Critics have condemned as “appalling” and “immoral” that an article about the impact of the deadly coronavirus (Covid-19) on the Welsh independence movement has been published by a controversial ‘news’ website which claims it serves all “the people of Wales” is backed by public funds, and has Plaid Cymru (PC) supporters, it has emerged.
Two days ago a piece on Nation.Cymru (NC) said: “what impact will this pandemic have on the Welsh independence movement, which seemed to have been building up a head of steam throughout 2019?”.
It continued: “With campaigning on pause, we may in hindsight look back at 2019 as the year when the Welsh independence movement came to life only to be immediately stopped in its tracks by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020… The nationwide lockdown enforced by the UK Prime Minister has already led to the postponement of at least two of this year’s independence marches, in Wrexham on 18 April and Tredegar on 6th June… And when they look back at these months the public may well come to a view that it has largely proven the Welsh independence movement’s point that the UK Government does not have the best interests and values of the people of Wales at heart.”
But readers were deeply unimpressed.
One told The Eye: “This is incredible – people are dying and they are publishing articles about the effect on Welsh independence?! That is just immoral”. Another said: “It is a very serious situation – and the Government is grappling with the worst crisis we have ever faced bar war time – yet Nation.Cymru is putting out articles about what it means for the Welsh independence movement. It seems appalling to me”.
But NC have been no stranger to controversy.
The website failed to cover the news that Plaid Cymru (PC) did not declare large amounts of money, but DID publish a piece about the Tory party showing it in an extremely bad light, yet the site claims it is a “News service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales”, and receives an enormous grant of taxpayers’ money from the Books Council of Wales.
Some readers of NC have said the site is “biased”.
On the NC Facebook site one critic said: “It’s a biased online site for some of the people of Wales”. A further one stated: “If people are going to criticise one group they need to consider the actions of others, otherwise its called hypocrisy… we need to ensure all sides play by the rules”.
The lengthy ‘report’ on contentious NC about the Conservative Party proclaimed: “More than half of donations received by new Conservative MPs in Wales came from secretive fundraising clubs based in the south-east of England”.
Yet the story that NC omitted to cover, but received huge media attention in other outlets, was that PC had been fined tens of thousands of pounds after not declaring money from public coffers.
This was The BBC report: “Plaid Cymru has been fined £29,000 for failing to report cash it received from taxpayers’ funds worth nearly £500,000. The Electoral Commission said over a two-year period Plaid had omitted 36 separate sums from quarterly reports. Plaid had failed to declare cash from the House of Commons authorities, and some cash from the Electoral Commission.”
The ‘Editor’ of the site which did not publish those details has also faced other controversies.
The CV of Ifan Morgan Jones, states: “I am the BA Journalism Course Leader at the School of Creative Studies and Media at Bangor University, and lecture on the subject of practical journalism”. But nowhere in the details is mentioned qualifications by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), the accepted body for formally accrediting journalists.
At least one of his books has been ‘relisted’ on ebay which says: “If your item doesn’t sell the first time you list it”.
Dr Jones has said on Twitter our disclosures of strong links to PC were “just nonsense”. He told a critic: “I set it up myself off my own bat.”.
But Dr Jones should know as a lecturer in ‘journalism’ at Bangor University’s Department of Creative Studies and Media, on a course which is not accredited by the NCTJ, that everything published is supported by a raft of unseen evidence.
In his ‘journalist’ lectures Mr Jones presumably tells his students about the laws of libel, that all stories are governed by them, and that reporters have a large amount of evidence to back up each line.
On The Eye we have many years of experience in journalist law – our Editor Phil Parry has more than 36 – and are very aware of what can and cannot be published.
Dr Jones himself published on Facebook last December a picture of a postal ballot paper, with his pen pointing at the PC candidate, and has posted a photograph of himself and his partner above the slogan “I’m voting Plaid Cymru”. In July 2016 he helped promote a rally for Welsh independence in Caernarfon and said that Wales: “faced being part of a state which (is) being politically neglected”. Last September an opinion piece was published in which he said: “In an independent Wales, the future of our nation wouldn’t be decided by politicians completely removed from our concerns, like gods playing dice with our fate on the summit of Mount Olympus”.
Dr Jones adds about his website : “Much of the current money we do have to spend is due to support through the kindness of the Welsh Books Council. But such public money is thin on the ground, and ideally, no news site should be dependent on grants that, in the current financial climate, may not last forever.”
Meanwhile the Books Council of Wales (BCW) declares: “The Books Council of Wales is a national body, funded by the Welsh Government, which provides a focus for the publishing industry in Wales.”
Dr Jones has worked as deputy editor for the Welsh magazine Golwg, and as an editor of the news website Golwg 360. It is evident that he sees NC as a great success, and wrote on the site in January: “… the success Nation.Cymru has enjoyed… was beyond my wildest dreams…”
Even so Dr Jones says that NC is keen to receive more cash, and on his website he has urged readers: “If just everyone who had attended the Yes Cymru march (in support of Welsh independence) over the last year gave us £5 a month we would be raising over half a million pounds a year”.
Recent opinion polls have not been good news for him, as the results have had to be ‘spun’. A St David’s Day poll last month was ‘reported’ in NC with the headline saying that “Support for Welsh independence has risen again”, because it was at 11 per cent whereas last year it was seven per cent.
The BCW too has made headlines. In 2013 it was reported in the UK media, that over the five years before, the BCW had received £39m of taxpayers’ money, with another £3.85m going to Literature Wales (LW).
In the same year a spokesman for WG said funding for the BCW had been cut to £4.1m and added: “This funding is channelled towards supporting the publishing industry in both Welsh and English languages. Detailed monitoring arrangements are in place to ensure that this funding is spent appropriately. Book sales through the Welsh Books Council distribution centre saw an increase in the last financial year which is very encouraging given the current financial climate.”
Meanwhile the Welsh Government (WG) has just announced £750,000 of additional funding for the Books Council of Wales (BCW) to invest in a new digital system to manage the sale, supply and distribution of books. The BCW will also receive additional capital funding of £145,000 during the current financial year.
Emergency funding worth £150,000 to help the Welsh books sector to weather the coronavirus crisis was saluted by the BCW.
Helgard Krause, Chief Executive of the BCW said it “warmly welcomed” the extra money.
The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism (formerly a leading figure in PC), Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said that he was “delighted” to support the BCW to invest in this sector of the Welsh economy. “This (the original additional funding) will be a significant boost to the Books Council of Wales but also the whole publishing industry in Wales,” he said.
Yet the ‘whole publishing industry in Wales‘ did not publish a piece examining the impact of a deadly virus and lockdown on the Welsh independence movement.
Only NC did that…
Our Editor Phil Parry’s memories of his astonishing 36-year award-winning career in journalism as he was gripped by the incurable disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major new book which was not supported by the BCW ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now! The picture doubles as a cut-and-paste poster