During 23 years with the BBC, and 38 years in journalism, our Editor, Welshman Phil Parry, was never afraid to take on big institutions like the police, or the Catholic Church (notably in a Panorama programme exposing the pedophilia of some priests in Wales), and this has now been thrown into stark relief by the pope declaring to another journalist: “…you always find some of the sins that journalists tend to fall into: disinformation, slander, defamation, coprophilia”.
Earlier he described how he was assisted in breaking 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 Wales TV Current Affairs series, 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.
He has disclosed as well why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, how the pandemic played havoc with media schedules, and the importance of the hugely lower average age of some political leaders compared with when he started reporting.
When it is wrong, it is wrong.
I feel this very strongly, and injustices need to be exposed wherever they happen, and whatever the reaction, even in venerated institutions like the police or the Church.
When I started in journalism, for example, in 1983, the version of events from police officers was taken as accurate, and there should be support.
In court cases the accused HAD committed the crime, and the description of what happened by the investigating officers, was ALWAYS right.
Now we know better, however.
Sometimes those in the dock were innocent, and the police had FABRICATED evidence against them.
Some officers were corrupt, they just wanted to get their ‘success’ rates up, and it didn’t matter who they caught.
Individuals’ lives have been ruined, and South Wales Police (SWP), is responsible for a string of miscarriage of justice cases.
The force is up there along with South Yorkshire Police (SYP), Cleveland Police (CP), and the Metropolitan Police (MP), as among the worst-run in the UK, and now a Media Conference is being organised calling for a judicial inquiry, investigating events in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s,
So it is with the Roman Catholic (RC) Church.
I am NOT attacking the faith of individual members of it (who do a lot of good in the community), but the plain fact is that on occasions terrible things have happened, and they were covered up by those in charge.
You only have to look at the awful truth which has come to light of pedophile priests preying (literally) on young boys, for this fundamental fact to be confirmed.
This scandal has rocked the RC Church world wide, but was covered up FOR YEARS by priests at the top of the organisation, and it took journalists to expose what was going on.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano for instance (who died last month aged 94), was a Vatican power broker, serving under popes John Paul II , Benedict VI and Francis (who wrote about the ‘sins’ of journalists), and was criticised for dismissing or downplaying the abuse of children by priests.
He asked the former Irish President Mary McAleese to instruct her Government NOT to seek access to Church files on child abuse, and she described it as: “One of the most devastating moments of my presidency”.
Journalists on The Boston Globe, meanwhile, revealed the dreadful extent of the cover-up in one large American city.
The paper’s investigation team, Spotlight, disclosed what was happening, and an Oscar-winning film of that name showed their work.
Other film-makers, though, have not been so lucky.
A Director George P. Cosmatos, and his Producer Carlo Ponti (the husband of Sophia Loren), both received six month suspended prison sentences, for “defaming the memory of the pope”, during their film Massacre in Rome.
I did my bit, too, by looking at what has occurred in Wales in a BBC TV Panorama programme called “Power to abuse”.
In the promotional material about the episode more than 21 years ago, it was proclaimed: “BBC Wales reporter Phil Parry has uncovered disturbing new evidence of how the Roman Catholic Church in Wales behaved as paedophile priests abused children”.
But this was not popular, and to this day I am castigated for what I broadcast.
One abusive comment online last year, concerned a television ‘reporter’ who had posted pictures of herself on Facebook (FB) or Twitter in skimpy clothes, and was typical of the insults I constantly receive years after the event: “Your article on Ellie Pitt was bordering on mysogynistic bullying, a really pathetic article written by a bitter individual who was a complete failiure as a BBC correspondent and also loved bashing the Catholic Church with your disgraceful Panorama programme”.
This has all been put centre stage now by comments from pope Francis.
He wrote a letter to the Argentine journalist Gustavo Sylvestre in April expressing fury about those who had drawn attention to the Vatican’s failure to criticise Vladimir Putin directly for the atrocities being committed in Ukraine.
Pope Francis stated: “In that news you always find some of the sins that journalists tend to fall into: disinformation, slander, defamation, coprophilia.
It is JOURNALISTS, though, who have brought out the appalling crimes against innocent men, women and children, committed by Russian forces during their unprovoked invasion of another sovereign country.
This is not “disinformation”, let alone the other things, (that last one is BIZARRE!).
But the onslaught against journalists has been widespread inside RC institutions.
In June the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica published an extraordinary interview with pope Francis in which he blamed the death of civilians on the arms industry, and the Western military alliance.
He targeted the West for “barking at Russia’s gate”, saying: “The danger is that we miss the whole drama which is unfolding behind this war”.
In another Italian publication, the Corriere della Sera, pope Francis declared that Western arms were partly to blame for the war, and he implied that it was wrong to give them: “I don’t know if it is the right thing to supply Ukrainian fighters (with weapons)“.
He may also face criticism that there is a ‘moral equivalence’ between the actions of Ukraine and Russia, after recent comments to Reuters.
The pope said: “I would like to go (to Ukraine) and I wanted to go to Moscow first”.
“The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help in some way, but I would like to go to both capitals.
“(With Russia) there is still that very open dialogue, very cordial, very diplomatic in the positive sense of the word, but for the moment it’s okay; the door is open.”
The door is apparently open, as well, for Russia’s backer China, which is praised by some in the RC Church.
Pope Francis has, himself, stayed silent over the destruction of churches in the country, and in an unbelievable concordat four years ago with Xi Jinping, allowed the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) the right to nominate RC Bishops.
The Vatican has not, either, protested against the forced abortions and mass sterilisation by the CCP imposed on a religious minority (the Uyghurs), which is odd given that the RC Church is proud of its belief in ‘family values’.
But it is the values of journalists which should be celebrated, as they expose pedophile priests, and the fact that critics say RC institutions appear to endorse the incursion by Russia into Ukraine.
They don’t give “disinformation”..!
The memories of Phil’s astonishing decades long award-winning career in journalism (including examining the activities of big institutions) 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!
Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.
Tomorrow – as the Tory leadership contest hots up, Phil, repeats the story about how in one 24 hour period, a controversial BBC Radio Cymru (BBC RC) presenter approved of social media comments that the UK Prime Minister was a “liar”, it was “game over” for the Conservatives, and ones endorsing Welsh independence, but that they appeared to fly in the face of corporation guidelines which stress neutrality, as well as those forbidding offering personal opinions on politics or controversial subjects.