After decades in the media, here our Editor Phil Parry talks about some of the recent abuse and threats he has endured as an investigative journalist.
Earlier he has described how he was helped to break into the South Wales Echo office car when he was a cub reporter, recalled his early career as a journalist, the importance of experience in the job, and making clear that the ‘calls’ to emergency services as well as court cases are central to any media operation.
He has also explored how poorly paid most journalism is when trainee reporters had to live in squalid flats, the vital role of expenses, and about one of his most important stories on the now-scrapped 53 year-old BBC Cymru Wales TV Current Affairs series he presented for 10 years, Week In Week Out (WIWO), which won an award even after it was axed, long after his career really took off.
Phil has explained too how crucial it is actually to speak to people, the virtue of speed as well as accuracy, why knowledge of ‘history’ is vital, how certain material was removed from TV Current Affairs programmes when secret cameras had to be used, and some of those he has interviewed.
News reporting is difficult, but investigative journalism is even harder!
This fundamental fact was underlined for me by alarming recent events.
A controversial ‘comedian’ behind a new ‘national’ newspaper (that claims it is ‘FOR ALL OF WALES’), which was launched despite him having been at the centre of a police investigation and making sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman, vainly tried to prevent The Eye publishing details of his disturbing past.
This sort of action happens to me all the time, but the advent of social media seems to have made it worse!
This time a so-called funny man called Huw Marshall who is the driving force for The National (TN), attempted to have our website closed down, alleging “violent threats and harassment” when there have been no threats of violence from our journalists, and the only harassment has come from Mr Marshall after he used social media to dub senior Welsh politicians “twats”, and me a “liar”.
In response to the demand that we should be closed down, the reply was made that: “Huw Marshall has: 1. Been investigated by the police for harassment. 2. Made sick ‘jokes’ on Facebook about the murdering gunman Raoul Moat. 3. Called senior politicians Ken Skates and Peter Black ‘twats’ online. 4. Been reprimanded by Twitter. 5. Sent unwanted takeaways to people’s houses”.
Evidently Mr Marshall does not know his journalist libel law (which is strange for someone involved in a new media service), because apart from saying on Twitter that I am a ‘liar’, he also accused me of being an “obsessive coward”, linking the insults to an earlier piece that had been written about TN. Yet publishing these phrases to a third person (as he has done) is highly libellous.
Mr Marshall (who was also responsible for something called ‘New Media Wales’) has, too, called me online a “self proclaimed journalist”, which may not be libellous but is provably wrong as I trained to be a journalist in 1983 on the best newspaper course in the UK before moving into television, and I have won an enormous number of awards. My long career has mostly been in other organisations (including 23 years with The BBC), and I have taken a large number of National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) exams – ones in libel among them. After an earlier factual story was published about Mr Marshall’s antics, he said on Twitter, it was “now in the hands of the police” when the facts (unlike Mr Marshall himself) were NOT, actually, a police matter.
I seem to have become something of a thorn in the side of Mr Marshall, because he has declared that he has a number of different Twitter accounts, but says he reserves one for items which may bother me, stating: “@marshallmedia is where I post Everton related stuff and things that upsets Phil Parry”.
Yet it has not only been me to have irritated Mr Marshall in the past. In 2013, it was disclosed that he had made the extremely offensive remarks to senior politicians on Twitter, and complaints after further comments led to a reprimand by the social media company.
After Mr Skates tweeted in celebration of a one-vote council by-election victory over the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC) in Ruabon, Mr Marshall referred to him in his own tweet as a “gloating t**t”, and he described Mr Black as a “humourless (sic) t..t”as well as a “dull, tedious t..t”.
But this kind of abuse from him is not the only controversy to swirl around Mr Marshall.
Two people died and a police officer lost the sight in both eyes when rampaging gunman Raoul Moat shot them, yet despite this on July 8, 2010 – with him trying to escape from armed police – Mr Marshall published a message on his Facebook (FB) site, reading: “Hi I’m a sexy 19 year old blond (sic) from the North East of England looking for some fun. My Mr Right should be a big strong ginger man with a fiery temper and a jealous nature, who also enjoys camping and writing long letters. Another post read: “Moat reward… if he isn’t caught by next Wednesday, the rewards (sic) being doubled. It’s going to be a Raul (sic) over”.
He has as well published a picture of himself on social media in the past, wearing a mask at a clinic beneath a sign urging people to keep their distance, but asked provocatively what it meant with a laughing emoji after the comment, declaring: “Waiting to see the surgeon in a&e…… What’s that sign mean?”.
Yet he has fallen foul of rules before – on Twitter. He was severely reprimanded because one of his accounts “violated the Twitter Rules”, and it was found that another, ‘Welsh Bollocks’, had also broken their regulations.
