Simon Ostrovsky 130

I am pleased that Simon Ostrovsky has been released.  He is a decent journalist, who back on 30 October 2007 did a very good piece on Newsnight about the terrible child slavery compelled by the state in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan.  They had done some secret filming in Uzbekistan, which took much courage.

There was however one strange thing about Ostrovsky’s film.  I was called in to the Newsnight studio in the morning to do a pre-record piece on what I had witnessed of this terrible system of cruel forced labour.  I also recounted how I had reported it to government while I was Ambassador there from 2002 to 2004, but the British government had refused to take any action, as had the EU.

But none of my interview was shown in the programme, nor was I mentioned.  Instead a New Labour minister was interviewed and he was allowed to say, unchallenged, that the film was absolutely shocking and the British government had no prior idea this was happening; they would now look into it etc.  Needless to say they still did nothing, nor has anything ever been done to have child slave cotton banned from the UK.  Why do you think Primark is so cheap?

I do not know whether Ostrovsky had any editorial control over the decision to cut the interview which proved the New Labour minister was lying through his teeth.

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130 thoughts on “Simon Ostrovsky

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  • BrianFujisan

    Glad he is free Craig…

    was that a Simon Ostrovsky film…i saw that i was the same one …i searched ages for it again after first seeing it…could never find it again…well done Simon

  • John Goss

    You are an expert on Uzbekistan, actually having been there as our ambassador. You know about the slavery. My suspicion is that because you told the truth before they relieved you of your responsibilities it would appear that there was no need to ease you out if your opinions were broadcast. Anyway it was the BBC. And the BBC has an agenda. Hope at least you got paid.

  • John Goss

    Craig, that is disgusting. I provided a photograph of the energy block of Chernobyl to the Daily Mail from a Russian magazine called “Energiya” at the time of the disaster. That same night the BBC broadcast film footage of the inside of Chernobyl and the Daily Mail did not use the photo. I was however paid for it.

    It just deepens my disgust and mistrust of the BBC.

  • Resident Dissident

    If you had limited time and wanted to try and get something done about slave labour in the Uzbek cotton fields then I’m afraid most journalists would put an interview with an acting minister saying that he would look into the problem above one with a former ambassador who has no such power.

    It is still disgraceful that nothing was done in the end but that is hardly Ostrovsky’s fault.

  • craig Post author

    Resident Dissident

    I do not object to their not showing me. I do object very strongly to their allowing the minister to lie that the government did not know about the practice, when the journalists knew that was a lie, but still did not challenge the minister. Apart from any other consideration, Murder in Samarkand had already been published which details it.

  • John Goss

    RD, don;t you think it is disgusting that the BBC called in an expert and did not pay him, not even his expenses? I am sure you would want to get paid for giving an informed opinion.

  • Gary

    It’s a reminder that there is a terrible social cost behind cheap clothing. I saw the cotton fields in Uzbekistan. Conditions do tend to vary for the workers. It usually depends on how much pressure the local Administrators are under. I wonder if consumers saw the conditions some children work in, would it diminish their appetitive for cheap clothing?

  • BrianFujisan

    John have you seen the film Craig refers to… i spent hours looking for it…if it’s the same one…

    it’s brave as fk undercover… the most striking parts are when the kids are all taken from schools, which are actually closed for cotton farming… infants even..clutching their bedding, sent to the fields..WITH A POLICE ESCORT… brave filming

  • Resident Dissident


    Even so – if the journalist really wanted to do something about the problem and get a commitment from a government minister to do something about it, I could see that he might decide to go with that rather than spend the interview demonstrating that the minister was a liar (a position which they are usually pretty good at defending having had a lot of practice) and ending up with no such commitment. Not perfect but such dilemmas are quite common for journalists.

    Only trying to see the other side of the story – the real problem of course is that nothing has changed in Uzbekistan. The real culprits to get are probably the cotton buyers rather the retailers who in my experience do not get into direct buying of raw cotton.

  • Resident Dissident

    RD, don;t you think it is disgusting that the BBC called in an expert and did not pay him, not even his expenses? I am sure you would want to get paid for giving an informed opinion.

    It doesn’t look right – I am not privy to the conversations between Craig and the BBC to know whether or not the BBC’s behaviour was disgusting. Lots of people are prepared to offer their opinions to news organisations without being paid a fee or expenses – and you would probably be the first to complain if certain people were to demand such payments. Perhaps myself, Habba, ESLO and others should all demand a fee for your use of our handles on your blog – being a kind hearted soul you can pay mine to charity.

  • BrianFujisan

    John ya wee Beaut…

    Thank you…

    the second film was the one i was lookin for…

    But what a wee slimey cretin that Terry Townsend shit is…And yes great reporting…but the Pinnacle of bbc reporting… it went down hill BIG time shortly after wards…

  • Kelly ben Maimon

    Craig, could you please give me ISBN for Murder in Samarkand? Is it still on print?

    As a former chair, of a school governing body, passionate about education. Sounds to me, as though your book needs to be in the library, of every school, in the country. Why? Because even though I would categorically disagree with you in some areas, it does not stop me from respecting a remarkable character, who could quite easily have faded away. From what I have heard, you were a brilliant ambassador and still thought highly of, amongst your former colleagues. I am so sorry, you are no longer in that post. What a waste!

  • TonyF12

    I am surprised you are surprised, Craig.

