An extraordinary row has erupted on the website of the world’s biggest internet research tool with comments designed to undermine the achievements of our award-winning Editor Phil Parry, including the statement that he was “sometimes a TV presenter” even though he presented a weekly Welsh television programme for 10 years and fronted numerous episodes of network UK series’, it has emerged.
Mr Parry faces, too, a derogatory declaration that The Eye is “not yet notable” despite the fact our journalists have broken many stories which were taken up by the UK media, among them how a university in Wales had employed a criminal jailed for fraud.
Yet the Wikipedia website has also proclaimed that another ‘news’ outlet says it is “apolitical” even though it does not publish pieces against the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru (PC), and its ‘Editor’ supports independence for Wales even though only a minority in the country do.
But another commentator has responded to the incorrect assertions by hitting back and saying: “Parry deserves credit for his contribution to Welsh Broadcasting over a couple of decades sadly abrupted (interrupted) by a rare illness”.
The original remarks downplaying Mr Parry’s accomplishments, were made by a Wikipedia reader called ‘Sionik‘, and following the huge argument that the person provoked it was stated: “This discussion has been included in the list of Television-related deletion discussions. Capewearer (talk)”.
Unbelievably it was then published that his entry could be removed from the website altogether.
Wikipedia said: “This article is being considered for deletion in accordance with Wikipedia’s deletion policy”.
The astonishing spat also comes amid growing controversy that the Wikepedia page for the publicly-funded Nation.Cymru (NC) includes the claim from the person writing it that it is said to be politically neutral when its ‘Editor’ campaigns for Welsh independence and backs PC.
Critics have complained that the media ‘service’ (which states that it is for ALL “the people of Wales”) does not publish articles against the nationalist party, but DOES post pieces undermining The Conservatives (C).
Yet the Wikipedia page for NC declares: “The website states it is apolitical and will not support any particular candidate”. It does though admit too that: “Supporters of the service include Plaid Cymru’s UK parliamentary candidate, Mark Hooper, who says it serves as an opportunity for ‘Welsh news for Welsh readers’. It is part-funded by the (publicly-backed) Books Council of Wales (BCW).”
One contributor to NC recently stressed that every taxpayer supports the website, but that this state of affairs was acceptable. He said: “Having pondered this one, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s right to be relaxed about that”.
Others, particularly those who back parties apart from PC, may be less relaxed when the partisan nature of this ‘apolitical’ website is made clear.
The ‘Editor’ Ifan Morgan Jones put on Facebook (FB) 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”.
NC has also boosted the Welsh independence movement by saying, for example, that “Support for Welsh independence has risen again”, because one poll put it at 11 per cent whereas last year it was seven per cent. In a recent tweet NC proclaimed: “Welsh indy movement YesCymru sees membership surge as 500 join in five days”.
Its lack of journalistic neutrality is shown by the fact that NC failed to cover the news that PC did NOT declare large amounts of money, but DID publish a piece about the UK Tory party showing it in an extremely bad light, along with another tendentious item ‘reporting’ “Conservative AM has accepted more free international rugby tickets than any other UK politician”, yet the site claims it is a “News service by the people of Wales, for the people of Wales”.
Several readers of NC have said the site is “biased”. On the NC FB platform directly critical comments have appeared – one emphasised that key workers have been threatened. But another remark, which was supportive of NC, recommended burning down holiday homes. An angry critic has 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”.
These observations came after publication of items critical of the Conservative Party, but the site has ignored those about the misdeeds of PC
One lengthy ‘report’ about the Tories said: “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 elsewhere, 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.”
Meanwhile the reliance of Dr Jones’ website on public money has been been put centre stage by earlier interesting headlines. He has stated about NC: “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.”
Dr Jones has worked as Deputy Editor for the Welsh-language 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 than just public money, 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”.
Opinion polls have not been good news for him, as the results have had to be ‘spun’. A St David’s Day poll giving the figure of 11 per cent of people in Wales supporting independence, was ‘reported’ by NC as a rise because it represented a four per cent increase on last year. Another survey (which was NOT ‘reported’ by NC) put the percentage at 22 per cent for those who would like to scrap the Welsh Parliament/Senedd Cymru (WP) altogether and be directly ruled by London, which perhaps puts the poll in ‘support’ of independence into context.
The BCW too has made headlines. In 2013 it was published in the UK media, that over the five years before, the BCW had received £39 million of taxpayers’ money, with another £3.85 million going to Literature Wales (LW).
In the same year a spokesman for the Welsh Government (WG) said funding for the BCW had been cut to £4.1 million 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 announced £750,000 of additional funding for the 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 MS, 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.
As well as judgements about key workers being threatened, the FB platform of NC has also included intriguing statements which may give a clue as to the nature of the website’s supporters. One said: “I remember the sixties” which is a reference to a time when the paramilitary organisation Free Wales Army (FWA) was prevalent. Another proclaimed that holiday homes should “burn to the ground”.
Extremist comments were posted, too, after a link was published to an NC ‘news’ piece, which stated that: “The county of Gwynedd in the north-west has seen the largest collapse in consumer spending as a result of Covid-19 in both Wales and England, according to business data”.
But an aggrieved writer hit back and said: “I am genuinely concerned by the amount of vitriol that comes out in the comments on the Nation.Cymru posts, and it makes me feel that we are uncomfortably close to the political posturing of 1930s Berlin.
“We have had property damage (mostly to key workers cars) and threats and insults made to people (again, often keyworkers going about their legitimate business) because “they’re not from round here.””
A different contentious article on NC also appeared to have the Covid-19 lockdown in its sights, and began: “If it’s ‘coronavirus holiday’ season in rural Wales, the forecast is frosty for second home owners”, adding: “From spreading the virus and skipping lockdown to unfairly claiming business relief, second home owners have had bad pandemic press”.
But it is evident that Dr Jones wanted more money for a new service than any he might have received from the public purse, when NC gets a huge grant from the BCW which is itself funded by the Welsh Government (WG). Dr Jones tweeted on Easter Day to Hollywood superstar Michael Sheen that any support would be “gratefully received and the better the service will be”. In another tweet Dr Jones proclaimed that they had “already reached an audience of some 2m readers digitally”.
The tweets asking for money were also sent to UndebPlaidCymru which declares it is “The official trade union section of Plaid Cymru”.
In an earlier tweet, Mr Sheen asked about the cost and Dr Jones replied: “it’s very elastic – the more subscribers we have the more content we can produce”.
Dr Jones had also tweeted the ‘Donate’ section of NC which states: “We are now close to realise (sic) our dream of creating a lasting Welsh national media, by the people of Wales and for the people of Wales”.
Yet it may not be a ‘dream’ for people that a row has broken out on Wikipedia undermining our award-winning Editor, as well as the fact a publicly-backed website is said to be ‘apolitical’ when the man in charge openly supports PC and Welsh independence, or that comments on the FB platform of his website have supported a paramilitary group and recommended burning down holiday homes.
Perhaps this would be more of a nightmare…
Tomorrow – how Boris Johnson‘s decision to open the door to Hong Kong migrants is being widely applauded, but also causing huge divisions in his Conservative party.
Mr Parry’s memories of his astonishing 36-year award-winning career in journalism (which has been undermined in Wikipedia) as he was gripped by the incurable neurological disabling condition Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book which was NOT funded by the BCW, ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order the book now!
If you need something to keep the children entertained during these uncertain times (in Welsh) try Ffwlbar