Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Bowen and Bashar Interview

Jeremy Bowen has interviewed Bashar al-Assad. See the link below:

Bowen and Bashar

Monday, February 02, 2015

Al Jazeera Journalists' Release

Peter Greste – one of three Al Jazeera journalists to be imprisoned in Cairo in December 2013 – was released yesterday and deported to Cyprus, after exactly 400 days in prison. Greste, an Australian, along with Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy, had been sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of aiding a terrorist group despite widespread international condemnation of the trial; whilst Egyptian national Baher Mohamed had been sentenced to an extra three years for also possessing a single bullet. In all three cases, the sentences had been overturned and a retrial ordered by the Court of Cassation. President Sissi had acknowledged the negative light in which the sentences have been seen abroad and in November he passed a new decree allowing him to deport foreign defendants, seemingly to deal with the case. As a result, Greste’s deportation has now been possible and it looks likely Fahmy will also be deported in the next few days; both Fahmy’s fiancé and Canada’s foreign ministry have reported that Fahmy’s deportation is in the final stages, although no official statement has been made on the fate of either Fahmy or Mohamed. Mohamed, however, does not possess a foreign passport, making his release much more complicated and uncertain.

The timing of Greste’s release is surprising given that militant attacks in Sinai on Thursday had killed over 30 members of the Egyptian security service and left over 100 wounded and Sissi’s government seems as threatened as ever by the prospect of Islamist attacks. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the ‘State of Sinai’, also known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis[1]  - a group who have pledged allegiance to ISIS according to the US-based organisation, SITE Intelligence but who have also in the past denied having any affiliation with ISIS. A statement signed by the group and released on their twitter account, claimed the attacks were carried out under the title “We Will Have Revenge” for the women and girls held in government prisons. In response, Sissi claimed that “we will avenge everyone who sacrificed his life for his country” and a statement was released by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Armed Forces on Facebook claiming that operations against Sinai militants will be stepped up. So the recent increase in tension and bloodshed between Sissi’s government and the Muslim extremist groups makes the timing of Greste’s release unusual, particularly given Al Jazeera’s perceived past support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian authorities see the Brotherhood and extremist groups as having no distinction. This has led Sissi to blame the Brotherhood for the attacks in Sinai, despite the State of Sinai claiming responsibility.

There was a ruling today, by the Egyptian court, to uphold the death sentences of 183 members of the Muslim Brotherhood charged with the killing of at least 11 police officers in the town of Kerdasa, on 14th August 2013. Kerdasa is a small town near Cairo, in the Giza Governate, an area where Morsi had received significant support. The attack occurred following Egyptian forces violently dispersing protesters gathered in Cairo in support of former president Morsi – who was ousted on the 3rd July 2013. Militants fired rockets at the police station before raiding it and killing the police officers. The officers’ bodies showed signs of mutilation and torture. The initial sentence was issued against 188 defendants in December before it was sent to the Grand Mufti for review. Of those, two were acquitted and one (a minor) given a ten year sentence, whilst two others had passed away, leaving 183 facing death sentences. 34 of the sentences upheld were done so in absentia. Defence lawyers claim that the defendants were held in metal cages during the trial and excluded from the courtroom and also that any effort to find individual guilt was overlooked.

[1] ‘Supporters of the Holy House’ or ’Supporters of Jerusalem’ – A Sunni extremist group, based in Sinai, that emerged after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. They initially focused on attacking Israeli interests but have subsequently turned their attentions to Sissi’s government, including an assassination attempt on interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim, in Sept 2013, and the October attacks on Egyptian military that killed over 30 soldiers.

Thursday, January 08, 2015


In view of today's events, we at the International Communications Forum and at the International Media Council of the Next Century Foundation wish to affirm that:
We fully understand the need to respect the other and the offence that some may cause with the use of unbridled satire.
We affirm that freedom of the press is one of the four great freedoms, these being: Freedom of Religion; Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want; and Freedom of Expression.
And we condemn, in the strongest terms possible, the murders today in Paris.
We all seek a fairer and more considerate world. But the action today undermines our most basic ideals held sacred by all generations.
We further extend our deep sympathy to the families of those present at Charlie Hebdo who were killed so unconscionably today and wish a speedy recovery to all those injured during the atrocity.