Meanwhile his newspaper, TN, has announced, “we will be politically neutral”, yet this may be difficult for the person who first had the idea for it, Mr Marshall, as he was a candidate for one particular political party. In 1992 he stood as PC’s Parliamentary candidate in Cardiff Central, coming fourth with just 748 votes, however his plans to stand for election as a councillor were scuppered when it emerged that he had posted the so-called ‘jokes’ about Moat, and published the offensive remarks to politicians on social media.
This could present a problem too for an organisation like Mudiad Meithrin (MM) which helps parents find Welsh-speaking child-care, and has declared Mr Marshall was to be its new voluntary director – given that the Welsh Government (WG) is run by a different party from the one he supports.
Perhaps it has been his apparent ‘entrepreneurship’ which appealed to MM, although critics doubt that any of his ideas will come to fruition.
Apart from wrongly accusing me of “violent threats and harassment”, Mr Marshall also claims to be looking into launching a number of companies to ‘benefit’ the public.
Even in November 2016 (years after his indiscretions) Mr Marshall was used as an ‘expert’ on the Welsh media. He formed part of a panel on The Future of the Welsh Media at the University of South Wales (USW) in Cardiff along with Bethan (then) Jenkins AM, Martin Shipton (then) Chief Reporter of the Western Mail and Dr Ruth McElroy of USW.
But financing his many ventures appears problematic, and Mr Marshall has also stated on social media: “Just had feedback on an unsuccessful funding bid. I use the word feedback in the loosest possible term…..”
Yet from his own account on Twitter Mr Marshall appears to have received public money for a ‘language project’ which has been endorsed as “Newyddion da (Good news)” by Helen Mary Jones MS.
He has, too, used the internet to proclaim his ‘plans’ for the ‘unbiased’ new ‘news’ service for Wales, NMW, to which huge amounts of money have been pledged by members of the public, even before the launch of TN.
But Mr Marshall’s media ‘proposals’ have been greeted with warm acclaim, and featured on HoldtheFrontPage.Co.UK – a website for UK journalists. It reported: “In a blog post about his plans, Huw wrote: ‘We are developing a fully functioning news and media business to serve the whole of Wales, one that delivers the level of service you would expect from a national platform’”.
In an alarming disclosure, the website also stated: “So far a crowdfunding initiative has seen 48 patrons pledge a total of £333 per month to the project”. Our investigations revealed that several months ago, Mr Marshall had in fact secured a total of 179 patrons pledging £1,221 per month, but he has said he needed a lot more.
Online Mr Marshall has stated: “Our business model requires an element of subscription, it’s vital from a sustainability perspective, and is particularly vital during our first twelve months as we develop other revenue streams. We need to attract a minimum of 500 subscribers in order to launch”.
In another tweet from the ones where he abused senior politicians and me, he vowed that he could save a large amount of money for Wales’ biggest broadcaster BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW), but others have stated that he is a ‘bully’.
Mr Marshall, though, appears undaunted by the criticism and has said on social media: “I could go in to the BBC tomorrow and save millions without impacting the content they produce…”
One potential donor has announced that he wants one of his media ‘operations’ to be “unbiased” and not “nationalist” – possibly ignorant of Mr Marshall’s background.
Evidently Mr Marshall is also sensitive to criticism, and has posted on Twitter that there will be legal involvement after The Eye’s disclosures. He has said on Twitter “…the time will shortly come when lawyers get involved”.
Mr Marshall also says he has contacted the police but that there is little they can do as “it is a waste of their precious time”, and “I really pity those who try to undermine my work and reputation”.
Yet it seems the police HAVE had time to investigate Mr Marshall for alleged harassment. On Twitter he told South Wales Police (SWP) that he intended to make a complaint, however officers responded by informing him that they have a “responsibility to investigate any reports”, and they were provided with a screenshot of Mr Marshall’s website ‘Welsh Bollocks’ where he admitted sending a fake takeaway delivery to the home of someone he did not like.
Meanwhile it was planned to run his paper, TN, with just four reporters, but there are serious questions as to whether a ‘national media service’ can be delivered with such a small number.
But at least TN has not been closed down as Mr Marshall tried to do with us, to prevent The Eye publishing more details of his disturbing past, despite himself having been at the centre of a police investigation, and making sick ‘jokes’ about a murdering gunman…
Tomorrow – how the fall out from last week’s election in Wales provoked the anger of an anti-Semitism opposition pressure group.
Phil’s memories of his astonishing 37-year award-winning career in journalism (before the launches of TN or NMW) as he was gripped by the rare disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!