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BBC 5 Live: Kavanagh says Sun police investigation is ‘wildly disproportionate’ to potential offences

February 13th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

In a series of interviews to UK broadcast media today, Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor at the Sun, criticised what he sees as police heavy-handedness during the dawn arrests of key Sun staff over the weekend.

In the above clip, Kavanagh gives his most controversial interview of the day to BBC Radio 5 Live’s Richard Bacon, criticising both the police operation and News Corporation’s own investigation by its Management Standards Committee. “There’s never been a bigger crisis than this [at the Sun]“, Kavanagh tells Bacon.

Here’s the full transcript:

RB: “Trevor Kavanagh told me earlier about the atmosphere in the Sun news room.”

TK: “Well despondent I would say and a feeling of being under siege I suppose.”

RB: [paraphrase] Re: Rupert Murdoch planning to fly in later this week – will he face a hostile newsroom?

TK: “Well I think the newsroom is full of people who feel deeply unhappy about the way that their colleagues, who they worked alongside for sometimes decades and who they respect and admire as supremely professional operators, have ended up being arrested, searched, put on police bail and suspended from their duties and so there is a huge amount of anger at the fact that this has happened. And, as I would point out, not a single one of them has been charged, let alone tried or convicted.”

RB: “Do some people at the Sun feel as though their parent company has hung them out to dry a bit?”

TK: “Well there’s certainly a mood of unhappiness that the company’s proudly, certain parts of the company, not News International I hasten to add, not the newspaper side of the operation, are actually boasting that they’re sending information to the police which would put these people I’ve just described into police cells.”

RB: “Forgive me, I know the structure of the company is quite complex, when you refer to another bit of the company, what does that mean, what are you talking about?”

TK: “Well there is a parent company, News Corporation, and that has set up this management committee to look into the evidence, the documentary evidence and so on, if there is any, against any members of staff. Now I think it’s fair to say that we are not opposed to the fact, that we are co-operating with the police, that’s what we should be doing and I think that if we are to get through this we need to provide them with all the co-operation we can. I think that perhaps what we best do is if we left them go through the evidence and found out what they can.”

RB: “That word ‘boasting’, what do you mean by that?”

TK: “Well I meant that when the arrests were made it was made clear that they had been arrested on the basis of evidence provided by this management committee.”

RB: “Are you saying that they shouldn’t have provided that evidence, they should have let the police come for that evidence?”

TK: “Well I think that, I don’t know how it works frankly but it does make us feel, make people in the company feel, that evidence which as of far as we know, I have to point this out, that on the basis of the evidence that’s been suggested to those who have been arrested so far, is pretty flimsy stuff. I can’t describe it in any further detail than that but it doesn’t really stand close scrutiny and people are wondering what on earth is happening.”

RB: “A lot of the evidence has come from the parent company now. It gets complex because I know that a lot of emails have been handed over. These are emails that were thought to be missing and now have been recovered and there’s something like I think 11 million of them. When you say the evidence is flimsy are you saying you more or less know exactly what evidence the police have at the moment?”

TK: “No I don’t and I’m not going to go any further into what evidence may or may not be available.”

RB: “Why do you say it’s flimsy then if you don’t know?”

TK: “Well because I have been told what the police have been asking about and those, you see the people that have been arrested have been told why they have been arrested and on the basis of that I would say that the evidence is flimsy. What other evidence is about I simply don’t know but my point today is that this police operation is wildly disproportionate with what might be the potential offences that may or may not have been committed.”

RB: “How many police are involved in this investigation?”

TK: “You have 171 officers who are involved in three separate investigations and this is the biggest single police operation in the history of British policing. It is bigger than the operation on the Pan Am Lockerbie bombing, it’s far, far bigger, totally dwarfs the operation on Milly Dowler and nobody’s died, nobody’s committed any hideous offences that I’m aware of or even been suggested as having committed such offences. It does seem to me wildly disproportionate that these police officers are raiding people’s homes with up to 20 officers at a time, ransacking their homes, going through their personal possessions, carting off sacks of paper after a dawn raid. It’s completely out of proportion.”

RB: “Why do you think it’s got here, why do you think that the operation is on such a scale, is it partly about the police trying to recover their own reputation do you think?”

TK: “I suspect that’s the case, they feel that they’ve lost a police commissioner and a deputy police commissioner and they now want to make it abundantly clear that they aren’t going to leave a single stone, floorboard, drawer, cupboard, Kellogg’s cornflake packet or any other part of a household untouched in their hunt for evidence that may or may not exist.”