The International Communications Forum

UK: 4 Vincent Square, London SW1P 2LX. Phone: +44 207 821 6566 london@ncfpeace.org
USA: 190 Longhill Street, City of Springfield, MA 01108 america@ncfpeace.org

YouTube NCFpeace / Twitter @ncfpeace

Friday, July 25, 2014

The need for highest standards in brave new world exploding with social media

William Morris reflects on the current state of media ethics on becoming Chairman of the International Communications Forum (ICF)

Few are old enough to remember the heady days before the newspaper revolution when computers replaced hot metal. But having been brought up in and around newspapers as a copy boy, I can remember the smell of the ink and the dirt and the clatter of the little presses and the deafening hum of the big monsters that rolled rivers of newsprint three stories into the air and back down again. For many of us those days are gone. Gone too are the great teams of investigative journalists. The Sunday Times’s ‘Insight’ team was, perhaps, the last of these but even they have long disappeared into the mists.
In those days who were the guardians of ethical journalism? The broadsheet proprietors cared about their reputations. And even the tabloid newspaper owners cared in some measure. Editors in chief took pride in the standards they adhered to. Even subeditors had a conscience, though then as now they could be staggeringly ruthless.
Have things changed? Well yes and no. Men and women of conscience still run some of our newspapers. Men and women of vision and mission still comprise many of our radio and television broadcasters and newspapermen. But the pressures are perhaps greater. For most journalists, spending a week working on a story is a luxury they can only dream of. Was it ever thus? Perhaps they always had to churn out copy but there was, I believe, more space for investigative journalism, if only because proprietors once had deeper pockets and more journalists to share the load.
Many Western papers have less than little time to sub copy anymore because of ever tighter budgets. There are the exceptions such as the Washington Post with its awesomely professional and well-staffed Foreign Desk (I must confess a bias because my daughter works for the Post) but such exceptions are rare.
What then does this mean for ethical journalism? It means that the journalist becomes the guardian of media ethics. It is a world in which we each take our own responsibility for what we do. We no longer have the moral conscience of the sub or the editor to fall back on. The editors themselves – for the most part – are still great women and men of conscience and principle. They still do heroic work shaping the overall vision of their publications. The great names are there. Alan Rusbridger, Editor in Chief of the London Guardian is a classic current example. But can Rusbridger even begin to read more than a small proportion of the vast quantity of copy the Guardian churns out in its online and print editions? Most modern editors are simply too busy to concern themselves on a day-to-day level with being the conscience of their junior reporters.
So, is xenophobia an issue? Sure it is. Media stories about classic pariah groups, the gypsies, the Romanians, the Arabs, the ‘Islamists’ and so forth, can descend into obscenity so easily and we don’t even notice. One Jewish writer I know wrote a whole opinion piece titled ‘LONDINISTAN’ and does not understand, to this day, that the mere headline (and it was of her choosing) was pejorative. She would be horrified to be called racist and, of course, she is not, just more than a little thoughtless perhaps.
In a similar vein, is desensitisation to violence an issue? Of course. Here in the West we think nothing of broadcasting images of brutality and torture if they are screened past the ‘9 o’clock watershed’, with little consideration given to the fact that many pubescent, vulnerable children are unlikely to head for their beds before midnight. And in the rest of the world things can be worse. The images of blood and violence on television sets in countries such as Israel and Iraq are breeding a generation desensitised to gore to such a degree that it is truly flabbergasting.
Is disinformation an issue? Absolutely. The current Syrian civil war has bred such a flood of intelligence agency feeds, as did the Iraq war little more than a decade ago, that it is near unbelievable. And most, I repeat, most, of these stories are published without serious qualm or question. My late father, a newspaper editor himself, had a maxim: ‘A story without a source is a source of trouble.’ This maxim we still use in our Media Ethics Code. He had a far better one too. It ran: ‘When in doubt, cut it out.’
So where do we go from here? Perhaps the key is that a number of prominent journalists make a public commitment to truth in Gandhiesque fashion. An affirmation that Absolute Truth is their standard. Or is that too extreme? Too fanatical? Undoubtedly we need to do something. If the editors can no longer always be our bellwethers we must find new heroes, new women and men we can point to and say: ‘They believe in fair play.’
Ethical journalism requires standards of vigilance that are unprecedented precisely because we are our own moral guardians and cannot lean on our bosses any longer. We should embrace that challenge with excitement. It heralds a better age. We are no longer children. We must stand up for ourselves. Gandhi once wrote (and I paraphrase slightly): ‘By experience I have found that people rarely become virtuous for virtues’ sake. They become virtuous by necessity. Nor is there anything wrong in becoming good under the pressure of circumstances.’ Raghvan Iyer, Gandhi’s main disciple, added: ‘Human life is an aspiration, a continual striving after perfection, and the ideal must not be lowered because of our weaknesses.’
Exactly! Herein lies a role for organisations like the International Communications Forum. We should extol virtue and excellence where we find it, through every means possible from the razzmatazz of the International Award to the private and personal accolade. And where necessary we should gently and respectfully cajole and criticise, through conferences and seminars if nowhere else. And we should support, nurture and foster media ethics, by doing everything from extolling the merits of media ethics codes to encouraging training in best practice.
Just as physicians and other health care professionals swear a Hippocratic Oath to practise medicine honestly, perhaps the ICF should promote our own oath of journalistic integrity which members of the trade could swear to in an effort to bolster internationally recognised standards of media ethics. After all, the world has changed. In a brave new world exploding with social media, demonstrations are called on Facebook, corruption is exposed in blogs, and reputations are destroyed by Twitter. In an era in which the internet provides an arena in which citizen journalists abound, it is the professional press that must adopt the highest standards of media credibility if they are to have a distinct place of their own, a territory that is truly theirs, in a world peopled with rumour and the viral tweet.
And it is exciting, truly exciting, that that should be the case.   

