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A sign the Tories are consolidating their Sovereign Dictatorship is manifested in the targeting of Journalists and manipulation of the Mainstream Media. In the Canary Article entitled, “UK police just arrested two journalists in one week,” they point out that, “The UK government likes to brag about how we live in a democratic nation that ‘supports human rights, democracy and good governance around the world’. But its support for democracy doesn’t seem to stretch to upholding the rights of journalists. In the past week, two journalists were arrested trying to go about their jobs, reporting on protests in different parts of the country. Meanwhile, the UK continues to score badly in rankings for World Press Freedom. At 35th in the world, it lags behind much of Europe. In September 2020, The Council of Europe issued a Level2 ‘media freedom alert’ after the government blacklisted journalists from Declassified UK. Taken together, this paints a grim picture of press freedom in the UK. And it’s one that should worry us all.”
The Canary report on a Journalist who was, “Threatened with a Covid fine & then arrested. Denise Laura Baker was arrested on Saturday 30 January as she attempted to cover the police evicting anti-HS2 activists from their protest tower in Euston. Baker is an accredited photo and video journalist who has been making a long-term documentary about the resistance to HS2’s high speed railway line. Police and National Eviction Team bailiffs began to evict activists on Wednesday 27 January, and Baker had been there daily documenting it. She told The Canary that there were lots of police on the Saturday of her arrest. In Baker’s opinion, the police were trying to remove anyone that could witness and document the actions of police and bailiffs. Baker said: ‘I was approached by a female officer who told me to leave the area. I informed her that I was working legitimately and showed her my NUJ press card. She told me that it was not a recognised card and that it did not prove I was working.”
The Canary recount her response to the officer, “I informed her that I had been there since Wednesday with no issues. She called over colleagues who said they were going to issue me with a Covid fine. When asked for my details I refused and explained that in accepting the fine I would legitimise their accusation of me being unlawfully in the area and give them free rein to keep moving me on. I then walked away from them and continued working. They followed me, insisting that they were issuing a fine and if I didn’t give my details they would arrest me, which is eventually what they did. They then cuffed me, put me in the police car and took me to Kentish Town station.” Baker concluded: “It is my belief that they simply wanted me out of the way so there were less witnesses to their work on that day. Journalists are classed as key workers in the coronavirus pandemic and Baker should, legally, have been allowed to carry on doing her job.”
The Canary report that this was, “The second arrest of the week,” saying, “But Baker wasn’t the first journalist finding herself in police cells last week. Freelance photographer Andy Aitchison was arrested on Thursday 28 January. The police came to his house more than six hours after he photographed a protest at Kent’s Napier Barracks, where hundreds of asylum seekers are currently being imprisoned. The police seized Aitchison’s mobile phone, as well as the memory card from his camera, and arrested him under suspicion of causing criminal damage. Commenting on Aitchison’s arrest, Baker told The Canary: Mine is the second recent incident where a reporter has been arrested while working. It’s extremely concerning that if a photographer or journalist appears to be on good terms with the activists, they are at risk of being targeted. These actions set a dangerous precedent.”
The Canary warn that, “Aitchison’s case is particularly concerning given the seizure of his phone and memory card. Journalists not only do not have to reveal their sources, but they are also obligated to protect them. As the NUJ states: The NUJ ethical code of conduct stipulates that a journalist must protect the identity of sources who supply information in confidence and material gathered in the course of her or his work. Normally if the police want to view a journalist’s footage for evidential purposes, they have to do it through the courts.” They report that, “In 2012, media organisations won a High Court battle against the police who wanted their footage of the eviction of Dale Farm. On winning the case, head of newsgathering at the BBC stated: Journalists must maintain their independence, must not be seen as evidence gatherers and must not have their safety compromised.”
The Canary say that, “Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. In 2019, The Canary reported how the Metropolitan Police arrested freelance journalist Guy Smallman while covering an environmental protest. And in September 2019, journalists from The Canary were obstructed and assaulted while covering protests against the London arms fair. At the end of 2020, the National Union of Journalists reminded the police to respect journalists’ roles as key workers after ‘hostility towards reporters and photographers’ who were covering anti-lockdown protests. The Canary contacted the Metropolitan Police for comment on Baker’s case. But it had not responded to the specific case at the time of publication and instead referred us to the guidance from National Police Chief’s Council.”