RB: “Do you think the investigation would be smaller if News International had been more co-operative with the initial phone-hacking allegations?”

TK: “Well that may or may not be the case but this is not the point, the point is that as we speak 30 journalists have been suspended from their jobs, their careers may have been ruined by this and their families have been shocked and appalled by dawn raids by people acting I think in a disproportionate way when I think a polite knock on the door, perhaps after a phone call, would have unearthed precisely the same so-called evidence. I don’t know whether it’s evidence or simply other pieces of paper that’s in every household.”

RB: “But when I say co-operative in the first place I think that’s an important point because initially the company said it was all down to one individual and that turned out not to be true and they misled parliament, they misled the public, then they said these 11 million emails had gone missing whilst being transferred to the Middle East and now 11 million have been recovered. But News International may have played its own part in the police investigation being of this scale.”

TK: “Well that’s for you to suggest and it’s…”

RB: “I don’t know that Trevor…”

TK: “Let me finish my sentence…”

RB: “OK”.

TK: “It may well be the case I don’t know, I’m not involved in any of that side of things and what you have to remember is that if indeed we were misjudging things or getting them wrong completely even, we have already paid a pretty heavy price for that have we not? We have had to close one of the biggest newspapers and the oldest and one of the best newspapers in the country and 300 excellent journalists have paid the price. Now, I think that we were talking earlier about the witch-hunt and I think that the view of those who are out to get us in this witch-hunt is that nothing will satisfy them until News International has gone altogether.”

RB: “Who are those people Trevor, who do you think really is out to get the company?”

TK: “Well I think one person quite clearly is Tom Watson, I don’t think he would deny it but I don’t want to go into any further detail about who… I mean you and others can easily decide who you think might fit the bill but when you have an operation as disproportionate as this you have to wonder what they’re up to, and why.”

RB: “And I guess just finally Trevor with the story about Rupert Murdoch flying back in this week to face his hostile newsroom do you think there is any chance at all that the Sun itself could go the way of the News of the World and get closed down?”

TK: “No. I think that the Sun is a paper that if it hadn’t been invented you would have to re-invent it then. I think that the fact is this is a great newspaper, it’s loved by millions, it’s even loved occasionally by the BBC. I think the idea of losing a paper of this sort would surely be the ultimate disproportionate act would it not?”

RB: “Mmm. It’s very successful as well isn’t it? It’s one of the few newspapers left that makes a lot of money I think as well.”

TK: “It is, it’s successful for a very good reason, it’s successful because it breaks great stories, it’s successful because it represents its readers’ interests. It’s successful because it has a vigour and a lifestyle and a life force which resonates through this country. It is the greatest newspaper in this country.”

RB: “By the way the journalists that were arrested, are they back at work?”

TK: “They’ve been suspended.”

RB: “Yeah, OK. Trevor, thank you…”

TK: “Indefinitely I have to say without any prospect of knowing when any further action is going to be taken, if any.”

RB: “Is that the right call by the Sun to suspend them or do you think that’s a bit harsh?”

TK: “Well I think that, I don’t think there’s much choice once this has happened but you know it’s hard for people like me who have worked alongside people we admire and respect for, in my case, nearly 40 years with the Sun, to see them languishing at home, frustrated and unable to do anything to defend themselves and I feel very sorry for them and I know it’s causing them and their families a great deal of anguish.”

RB: “I’m sure that’s right. I didn’t realise you’d been with the paper for 40 years, did you ever see the newspaper at a lower ebb than this, have you ever been through a bigger crisis than this at the Sun?”

TK: “There’s never been a bigger crisis than this.”

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Max Clifford and Phil Hall to appear before privacy committee

January 30th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Legal, Press freedom and ethics

Publicist Max Clifford and former editor of the News of the World and Hello! Phil Hall will take questions from MPs and Lords this afternoon.

They will appear before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions, which is currently questioning social media groups.

The four currently taking questions are: Lord Allan of Hallam, director of policy in Europe for Facebook; DJ Collins, vice president of global policy and communications at Google; Collins’ colleague at the internet giant Daphne Keller, who is associate general counsel at Google; and Colin Crowell, head of global public policy at Twitter.

The joint committee on privacy and injunctions was set up in May last year by prime minister David Cameron, with the aim, as outlined by attorney general Dominic Grieve, of looking at whether the current system of privacy and injunctions is working “and to consider whether we might make any changes that would make thing work better”.

