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The shock news that the USA is to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia for its “malicious… activities” throws the spotlight on controversial media commentators in Wales, who appear on a Russian-backed broadcaster which is accused of being the mouthpiece of the country’s autocratic president, Vladimir Putin.
It was unlikely to have been discussed at the G7 meeting of developed nations in Cornwall, but severe measures were taken.
The steps made by America are, according to Janet Yellen, the US President Joe Biden’s treasury secretary, aimed at tackling “Russia’s continued and growing malign behaviour”.
American financial institutions are banned from participating in the primary market for rouble bonds issued by Russia’s central bank, its finance ministry or its sovereign-wealth fund.
America also said it would expel ten Russian diplomats in Washington and New York who are suspected of being intelligence officers.
Yet both the headline-grabbing member of the Welsh independence group Yes Cymru (YC) Kerry-Anne Mendoza AND the Penarth-based conspiracy theorist who runs a media company, Anna Brees, have appeared on Russia Today (RT), although the television station is funded by the Kremlin.
In HER appearance on RT, Ms Brees announced: “I was a very good presenter” and said she wanted “good investigative journalism”.
She also said on the programme “the onus lies on us… to decide what information to trust… because I have built up a lot of trust (and people come to me saying) ‘you have integrity’ (but now there is) information chaos”.
Ms Brees stated, too, that her journalism is “important” and that she tries to “help people navigate out of this mess (the coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic)“, but ironically she walked out of another event in London when she discovered it had been funded by RT.
However the YouTube transmission of the programme on which she had appeared earlier clearly announced: “RT is funded in whole or in part by the Russian government”.
On it Ms Brees responded to the question: “As a former BBC lifer… do you recognise… (accusations about)… the patronising aspect and patronising nature of the mainstream media?” by saying “it’s very rare that we get any ‘exclusives’ from the (mainstream) media …journalists can be very patronising (but) I WASN”T patronising”.
And that “a lot of journalists out there at the moment … feel they are not representing the public and the news they are producing is … fed by communications departments.
“I really would like to see these institutions like the BBC listen a bit more to the public …the public are getting very angry …they need to listen more”.
Ms Brees was at ITV for many years and latterly on the BBC Cymru Wales (BBC CW) consumer affairs programme X-Ray, but after having a child she has said on another RT programme headlined ‘BBC journalist exposes the dark side’ that executives “begged me to go back”.
The man she compared herself to on the transmission, the notorious conspiracy theorist David Icke, has warned that the Archons (or Anunnaki) have taken over the world, and that a genetically modified human–Archon hybrid race of shape-shifting reptilians known as the Babylonian Brotherhood, the Illuminati, or the ‘elite’, manipulate global events to help keep humans in constant fear.
Meanwhile Ms Mendoza, who appeared, too, on RT a number of times, has also hit the headlines.
For the programme On Contact, she said she wanted an “alternative media”, and was interviewed, as well, by Max Keiser on his RT show The Keiser Report, where she declared that austerity is a “fig leaf” designed to conceal aggressive neoliberal policies.
But Ms Mendoza has, herself, featured in the media, and perhaps that is why she wants ‘alternative’ coverage.
In August Ms Mendoza wrote ironically on Twitter : “Get Brexit done Build, build, build, Jobs, jobs, jobs Arbeit macht frei”.
But six months later the chair of the independence movement YesCymru (YC) she joined, Sion Jobbins, said: “We will be discussing the matter (her alleged anti-Semitism generally) as a committee in conjunction with our new diversity and inclusion lead officer who will be starting work for us on Monday (February 15)“.
Despite this ‘discussion’ about Ms Mendoza, a message from scandal-hit former Labour MP Chris Williamson was ‘retweeted’ by her the day afterwards, and the outrage of anti-semitic pressure group Wales Against Anti-Semitism (WAAS) came four days later.
Ms Mendoza joined YC (which has been riven by an extraordinary internal civil war) in the Autumn, shortly after moving to Wales from her home city of Bristol, and her account tweeted news of her membership to its 59,000 followers.
Former Cardiff Council leader, the Liberal Democrats’ Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP/SC) candidate for Cardiff Central Rodney Berman said of her joining YC: “The decision to admit and then publicly welcome this individual raises serious questions regarding the priorities and values of YesCymru. Quite frankly, it’s appalling”.
She was suspended briefly from Twitter following complaints about another post in which she compared those attending the Jewish Labour Movement’s conference to “white supremacists”.
After the then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s defeat at the polls in December 2019, she suggested that those who opposed Labour over anti-Semitism would be attacked.
Ms Mendoza also accused (Jewish) writer and columnist Jonathan Freedland of “manufacturing” the 2019 General Election result, and in January 2020 she claimed celebrations over the completion of Brexit could turn into a “21st century Kristallnacht”.
When the Jewish Chronicle (JC) raised concerns about Ms Mendoza’s appearance at a Labour party meeting, she tweeted sarcasticlly: “Black woman can’t talk about racism, says white man”.
She has also publicly attacked leading politicians.
The MP for Bristol West Thangam Debbonaire (the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing) said on Twitter about recent riots in the city: “This is absolutely unacceptable. The scenes of violence and direct attack on the police in Bristol city centre will distress most people including anyone who believes in defending the right to peaceful democratic protest”, and she included a link to a BBC report about the protest.
But soon afterwards, Ms Mendoza (who has been described as a “rock star” by YC officials) shared the tweet, accusing her of being a “Scab”.
After the recent demonstration against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a police station was attacked, 21 officers were injured and police vehicles set alight, with Avon and Somerset Police arresting eight men and saying pictures of “many more” individuals would be released.
A man has appeared in court charged with carrying a homemade spear on the night of the riot.
Bricks, glass bottles and eggs were thrown at officers during a third night of demonstrations in Bristol – with the police saying that protesters shone lasers in their faces.
Perhaps these sort of events may now seem tame compared with the news that the USA is to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia for its “malicious… activities”, throwing the spotlight on media commentators in Wales who have appeared on a Russian-backed broadcaster which is accused of being the mouthpiece of the country’s headline-grabbing President.
Tomorrow – our Editor Phil Parry looks at two of the foundations of independent news journalism – neutrality, and not accepting money from the state – when one controversial website in Wales broke both these rules, but said it was expanding.
The memories of Phil’s decades-long award-winning career in journalism (when the views of contentious individuals in the news were often highlighted) 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!