According to the Canary, “UK press freedom is a ’cause for concern.’ Reporters Without Borders releases an annual World Press Freedom Index. It highlights that while the UK ‘champions’ media freedom, the reality is different for reporters on the ground. The organisation argues that: Despite the UK co-hosting a Global Conference for Media Freedom and assuming the role of co-chair of the new Media Freedom Coalition, the UK’s domestic press freedom record remained cause for concern throughout 2019. They say it pointed out that: During the general election campaign, the Conservative Party threatened to review the BBC’s licence fee and Channel 4’s public service broadcasting licence if the party returned to government. Reporters Without Borders has also highlighted how the current government has done its best to shut down the dissenting voices of what it calls ‘campaigning’ media.”
The Canary note Reporters Without Borders response as, “In particular, it argues that government bodies have used: heavy-handed responses to reporting on stories related to the Covid-19 pandemic. It continues: We are alarmed by the UK government’s dismissal of serious public interest reporting as ‘false’ and coming from ‘campaigning newspapers’. These Trumpian tactics are only serving to fuel hostility and public distrust in media. While high-profile cases like that of Julian Assange fill newspaper headlines, many lesser-known journalists, whose work is absolutely vital in holding the government and corporations like HS2 to account, are also facing persecution. We should all be horrified at these attacks on press freedom.” The case against Craig Murray is yet another attack on press freedom that we cannot ignore.
There is no doubt the public are being manipulated. In the Left Foot Forward Article entitled, “How the Home Office politicised a ‘migrant camp’ fire to satisfy right-wing media tastes,” Raoul Walawalker recounts how, “Priti Patel wasted no time putting out populist distortions following a fire at the weekend.” He says, “Hundreds of asylum seekers were told to form ‘bubbles’ and go into lockdown for ten days – despite over a third having coronavirus. They were asked to self-isolate while continuing to sleep and eat in restricted communal space indefinitely, in a former army barracks that was scheduled for demolition. The chance of some unrest seemed likely. As such, visiting charities weren’t surprised by reports of a fire at one building on Friday at Napier Barracks in Kent. The barracks was repurposed to house 400 asylum seekers in September and has caused concern among human rights activists.”
Walawalker reports that, “Some 14 arrests have followed investigations into the fire over the weekend. Separately, a journalist outside the gates on previous day was also arrested and later released. ‘Bad things are going on in there,’ he told the BBC about conditions inside the camp. The arrested journalist, Andrew Aitcheson, had documented a protest in which demonstrators threw buckets of fake blood over the camp’s front gates, describing the conditions as grim. According to the police, there was no evidence of organised rioting, despite it being reported as such by the Daily Mail and The Sun. Instead, there was a broken window and a building on fire. Within very little time, the fire at the camp was seized upon by Home Secretary Priti Patel as a way both of attacking the migrants behaviour through the right-wing press, justifying the ongoing hostile treatment, and impressing the tabloids and the hard-right, with Tory indifference to human suffering in relation to immigrants.”
Walawalker described how, “In a three-paragraph statement, she carefully made sure to reflect entirely where her sympathies rest, the readership of the Daily Mail, essentially. Take paragraph one for example: ‘The damage and destruction at Napier barracks is not only appalling but deeply offensive to the taxpayers of this country who are providing this accommodation while asylum claims are being processed.’ In this understanding, it is only ‘taxpayers’ who Brits should be concerned about, not the vulnerable who are in our care. ‘This type of action will not be tolerated, and the Home Office will support the police to take robust action against those vandalising property, threatening staff and putting lives at risk.’ Here, Patel is reducing the complexity of the issue, distorting the truth. The asylum seekers’ action was reduced to wanton vandalism, even though its actually their lives are at risk from Home Office policy. No serious injuries have been reported from the events.”
Walawalker says, “Patel went on: ‘This site has previously accommodated our brave soldiers and army personnel, it is an insult to say that it is not good enough for these individuals’.” He is critical of, “Another spin. She knows well that right-wing papers adore anything to do with the army and military history. But here’s the thing: there is no record of the building being used since the 1990s. It’s been scheduled for demolition with the land to be developed by builders Taylor Wimpey at a later date. Patel’s comments have drawn criticism from the charities Freedom from Torture and Detention Action, who quite justifiably have accused her of politicising the incident. In the meantime, the Home Office has started moving out some of the asylum seekers believed to have tested negative for coronavirus. It won’t relocate all, or say how many are infected. It would look bad in its favourite newspapers. ImmiNews is part of an organisation of UK and Ireland immigration lawyers.”