The establishment of the committee followed the move by MP John Hemming to use parliamentary privilege to name a footballer at the centre of a privacy injunction, which had prevented the press from reporting on the matter but had seen speculation on sites such as Twitter.

Clifford and Hall are due to face questions at 3.15pm and can be viewed on Parliament TV

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Norway: Journalism school to revise curriculum in aftermath of terror attacks

Norwegian journalist and blogger Kristine Lowe has written a blog post explaining how an Oslo-based journalism school is considering revising the curriculum in the aftermath of the Norway attacks.

The potential development in a Norwegian journalism school should serve as a reminder to those running UK courses to assess whether they offer sufficient crisis training.

According to Lowe’s post, the suggestion to revise the curriculum of the Oslo and Akershus University College journalism school follows a survey of the Norwegian journalists who covered the 22/7 terror attacks, which saw a bomb damage the building of VG, Norway’s largest newspaper, followed by a massacre on Utøya island.

Lowe explains that the study was carried out by Trond Idaas, an advisor to the Norwegian Journalist Union, who “has also written a masters thesis on the experiences of journalists covering the Tsunami in 2004″, adding that “he feels it is very important that crisis reporting becomes an integral part of journalism training”.

Idaas’ research reportedly found that 40 per cent of the journalists covering the tragic events on 22/7 had less than five years of journalistic experience, July being in the middle of the summer holidays in Norway, as Lowe explains.

She states:

This finding has, according to Journalisten, been an important reason for the journalism school at Oslo and Akershus University College to suggest making crisis reporting an integral part of its bachelor degree. Also, there were widespread public reactions to the use of live broadcasts from Utvika on 22/7, when some of those intereviewed quite obviously were in a state of shock.

Idaas said integrating crisis reporting in the curriculum, such as suggested at Oslo and Akershus University College, is “quite revolutionary and not even widespread internationally”.

That seems to be true in the UK. A quick and straw poll carried out via Twitter, in which we asked journalism students and lecturers whether universities currently include classes on how to report on terror and catastrophes, suggests crisis reporting is not included in the training offered by many journalism courses. Some courses, including one at City University, do offer some guidance and advice.

Are you aware of a journalism school that trains journalists in crisis reporting? Do you think training should be offered more widely? Leave a comment below.

Kristine Lowe’s post is at this link.

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Index: Hungary faces squeeze on freedoms

Copyright: Zselosz in Flickr. Some rights reserved

Sándor Orbán, the director of the South East European Network for Professionalisation of Media, reports for Index on Censorship on the raft of new laws passed by the ruling Fidesz party and the threat to democracy and media freedom.

The new constitution put an end to liberal democracy in Hungary. It was pushed through the parliament without any public discussion by a populist prime minister, who used his party’s super-majority to rush the legislation, passed in only few weeks last spring.

Hundreds of controversial new laws — including the ones on media — have been passed since the Hungarian Civic Union, Fidesz, came to power in 2010. Their election has led to the elimination of many of the checks and balances in the democratic system.

See the full post on Index at this link.

See Journalism.co.uk’s full coverage of Hungary’s controversial media law reform at this link.

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Press v politicians: can tabloids still take on the over-mighty?

January 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Politics, Press freedom and ethics

Image by DanBrady on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Imagine a top tabloid newspaper supported a leading ‘non-Westminster’ politician through his difficult divorce. Instead of printing hard-hitting stories about the moral duplicity of this very Christian politician, it publishes soft-focus, upbeat articles about his lovely new wife and their joyous life together. The politician goes on to become a leading national figure, but then the tabloid discovers a story of his corruption when he was back in the regions. The politician rings up the tabloid editor to threaten ‘unpleasant and public consequences’ if they publish. What happens next?

The Leveson inquiry has not really got to grips with this aspect of media practice. Never mind the law or the codes, feel the power. In the past, commentators like John Lloyd felt the press had become too mighty and could make or break politicians and even determine elections. Then during the Blair/Campbell years it was felt the pendulum had swung the opposite way. Perhaps some people could imagine Peter Mandelson making a similar threat to a journalist at the height of his career?

In fact the scenario outlined above is playing out in the real world. In Germany, the President, Christian Wulff, was silly enough to try to intimidate his old chums on Bild. The tabloid ignored the threats and published the story of how Wulff had taken a very large secret loan from the wife of a local businessman. He then lied about it. The scandal now threatens to end the career of the man who is, in effect, Germany’s head of state. In the midst of the Eurozone crisis, this is not good news for Angela Merkel.

