- Car trouble - 2nd June 2023
- Reading the riot act part two - 1st June 2023
- Reading the riot act part one - 31st May 2023
After 23 years with the BBC, and 38 years in journalism (when he was trained to use clear and simple language, avoiding jargon), here our Editor Phil Parry looks at how during times of war, the importance of having a free and independent media is more important than ever, to report FACTS!
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.
Earlier he disclosed why investigative journalism is needed now more than ever although others have different opinions, and how information from trusted sources is crucial at this time of crisis.
At this moment, first and foremost EVERYONE must have sympathy for the plight of people in Ukraine, after the invasion by Russia, but the appalling situation has also underlined another key issue.
That issue is how important it is to possess a free and independent media that is not state-run, to work out what exactly is going on! History shows us that this has always been a problematic affair.
During the 1982 Falklands War for example, Margaret Thatcher attacked not just Argentina, but also journalistic outlets that didn’t support “our boys”, and the BBC came in for a particularly heavy bashing.
Yet the public is entitled to know the TRUTH, and you are unlikely to get unbiased reporting, from media sources which openly back either side in a war!
This is shown in spades with the current one affecting Ukraine.
How successful or not, is the Russian advance? How tough and organised, or otherwise, is the Ukrainian military, as well as the civilian resistance? Is there strong support for, or protests against, the incursion by Vladimir Putin inside Russia?
These are just some of a vast number of issues to explain, and we are being given conflicting evidence, largely because reporting by an independent media has been constrained.
Let’s start with these vital areas I’ve outlined first, in the order that I have posed them as questions.
Some sources say a lot of Russian forces have yet to be used, and that the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is about to be taken.
We were told that Russian troops had entered Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, but subsequent reports appeared to contradict this.
The regional governor Oleh Sineyhubov said that Ukraine was “fully controlling” the area, declaring: “Control over Kharkiv is completely ours! The armed forces, the police, and the defence forces are working, and the city is being completely cleansed of the enemy”.
Seemingly chiming with this, some have insisted that the Russian advance has been slow, and their army failed to achieve its early targets. For example, a tweet from the UK’s Ministry of Defence, said the speed of the Russian advance has “temporarily slowed”, probably because of “acute logistical difficulties and strong Ukrainian resistance”. Nobody knows the truth.
What then about the second one – is the civilian resistance strong or not? Some say that it is, and a picture from a Sky producer in Dnipro, apparently showing hundreds of people waiting in line to join the Ukrainian armed forces, is EXTREMELY telling. But we can’t be sure.
Let’s turn next to the third crucial matter – how the war on Ukraine is being received in Russia itself.
A piece in The Economist about it was headlined: “Russians greet Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine with dismay, not enthusiasm”.
According to some outlets there have been huge demonstrations against it, in more than 50 towns and cities across Russia, with protesters chanting: “Net voine (No to war)“, and it appears that one of them, Greg Yudin, a left-wing philosopher, was so badly beaten by riot police, that he was taken first to a cell, then transferred to hospital. An independent media is now incredibly small in Russia, but one agency has reported: “Pain, fury and shame-these are three words that define our attitude to what is going on”.
In all, about 1,800 people have been arrested, according to the civil rights group, OVD-info, and there are even reports that Mr Putin is clinically insane.
It’s been published that: “…thousands of people gathered in Moscow, St Petersburg and beyond to participate in anti-war protests”.
But, again, the truth eludes us.
In Ukraine itself, where the media is MUCH freer, the display of extreme aggression by Mr Putin was openly reported.
Yulia Mostovaya, the Editor of the Ukrainian newspaper, Zerkalo Nedeli, declared: “When he (Mr Putin) talks about Ukraine he becomes consumed with a kind of squemish loathing. He hates everything about us”.
All of this does, however, fall into a familiar (if disturbing) pattern.
The ‘news’ channel RT (Russia Today), stands accused of being a mouthpiece for Mr Putin, and CANNOT be relied upon to offer neutral facts.
By the mid-2000s Russian news shows’ agendas were being set at government-led meetings.
In Russia a special website (another instance of the small non-state media) is devoted to the numbers of reporters that have been killed for simply doing their jobs. Sometimes the persecution has official backing. Mr Putin recently signed a law that will allow Russia to declare journalists and bloggers as “foreign agents” in a move that critics say will allow the Kremlin to target government critics. Under the vaguely worded law, Russians and foreigners who work with the media or distribute their content and receive money from abroad would be declared foreign agents, potentially exposing journalists, their sources, or even those who share material on social networks to foreign agent status.
Meanwhile much of the move into Ukrainian territory came from Belarus, which, as it’s presently constructed, is a client-state of Russia’s, and here, too, there is enormous cause for concern, when the ‘truth’ depends upon where it comes from. At least 16 journalists are behind bars, and riot police are singling out reporters for arrests and beatings at protests, as the media is intimidated.
On May 23 the embattled dictator Alexander Lukashenko, forced a Ryanair passenger plane to make an unscheduled stop in his capital in order to arrest the editor of an internet channel, NEXTA, that has been reporting on his crackdown.
Roman Protasevich, aged 26, was taken off the plane, which was flying from Athens to Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital. Citing what it said was ‘evidence’ that there were explosives on board, the authorities forced the aircraft to land in Minsk as it passed through Belarusian airspace on its way to neighbouring Lithuania, sending a MiG fighter plane to escort the Ryanair jet down. The state news agency later reported that no explosives had been found, and it seems certain that the incident was invented purely as a way of arresting the journalist.
The worrying news came after Marina Zolotova, the editor of Tut.by, an independent news website (again part of THIS country’s small, non state-controlled media), said: “Blue press jackets and press badges have become targets. When journalists go to cover a protest they cannot be sure that they will come home. This is a real war by the authorities against independent journalism and their own people.” It is clear that Mr Lukashenko is waging a war against journalists who have dared to report on his regime’s brutal crackdown against peaceful protesters.
At least eight protesters have been killed and hundreds more have alleged torture and rape, in police cells. Among the most high-profile of those is Ekaterina Bakhvalova, who was arrested on November 15 as she filmed riot police firing stun grenades into a crowd demonstrating against the death in police custody of a fellow protester.
If only there were more like Ms Bakhvlova as well as Ms Zolotova, and that their respective organisations were allowed to flourish, in an environment where an independent media is encouraged, not outlawed.
At times like this we need them more than ever…
Tomorrow – details of a major department store continuing to display a picture of shamed actor Johnny Depp to sell male perfume, despite him losing his bid to appeal against a scathing High Court ruling that he battered his ex-wife 12 times.
The memories of Phil’s astonishing, decades long award-winning career in journalism (in an environment where the media was FREE!) as he was gripped by the rare neurological disease 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