We need neutrality, robust scrutiny and accountability in our national Media, but the Tories are determined to stack the odds in favour of the Alt-right. In the Left Foot Forward (LFF) Article entitled, “Exclusive: Public opposed to ex-Daily Mail editor being lined up for broadcasting regulator role” they insist that, “An overwhelming 71% of the public believe it is more important for the chair to be politically neutral rather than influential in UK media and culture.” They say that, “Voters are opposed to the rumoured appointment of former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre as head of Ofcom by four to one, Left Foot Forward can reveal.” This follows the recent top picks to steer the BBC even further to the right as if their thoroughly biased coverage of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election wasn’t enough to seriously discredit ‘Auntie’ as a grotesque affront to UK democracy.
LFF say that, “A YouGov survey for the New Economics Organisers Network also shows that 49% believe the broadcast regulator should appoint a new chair through an internal recruitment process, rather than being appointed directly by the Government. The polling, first conducted in September but now published, show that 34% specifically opposed Dacre’s appointment, with just 8% supporting it. The polling comes as Boris Johnson is expected to announce the appointment of the controversial Dacre this week. An overwhelming 71% of the public believe it is more important for the broadcasting regulator’s chair to be politically neutral rather than influential in UK media and culture. Dacre, who has allegedly been lined up for the role to ‘target the BBC’ has previously been described as ‘the man who hates liberal Britain’.”
LFF elaborate on why the Tory pick is so controversial, saying that, “Under Dacre, the Daily Mail has been unsubtle when pushing its own brand of right-wing philosophy. Perhaps the best encapsulation of their worldview is the now infamous ‘Enemies of the people’ front page, in which High Court judges were attacked for ensuring Parliament had a say over the Brexit process. The paper, which campaigned fervently for Brexit, often had difficulty disguising its outright contempt for ‘Remoaners’, ‘saboteurs’ or really, anybody who is not a Daily Mail reader.” They warn, “it has been accused of fuelling xenophobic sentiment by running a series of frenzied articles on migrants in the run-up to the EU referendum. A 2016 study showed that the Mail had dedicated 122 front pages to anti-migration stories over a five-year period. Other Mail stories under his watch including taking on NHS workers asking for a pay rise, raging at so-called ‘benefits scroungers’ and negative reporting of working mothers.”
LFF explain Ofcom’s key regulator role, “Ofcom is the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. It regulates the TV and radio sectors. Stop Funding Hate director Richard Wilson said: ‘Under Paul Dacre, the Daily Mail’s coverage got so bad that they were banned as a source by Wikipedia and called out by the United Nations over their ‘unique’ hostility to migrants. The UK press is already the least trusted in Europe. The last thing we need right now is the ‘Foxification’ of our TV and radio too. But there are ways to challenge this: One thing we can all do is use our power as consumers and urge the companies we shop with not to advertise with TV channels seeking to introduce ‘Fox News style’ broadcasting in Britain.”
“Founding Media Reform Coalition member Des Freedman told Left Foot Forward that the appointment confirmed the ‘rampant politicisation’ of the tech regulator and media and tech policy in general. He added: ‘Dacre has no meaningful experience in broadcasting, telecommunications or broadband which are central parts of Ofcom’s remit. He has no experience of fostering or scrutinising impartiality which is supposed to be at the heart of Ofcom’s responsibility… ‘Our concern is that Dacre is a sop to the Tory right and a potential axeman who will run down the BBC and public service broadcasting more generally, without doing anything to deal with the very serious problems of concentration and elite influence that are undermining public confidence in our media system’. LSE professor in the department of Media and Communications Charlie Beckett told LFF that Ofcom has had ‘political’ appointments to its leadership in the past. ‘But it is primarily a very technical organisation with detailed procedures in regulating industries such as telecoms that are all about wires and pipes, not politics.”
“Ofcom is a very bureaucratic institution with lots of committees and statutory obligations. The Chair has little room for manoeuvre,” professor Beckett told LFF. But he added, “that media and technology has become increasingly political and Ofcom’s responsibility has extended to more sensitive areas such as online and the BBC. While Dacre is ‘a big beast’ in media and ‘a big thinker’, he has a narrow background and very little experience in the industries Ofcom works with, Prof Beckett said.” He added: “Clearly, this can be interpreted as an attempt to send a warning shot to the BBC and even the social networks and it will fuel the febrile debate around ideas of impartiality. ‘In practice, I am not sure he will be able or willing to have much impact on Ofcom itself or its policies. We are about to enter an important phase for UK media where the old regulatory structures and institutions are struggling to deal with the new information environment’.”