But the point is that – without subterfuge or phone-hacking – this German tabloid has turned on its former political ally. As the chief executive of Bild’s publisher, the Springer group, Mathias Döpfner said “whoever takes the elevator up with Bild will also take the elevator down with it”.

It is always difficult to make international comparisons. Is Axel Springer comparable to Rupert Murdoch? As I have written elsewhere, British tabloids are pretty unusual. But the question does spring to mind – could it, or perhaps rather, how would it happen here?

This is a cross-post from the Polis blog.

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Pakistan tops another 2011 journalist death toll

January 3rd, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Google Maps image of Pakistan

Pakistan has topped another 2011 list of countries ranked by the number of journalist killings, this one recorded by the International Federation of Journalists.

It follows being named the “deadliest country for journalists” in 2011 by the Committee to Protect Journalists in its December report.

The latest toll reported a total of 106 journalist and media worker deaths worldwide last year, in what the IFJ called “another bloody year for media”.

The organisation has written to the secretary general of the UN calling “for effective implementation of international legal instruments to combat the prevailing culture of impunity for crimes against journalists”.

The IFJ report found a total of 11 deaths in Pakistan, the same figure was also reported for Iraq and Mexico.

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Ten things every journalist should know in 2012

December 20th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Lists, Press freedom and ethics

Image by Tormel on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Here are 10 things every journalists should know in 2012. This list builds on 10 things every journalist should know in 2009 and 2010. It is worth looking back at the previous posts as the ideas are still relevant today.

1. Learn from Leveson. The Leveson inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the media has specifically scrutinised journalism and the industry, but social media (and therefore popular opinion) is also holding it to account. Journalists need to be sure that the means really do justify the ends for a story and must be crystal clear about the legalities of their actions. And they need to be more transparent about the sources of stories, where the source will not be compromised. If a story originates from a press release, acknowledge it.

2. Curate and share. Social sharing is a great way for a journalist to add value to their personal output (also see point 9).

You can share articles of interest to you by tweeting, adding curated links on your personal blog and using bookmarking site like Delicious or Pinboard.

Doing so will raise your social capital and help you to engage with your peers, contacts and your audience. Online influence and reputation may well become as important as your CV with the rise of tools like Klout and PeerIndex.

3. Invite others in. Your readers graze content, snacking from several news sites – so help them out. Include links to external content on your news site and post news from other outlets on your organisation’s social networks.

Although readers will still have a brand affinity, they are much more promiscuous in their reading habits, consuming content from a wide variety of news outlets. So acknowledge this and make your news site a destination not just for your journalism by providing links to content from other publishers.

4. Know your niche. Technology is driving the delivery of niche content. Where specialist titles once required consumers to hunt them down via postal subscriptions and visits to larger newsagents, niche content is now delivered instantly online and via apps and is more easily found. Specialise in an area that interests you, blog about the subject and share links.

5. Think multimedia on multiplatform. There has been much debate about tablets revolutionising publishing, but many magazines are simply pushing out their print version via non-interactive PDFs, aided by new delivery systems such as Apple’s Newsstand.

Publishers are opting to offer consumers a laid back reading experience in the knowledge that tablet owners read in the evenings when they have time to consume in-depth news. Publishers will also need to play to the strength of the tablet device, allowing interactive content such as video to shine, and focus on providing consumers with a reading experience that is different to that of a newspaper.

Journalists can be ahead of the game by developing skills in video, audio and other types of multimedia that can be used to enrich storytelling in apps and on other digital devices.

6. Data is not just for geeks. Data is driving journalism but many journalists are afraid of the numbers, spreadsheets and code. But all journalists need to know how to spot the nonsensical numbers in a press release, to be able to accurately make sense of statistics, and understand how to find a story in a study.

Take these examples of data used for investigative journalism from the Guardian: Afghanistan war: every death mapped and reporting the riots. But as well as in-depth data reporting, be aware of the free tools to get you started such as these ManyEyes visualisations, showing the number of women in British politics by party, of Manchester City Council spending or debt in the English premier league.

Be aware that data can be misinterpreted. Take this Express front page splash on a cancer study and read about the pitfalls highlighted by data journalist James Ball in this presentation given at news:rewired, a conference for journalists.

7. Focus on what works – do less to do more. No news organisation however well resourced can achieve everything. Work out what works and strive for excellence in that area.

Sometimes you need to take a step back to see where your priorities should lie. You may realise it is better to write one original feature than chase five stories already in the public domain.