    The BBC filters everything to suit political agendas imposed and enforced from elsewhere in their command food-chain. I know you are no fan of Putin, but some of the BBC spin on Ukraine and western meddling has been gobsmackingly dishonest. Similar issue to yours about this report. Some of the BBC reporting on Syria has been just as blatantly dishonest with falsified reports.

    We pay £145.50 for a compulsory annual licence for the distortions and lies they feed us. Instead of giving us value for money in telling the truth, managers upstairs are fending off the political class who control whether the BBC will continue to receive its licence money as a divine right.

    BBC News has turned into how Radio Moscow used to sound in USSR past times. In fact, it is worse because the modern day BBC lies are more glossily presented and in some circles they still retain an image of perceived honesty which they have now squandered. Not worth taking seriously except as a manifestation of what lies our government expects us to swallow.

    Remember the Jimmy Savile scandal blew up over manipulation of Newsnight reporting by senior BBC management disconnected from News.

  • John Goss

    Kelly ben Maimon 26 Apr, 2014 – 1:29 am

    Well said. Murder in Samarkand ought also to be in every university library and I have written to some departments of universities questioning why it is not there in this freedom-loving west.

    The ISBN is1-84596-194-3

    My only conclusion as to why the libraries of many universities, colleges and schools do not hold copies is the politics of the chancellors or governing bodies. For that same reason Robert Tressell’s great working-class novel “The Ragged-trousered Philanthropists” never gets onto any curricula. It is credit to you, and the others who make an exception to state dogma to make available worthy books, and if you still have influence perhaps you could encourage other governors to purchase this highly-readable book.

  • Mary

    Two versions of the same happening. Make up your own mind which one to accept, or maybe neither.

    Detained Vice journalist Simon Ostrovsky released in east Ukraine

    US journalist Simon Ostrovsky held by pro-Russian militia in Ukraine
    Vice News film-maker held captive in eastern city of Slavyansk, ‘suspected of spying’, says spokeswoman for insurgents


  • Mary

    Ha’aretz reports –

    Ukraine militants singled out American-Israeli journalist as valuable hostage
    Self-appointed mayor in eastern Ukrainian says separatists needs a ‘bargaining chip’ for leverage with Kiev.


    ‘However as time emerges, it seems more likely that he was deemed a valuable hostage due to his dual citizenships, American and Israeli, both of which have been emphasized by his captors in media interviews.

    The self-appointed “people’s mayor” of Slavyansk, Vyacheslave Ponomarev confirmed in an interview with a Russian website that he was holding Ostrovsky and said that “We need captives. We need a bargaining chip. Many of our comrades are imprisoned. Those guys [Ukrainians] are grabbing them, then taking them to Kiev and torturing them. So then, we’re doing the very same thing.” Other members of the militia currently controlling Slavyansk accused Ostrovsky of being a spy of Pravy Sektor, an ultra-nationalist Ukrainian party opposed to Russia.

    Both the American State Department and Israel’s Foreign Ministry have been trying to secure Ostrovsky’s release. A source at the ministry in Jerusalem said “the embassy in Kiev is inquiring with the local authorities what they know and to see how they can help. U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said “We are deeply concerned about the reports of a kidnapping of a U.S. citizen journalist in Slovyansk [sic], Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists. We condemn any such actions, and all recent hostage takings in eastern Ukraine, which directly violate commitments made in the Geneva joint statement. We call on Russia to use its influence with these groups to secure the immediate and safe release of all hostages in eastern Ukraine. We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation in and around Slavyansk.”’

    Ms Nuland and the cohort from the EU led by Ashton have certainly bitten off more than they could chew. A hellhole.

  • Resident Dissident

    For that same reason Robert Tressell’s great working-class novel “The Ragged-trousered Philanthropists” never gets onto any curricula.

    This is not true

    There was also a good radio adaption on Radio 4 a couple of years back.

    Given I have direct descendants who were house painters, and active in Labour politics, around the same time the book was written it is a matter of no small interest to me.

  • Mary

    An interesting observation of the words of a BBC News presenter in the papers review last night.

    then 13 minutes 30 secs – Martine Croxall ” are we here in the West in danger of believing everything the West tells us and believing nothing that Russia tells us because to many people what’s happening in Ukraine is a Coup – they have overthrown a President who was democratically elected and the interim government hasn’t been. We’re falling into those old traps aren’t we?”

    There was a telling pause then The American panellist who couldn’t quite believe her ears waffled on about rapidly changing circumstances and it being difficult to see.
    Then this ” I agree with you… a street rebellion is not exactly the ideal way to have a transition of power ” says the Evening Standard’s Martin Bentham ” we shouldn’t just topple people we don’t like through undemocratic means if we believe in democracy”

    Has the BiBiC realised that nobody believes their lies any longer and so has decided to throw in the occasional truth to sweeten the pill? Or are we looking at the end of a career or seeing whether the BiBiC treats her like Abby Martin at RT?

  • Resident Dissident

    Some syllabuses e.g. IB give the school/teacher to select some of the books that are taught – this is possible where part of the mark is based on course work. Some teachers do include Tressell’s work – but I would argue against it being made compulsory given that it would be a pretty soul less experience if it were taught by someone who did not believe in its central message.

  • BrianFujisan

    ” Has the BiBiC realised that nobody believes their lies any longer and so has decided to throw in the occasional truth to sweeten the pill? Or are we looking at the end of a career or seeing whether the BiBiC treats her like Abby Martin at RT? ”

    interesting Mary… NEW eh.

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