According to LFF Prof. Beckett did warn that, “’Power and industry structures are shifting and clearly this government wants to have a strong right-wing figure at the heart of the coming debate.’ It remains to be seen whether this appointment is just Johnson fueling the culture wars and throwing red meat to his backbenchers or if it will reshape the future of broadcast news. LFF reached out to Paul Dacre for comment. Polling by YouGov for NEON in an online weighted survey of 1,700 adults, fieldwork done 29-30 Sept. 2020. Edit from earlier version suggesting a ‘majority’ of the public opposed the appointment: word changed to ‘plurality’.” We should be alarmed by this Tory manipulation of our Media as history has proven the extreme danger of Dacre’s style of hateful propaganda, most notably with the demonization of the Jews in Germany under Hitler’s regime. Migrants and the Gypsies are already being targeted by a highly toxic Tory Home Secretary Priti Patel; public acceptance of persecution is deadly.
In the Skwawkbox Article entitled, “New ONS data show 570 education staff have died of coronavirus, but media claim just 139 as ONS top-line data hides majority” they reveal the deliberately misleading Tory manipulation of data. “Newspapers state death toll less than a quarter of reality as ONS age-breaks mean top-line numbers massively understate real cost. Media’s claim today would mean nine staff who died tragically up to June last year had come back to life. The so-called ‘mainstream’ media have massively understated the number of teachers and other education staff who have been killed by COVID-19 during the government’s wilful determination to keep schools open in the pandemic. A variety of media reported that 139 education staff have died of the virus, which would mean nine staff coming back to life compared to the death toll of 148 in June of last year. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data are split into the bizarre age brackets of 18-64 and over-64, and the ONS ‘top-line’ data said 139 staff 64 or under have died.” It is similar to the “died within 28 days of a positive Covid 19 test” data trick.
The Skwawkbox claim This figure allowed the media to claim that education settings carry no higher risk than elsewhere. But the real number of education staff killed by the virus is at least 570: Higher education teaching professionals 39 deaths; Further education teaching professionals 48 deaths; Secondary education teaching professionals 148 deaths; Primary and nursery education teaching professionals 85 deaths; Special needs education teaching professionals 14 deaths; Senior professionals of educational establishments 40 deaths; Education advisers and school inspectors 9 deaths; Teaching and other educational professionals n.e.c. 35 deaths; Nursery nurses and assistants 20 deaths; Childminders and related occupations 36 deaths’ Playworkers 4 deaths; Teaching assistants 74 death; Educational support assistants 18 deaths” The Skwawkbox claim that, “even without counting the over-64s, 217 have died. Despite this, the media have continued to claim the lower figure.”
Skwawkbox point out that, “TES has published the real figure, quoting the @ToryFibs analysis of the ONS data that revealed the real cost. The ONS, which was slammed just last week by the UK Statistics Authority for its presentation of data misused by the Tories to claim schools are safe, even before this latest data batch, also claimed today on social media that the death rate among education staff is no worse than the general population. But the National Education Union (NEU) revealed that Department for Education data showed that rates of infection among education staff is between twice as high and seven times as high as in the wider population.” They say, “every time data is poorly or misleadingly presented, the media are all over it to give the Tories a free pass or even, as with this week’s spate of front pages demanding that school reopen, pushing the government into actions that would allow schools again to drive the pandemic up and put teachers and the rest of us in grave and avoidable danger.”
The UK is indeed ‘world beating’ in one area: Political Satire; just as well, as without it most of us would have totally lost our sanity by now. This latest jingle on YouTube from PoliticsJOE is absolutely priceless for restoring faith in journalistic honesty with a truly hilarious, infectiously catchy tune encompassing the flaws and failures of Labour’s Trojan horse Leader, ‘Under New Management:’ Keir Starmer, “I Wanna Be Like You” #BalooLabour. Just one line captures the essence of it, “They’re claiming I’m a wet wipe, just a haircut without a spine’! It’s a must see; long live the British sense of humour, it will see us through adversity. Tory bragging over vaccine access is like poking the bear with a stick, as we ramp-up anti-EU nationalistic sentiment with our Tory dominated Alt-right Media compliantly doing the baiting; such poor deplomacy doesn’t end well. BBC and Media control was used to trick the Brits into accepting the incredulous result of the Covert 2019 Rigged Election; we need to Challenge and Investigate to Get The Tories Out! DO NOT MOVE ON!