Monday, February 10, 2014


The Next Century Foundation wishes to issue a final call for nominations for the 2014 International Media Awards. With shortlisting due to take place by mid-February, nominations sent in after Friday, 14 February will not be considered. This year's awards will be held on May 10, 2014.

The International Media Awards are presented at a ceremony held each year by the International Council for Press and Broadcasting, a subsidiary body of the Next Century Foundation. The awards honour editors, journalists, TV producers and broadcasters in recognition of the vital role that the media can play in fostering understanding, the essential pre-requisite of any peace process.

The Award categories are: Lifetime Achievement, Peace Through Media, Cutting Edge, Breakaway, New Media, Photography and Visual Media, and Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting and Media

Please send your nominations, and if possible a short biography of the nominees and why you are nominating them, to the International Media Awards via ncfmediagroup@aol.com.

For further information about the International Media Awards, visit www.internationalmediaawards.org

You may remember that the 2013 winners were:
Peace Through Media Award
  • PAT LANCASTER, editor of Middle East Magazine.
  • IGAL SARNA, columnist for Yediot Ahronot.
  • WAEL DAHDOUH, Al Jazeera correspondent in Gaza.
Photography and Visual Media Award
  • DON MCCULLIN, photojournalist and author. 
Lifetime Achievement
  • BENJAMIN POGRUND, contributor for the Guardian and previous sub-editor on the Independent foreign desk.
The Cutting Edge Award
  • LINA SINJAB, Damascus correspondent for the BBC.
  • RACHEL SHABI, journalist and author of ‘Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands’
  • NABILA RAMDANI, columnist and broadcaster for BBC and Al Jazeera.
The New Media Award
  • MAHMOUD AL YOUSIF, blogger. 
The Breakaway Award
  • GEORGE BUTLER, war artist.
Award for Outstanding Achievement
  • RANIA ALATTAR, journalist for BBC Arabic.