8. Look to new off-site audiences. Don’t just focus on clicks on your site. If 10,000 people listen to your podcast on SoundCloud, 1,000 people click on a Storify or 10 people comment on a story on Facebook without visiting your site they are still being introduced to your title and brand and may visit in the future.

9. Add value. Readers will be able to get a story that is in the public domain from several sources so make your content count. Consider yourself a collective educator by adding value to everything you produce by including links and background information. Think of the way the Guardian’s liveblogs, such as Andrew Sparrow’s politics liveblogs, curate and add context. Act as a guide to your readers on your site, on Twitter and on other platforms.

10. Online communities are no substitute for offline communities. Journalists must still meet people, build trusting relationships and nurture real-world contacts.

  • For a day of inspirational ideas in journalism sign up to attend news:rewired – media in motion, a conference for journalists. It is being held at MSN HQ, London on 3 February 2012.
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Journalists shot dead in Somalia and Russia

December 19th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Last week it was reported that the founder of independent Russian newspaper Chernovik was killed after being shot at 14 times.

The BBC reports that Gadzhimurat Kamalov “was hit by a hail of bullets” as he left his workplace in Dagestanon in the North Caucasus on Thursday, referred to by the Committee to Protect Journalists as the “most dangerous place for reporters” in Russia.

According to the press freedom group, reporters from the title “have been routinely persecuted for their work”.

“The assassination of Gadzhimurad Kamalov is a massive loss for independent journalism in the North Caucasus, Russia’s most dangerous place for reporters,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “Russian authorities must immediately, thoroughly, and effectively investigate this terrible crime and bring Kamalov’s killers to justice.”

This was followed with news over the weekend that a journalist working for a Somali television station was also killed after being shot in Mogadishu.

According to a report by Reuters, Abdisalan Sheikh Hasan “was shot dead in the capital Sunday by a man wearing a government soldier’s uniform, witnesses said”.

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Reporters Without Borders secretary-general to step down in new year

December 14th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders announced this week that its secretary-general Jean-François Julliard will step down on 31 January, in order to take up a role as director-general of Greenpeace France.

According to the announcement from RSF, “the organisation’s board of governors is currently looking for a replacement”.

Until they find a successor for Julliard, who was first appointed to the position in 2008, the organisation’s current representative in Brussels, Olivier Basille, will cover the role.

In a statement Julliard said:

I am leaving Reporters Without Borders at a time when it is in good shape. I have been pleased with what we have achieved recently. The development of our cyber-censorship unit and our repositioning as a press freedom NGO in both France and Europe have been important changes for our organisation.

We have just opened a bureau in Tunisia for the first time and we are soon going to reinforce our activities in Libya. I hope that this development at the international level will continue. Reporters Without Borders will have more exciting challenges to face.

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Foreign Policy: One year on, Oleg Kashin is still waiting for justice

November 24th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

One year on from the brutal beating that left Oleg Kashin with a broken hand, leg, skull, and jawbones, Foreign Policy magazine’s Julia Ioffe talks to the Moscow-based journalist about the failure of the authorities to bring anyone to justice.

Given the volume of the outcry and the apparent sincerity and generosity of the official response, there was, one year ago, some faint reason to hope that this case might be solved. Kashin, after all, was a mainstream, well-connected figure. He was no Anna Politkovskaya, killed on Putin’s birthday in 2006, whose work was so obviously dangerous (Kashin compared her to a suicide bomber). Nor was he like the other journalists and human rights activists whose work in the Caucasus has brought Caucasus-style revenge on their heads.

He was no Paul Klebnikov, gunned down in 2004, or Mikhail Beketov, assaulted and maimed in November 2008, who went against powerful financial interests. Kashin wrote about youth movements. Yet despite the seeming harmlessness of his beat, despite his luck that night, despite the big names and big money that immediately kicked into action, despite the wide shock and wide media coverage — even state news lead with his beating the next day — despite all these advantages that Politkovskaya and Beketov and Klebnikov and Chervochkin and dozens like them didn’t have, in the year since the first photographers arrived to take pictures of the blood-spattered ground in Kashin’s courtyard, Kashin’s case has gone cold, exactly like theirs.

Read the full article here.

Yesterday was the first Day to End Impunity, to mark the second anniversary of the “Maguindanao Massacre” in the Philippines.

Related articles on Journalism.co.uk

More on Oleg Kashin

Second journalist beaten in Moscow

Coverage of Anna Polikovskaya murder

‘The problem with journalism in Russia is not censorship, that would be easy to deal with’

 

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