After 23 years with the BBC, and 38 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), our Editor Phil Parry has (almost) become used to the extraordinary level of online abuse he now endures, especially when he questions murder convictions, but today more evidence of it has emerged.
In the past 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 (BBC CW) 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.
Sadly it’s happened again.
Once more on social media (Twitter), I have suffered extraordinary abuse, and I appear to be receiving a greater number of insults since I featured in Sky documentary films recently called ‘Murder in the Valleys’ (MITV) (see story tomorrow), which re-examine the notorious murders in Clydach near Swansea, of two children, their mother and elderly disabled grandmother, who were all battered to death one night in 1999.
This time I have been labelled a “liar” and another Twitter troll has attacked my “behaviour/personality”, attaching a screenshot of an earlier piece I wrote.
A different Twitter troll (who is plainly NOT a journalist, because otherwise he or she would understand the laws of libel), goes by the name of ‘Marshakey’, and has posted several abusive messages.
But comments like these fall into a familiar (if smaller) pattern. In the past my Wikipedia entry has been vandalised to include the words “tool” as well as “knob head”, and I was compared on Twitter to the comedy broadcaster Alan Partridge. The Wikepedia entry has now been restored to its original form, after officials removed the abusive words.
The Alan Partridge comment online was by a Sion Tomos Owen who posted a picture I had used, saying about my website, in Welsh: “There’s no way that this website (The Eye) is for real?! It’s as if a Take a Break (light magazine) story has been edited by Alan Partridge” (laughing emoji).
Even before the MITV films (which were excellent) the abuse had been at a lower level, although intense, with another remark concerning a television ‘reporter’ who had posted pictures of herself on Facebook (FB) or Twitter in skimpy clothes, typical of the insults I constantly receive: “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”.
Indeed accusations of being ‘misogynistic’ (which is the correct spelling) or ‘misogynist’ are a constant refrain, if factual stories are published with the subjects happening to be women, yet these are potentially libellous words, and the description is provably wrong.
In the past I have also been accused online (incorrectly) of being a “bastard” (many times), an “anti-devolutionist wanker”, a “liar” (also many times) a “little git”, and (correctly) a “nosey git”, “irritating”, or a “nuisance”. But these remarks come amid many others. Too many, in fact, to mention.
In one tirade a troll wrote to me on Facebook (FB): “You write total lies about people (The Eye – we only report facts), bully to the point of harassment and suicide, and will not answer a direct email? This is not journalism this is a mixture of Phil Parry (The ex journalist) and (others) you are pure scum!!!!! Let it be publicly known that The Eye does NOT care about people it just lies to make fictitious stories up. BULLYING, LIES, MENTAL HEALTH ABUSE TO NAME BUT A FEW!!!!!”.
In another he said: “I am have (sic) contacted you numerous times before asking why you consistently, stalk, bully and harass me? … You so far have asked the following for comments:
Abuser (The Eye have never said this man is an abuser).
Sex Offender (The Eye have never said this man is a sex offender).
Drug user (The Eye have never said this man is a drug-user, just that he has dealt in illegal drugs).
I have also been threatened with legal action countless times, and attempts have been made to close down my website.
I rarely sue (although I do sometimes) unless the online message is particularly outrageous, and contains a libel (which most of them do). Some can be rebutted in court using an “honest comment” defence (formerly known as “fair comment”), however most cannot, which means that any libel case is likely to be successful.
The people behind these insults appear to be unaware of the legal ramifications of their statements, and say the most appalling things online (which, of course, have been PUBLISHED to a third party so the rules apply). It seems to be easier to make insulting remarks when a button is pressed, than it might be to consider what is being said, put pen to paper, and find a stamp, in order to send a letter.
However in all of this I am not alone, and rank hypocrisy seems to prevail generally nowadays.
For example, the actions of the UK Conservative Government’s culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, MP, are HIGHLY questionable.
She has said on television: “I’m no angel on Twitter, nobody is, but I just would like to say that nothing I have ever put on Twitter has been harmful or abusive”.
This remark is bizarre in the context of past events, and it does not appear to square with the facts.
In 2013, Ms Dorries tweeted that her critics were: “scum bag liars”. The same year she tweeted to journalist Gemma Aldridge, that: “people who work for your paper are bottom feeding scum”, as well as: “your paper and it’s (sic) reporters are scum”.
In 2015, she called another user a “fuckwit”, and two years later she described a Scottish politician as an “utterly disgusting individual”. She accused the radio presenter James O’Brien of being a “public school posh boy fuckwit” as well as an “obsessive, sexist bully”, calling another Twitter user a “patronising knob”.
Five years ago she dubbed left wing people “snowflakes”, and was described on Twitter as being “part of the problem of online abuse”, not the solution.
She wouldn’t, then, be someone I would call on to tackle the kind of insults I receive all the time!
The memories of Phil’s decades long award-winning career in journalism (when online abuse was unusual at the beginning) as he was gripped by the rare neurological condition, Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), have been released in a major book ‘A GOOD STORY’. Order it now!
Publication of another book, however, was refused, because it was to have included names.