech and publication on matters in the
    public interest is reduced
    • whether there is improved protection for internet publication, including
    ‘citizen publishing’ and historical archives
    • whether individual citizens who have been defamed by a malicious,
    reckless or irresponsible false allegation can gain an effective remedy

    Guardian Media Group closes its last local papers


    Guardian Media Group is closing its only remaining local newspapers, the 117-year-old Woking News & Mail and free Woking Review.

    The titles were not acquired by Trinity Mirror when it purchased the rest of GMG’s regional newspaper business, which includied the Manchester Evening News, in 2010.

    GMG said: "Despite our best efforts over the last year to find an alternative buyer, which generated a number of expressions of interest, no viable offers have emerged. In light of this, and the Woking papers’ substantial ongoing losses, we have reluctantly made the decision to close the titles. The last edition to be published will be the Woking News & Mail of Thursday 17 March.

    "We deeply regret that such a step is necessary, and have only contemplated closure having exhausted all other options. The company is in formal consultation with all affected employees and their representatives."

    The Woking papers are understood to be losing around £500,000 a year.

    The Woking Review is believed to be one of the oldest free weekly newspapers in the country.
    Circulation of the paid-for News & Mail remains close to 6,000 per week, while the latest ABC figures for the Review shows it has a circulation of 41,000. It is the only paid for newspaper dedicated to Woking and its surrounding villages and towns.

    Some 20 staff divided between editorial and sales work for the company, which also owns the website www.woking.co.uk.

    Editor Colin Parker said: “The News & Mail has been serving the community in Woking since 1894 and has been committed to bringing to residents news that affects them.

    “The Woking Review is read by more than 90,000 people across the towns of Woking, Addlestone and Byfleet and has been a permanent weekly fixture for decades.”

    He added: “It is a shame these two newspapers, it seems, will be added to the list of local publications across the country that have ceased to exist.

    “The papers have been at the forefront of holding to account local authorities, reporting on community events, and following the ups and downs of our town’s football club.

    “Advertisers from the towns and villages covered by the News & Mail, Woking, Chobham and Byfleet, benefited from having a market close to their business.”
    • Jeremy Dear, NUJ general secretary, said: "The demise of these publications is a major blow to hard working journalists and local news. The current company should have made every effort to continue the publication of these titles. This is another example of a business model that fails local journalism and demonstrates the inadequacy of the present ownership."

    NS objects to Bill restricting teachers being named


    The Newspaper Society, representing local newspaper publishers, has objected to proposed reporting restrictions on the identification of teachers in the Education Bill, which is currently being considered by Committee in the House of Commons.

    The NS says that under the Bill, it will become an offence to publish anything which could lead to the identification of a teacher alleged to have committed a criminal offence against a pupil, if the allegation is made by that pupil or any other at the school.

    Anonymity would be indefinite, lasting beyond the teacher’s death, if no legal proceedings commence in court in respect of the offence.

    If no legal proceedings are commenced, unless the teacher consented to identification or a court order could be obtained to dispense with the restrictions the teacher could not be identified as subject of the allegation even if arrested, or prohibited from working as a teacher or dismissed as a result of disciplinary action relating to the incident.

    The NS says its submission outlines the effect these restrictions would have upon the regional and local press.

    Wednesday, 9 March 2011

    BBC team beaten up by security forces in Libya










    A three-strong BBC news team was detained in Libya and beaten up by Colonel Gaddafi's security forces as they were trying to reach the western city of Zawiya, BBC News reports.

    It said: "The trio were beaten with fists, knees and rifles, hooded and subjected to mock executions by members of Libya's army and secret police.

    "The three men were held for 21 hours, but have now flown out of Libya following their detention on Monday."

    Government forces are in a fierce fight to wrest Zawiya from rebel control.

    One of the team, Chris Cobb-Smith, is quoted as saying: "We were lined up against the wall. I was the last in line - facing the wall.

    "I looked and I saw a plain-clothes guy with a small sub-machine gun. He put it to everyone's neck. I saw him and he screamed at me.

    "Then he walked up to me put the gun to my neck and pulled the trigger, twice, the bullets whisked past my ear. The soldiers just laughed."

    A second member of the team - Feras Killani, a correspondent of Palestinian descent - is said to have been singled out by their captors for the worst of the violence.

    The third member of the team, cameraman Goktay Koraltan, said he was convinced they were going to die.

    Pics: Goktay Koraltan and Feras Kilani

    Things can only get better: Journalism without ego

    This is an article I've contributed to TheMediaBriefing after hearing Paul Bradshaw (pictured) making his inaugural lecture at City University. I liked his message to young journalists that they should try and make journalism better. It made me think about my start in journalism, after leaving City, and the contrast between the hardened hacks and young graduates.

    When I started on an evening paper a reporter turned to me and said: “You know Jon, there’s no characters left in journalism anymore.”

    He then regaled me with the antics of some of the characters, for example:

    There was the journalist who scaled the outside of the Manchester Evening News building and knocked on the window.

    The result: The chief sub had a heart attack.

    The night out when the reporters drew up in a van alongside an innocent member of the public eating a Chinese takeaway and fired off a shotgun. The man dropped his sweet n’ sour and thought he was bleeding to death.

    Result: An official police complaint to the newspaper.

    Then there was the office outing to see Love Story when the tender death bed scene at the climax of the film was rudely interrupted by a journalist shouting out an unbelievably obscene remark.

    Result: No more free cinema tickets for journalists.

    It was a rather macho, beery world where reporters revelled in their outsider status. They shared the Millwall mantra: “Everybody hates us and we don’t care.”

    It was somewhat threatened by the arrival of graduates who took their inspiration from All the President’s Men and wanted to be the next Woodward or Bernstein.

    I was reminded of this dichotomy listening to Paul Bradshaw’s inaugural lecture Is Ice Cream Strawberry? at City University.

    Paul urged journalists to get over their egos. “Journalists have always been jacks of all trades, and masters of none. Now that the masters of each trade can publish themselves, it is our connections across differing worlds that is our strength. But to maintain those connections we need to put people before stories, and get over our egos.”

    He ended his lecture: “Technology – whether the internet, newspapers or the English language itself – is a tool. It does not want to do anything. It does not want to be free. It does not want to make you stupid. “You choose the flavour of the ice cream. You have the power, and the responsibility that comes with it. Take that responsibility – and make journalism better.”

    It was the “make journalism better” bit that got me. Graduates can have the idealism knocked out of them while trying to conform to the “shock, horror” agenda of newsdesks.

    But when you look at the comments about the press on Twitter, or by bloggers who know their patch or people who have been written about in the media, you realise there is no respect for poor or over the top journalism. It is reviled and ridiculed.

    The traditional business model for journalism is battered. If it is to be repaired or reinvented by a new generation of journalists it seems sensible to bin some of the hackneyed old ways, try and make it better and, dare I say it, more respected.

    There is just one thing.

    If journalists are to have no ego, what happens to Piers Morgan?

    Pic:Jon Slattery