Author Archives: yorkierosie
I was munching my toast on Sunday morning wondering who this high profile resignation was to be from… tweeting away… having a little giggle at some of the funnier tweets… getting concerned about some other developments I was reading about… nothing unusual there then !! No announcement this morning ! Then around lunchtime the news broke that Rebekah Brooks had been arrested. It was pointed out fairly quickly that the arrest was by appoinment.. and of course all the usual questions were asked and opinions given!
The statement from Rebekah’s spokesperson soon arrived… who would that be ? A little bit of digging around soon revealed that the spokesperson was from Bell Pottinger… Aha ! A name I recognise well. Being interested in human rights and what’s happening in Bahrain, for example, I know that Bell Pottinger represent that government. Protesters are also aware of who is representing their govt… they have held up placards ‘You can’t spin the unspinnable’ ! Things got dangerous to the extent that Bell Pottinger had to close the office.. Lord Astor became involved according to Bell Pottinger but the UK Govt refuted that he’d praised the dialogue referred to http://is.gd/9DroZ0 Lord Astor is UK under-secretary at the MoD and he’s also Sam Cameron’s stepfather… So it might have been a bit embarrassing if, indeed, he had been involved… don’t you think ? http://is.gd/rzWEZW. If you’re wondering who Rachel Whetstone is – wife of Steve Hilton. Just click on her name! And here’s a bit more http://is.gd/sYJSYO from 2010.
Bell Pottinger was, of course the firm whose internship was auctioned by the Conservatives at their Black & White party. As well as in the daily news it also received criticism from within the PR industry http://is.gd/Ez2ZXE. Via auction, the internship was being offered to the highest bidder rather than on merit, giving opportunity only to the wealthy. And here’s a little bit of info about Lord Bell the man in charge http://is.gd/ppdcaL
Going back in history Tim Bell was brought in to help the troubled Lord Black to defuse the crisis at Hollinger which owned the Daily Telegraph http://is.gd/xsRaWx So he’s used to helping out media moguls… Black is now serving a jail sentence… http://is.gd/dWMBMj.
And of course there’s the whole saga surrounding Mrs. Duffy… who I’m sure you’ll remember. But Bell Pottinger ? Hmm… read on… you might find a few more names that you’re familiar with too http://is.gd/0Vs34Y
Oh and if you want to know how Bell Pottinger sell themselves http://www.bell-pottinger.co.uk/
Wonder what they can do for Rebekah? When she leaves the Police Station maybe Rebekah will take herself off to Champneys – she’ll be in good company as her husband Charlie Brooks introduced the kriotherapy chamber there… http://is.gd/2mZGpM. What’s that ? Well it’s something like a big ice cube.. I think… http://is.gd/ZRGhHK.
Oh but hang on hasn’t Champneys already been in the news today… http://is.gd/JdVmBr
As I write this blog, Sir Paul Stephenson has resigned from his post as Police Commissioner. How many more will bite the dust coming out of the murky world surrounding News International?
And if Rebekah doesn’t fancy Champneys ? She might just fly off somewhere for lunch ! http://is.gd/EXz1pp
All the information contained in this blog is publicly available.
Having watched with utter fascination the incredibly rapidly developing events surrounding the unravelling of the edifice that is the News of the World, I have taken some time to think about what the implications for us, the public, may be.
(A very comprehensive collection of Guardian articles, charting the hacking saga, is to be found on a Guardian page, here.)
Sunday will see the last printed issue of the News of the World. Whatever the reason for Rupert and James Murdoch’s apparently sudden decision to ‘dump’ this long-established title from their News International portfolio – and there are as many theories as there are pundits commenting ad nauseam on our screens, on the radio and in the press – will any of the events of this week make a difference to our lives or our democracy?
Will @mulberrybush, @MagNews and I be able to hang up our keyboards safe in the knowledge that all will now be well with the way the press conducts itself?
The corruption at the News of the World appears to have happened some years ago and those responsible will, with conscientious detection on the part of the Met’s new Weeting Inquiry, be eventually brought to book.
There are gloomy predictions that similarly dirty practices will be found in the way other papers developed their scoops and sensational stories.
But even were every journalist, member of the police force and private investigator involved in the phone-hacking or blagging arrested, charged and appropriately punished, we would still be left, in the tabloid papers especially, with examples of the kind of journalism which harms our democracy and well-being.
The media, including the press, can be very influential. They can manipulate opinion.
The writer of the extract below argues that media has little real influence and cites a very good example of a newspaper’s attempt to claim credit for swaying the public’s choice of Government.
From the Independent:
Leading article: Misunderstanding media influence
“The Sun newspaper decides to rescind its support for Labour and the political world is turned on its head – or so you would assume from the reaction in the rest of the media yesterday. Sky News spent much of the day reporting on the political reaction to the decision of its News International stable mate. One wonders whether this is a good advert for the media “independence” and “plurality” that James Murdoch spoke up for in Edinburgh in August.
…….All this is over the top. And not just because this change in The Sun’s support was heavily signposted and long expected. It is excessive because it reflects a hopeless misunderstanding about the power of the media.”
Written just before the last General Election, about the Sun‘s dramatic announcement that it was switching its support from Labour to the Tories, this article attempts to dispel any belief we may have as to the power of the press to mould opinion.
You will have guessed by the very fact that I help to run this blog, which seeks to help in a small way to bring about a fundamental change in the behaviour of certain elements of our press, that I cannot agree wholeheartedly with the anonymous writer of that piece!
A newspaper may not be capable of manipulating the political leanings of the population by clearly declaring its own. But what it can do, and there are many examples of this behaviour, is to publish confused, partial, even mendacious facts and data.
Below are a few of available links to articles and headlines over the past few months which have been proven untrue or inaccurate:
Factcheck: Is ‘Health Tourism’ Costing the Taxpayer £200m? – Full Fact
(Richard Littlejohn, Daily Mail)
Factcheck: Can the Disabled Claim ‘Free’ BMWs? – Full Fact
(Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Express)
For whatever reason, the careless or deliberate inclusion of skewed or inaccurate facts in articles and headlines is misinforming the reader and misrepresenting the truth. The use of incendiary, insulting, emotive language such as ‘scroungers’,’fiddlers’, ‘workshy’ etc.
When the public are fed the wrong facts, any decision they make, any opinion they develop is not based on truth or accuracy and the paper encouraging rage or contempt is guilty of breaking the trust of us all.
Most journalists are honourable and dedicated to bringing truth and honesty to what they write.
It is the practices of the few which need to be rooted out and exposed.
Hopefully, the promised Judicial Inquiry, announced by David Cameron yesterday, into the culture and practices of the media will ensure that freedom of the press will no longer mean freedom to peddle lies.
The parents of murdered school girl Milly Dowler were given false hope she was alive after the News of the World hacked her phone and deleted voicemail messages, the family’s lawyer said today.’
Articles Today from the News of the World:
RUTHLESS lawyers will be banned from berating murder victims’ families in court in the wake of the Milly Dowler trial.
Tough new rules to be unveiled this week will protect their privacy and dignity – with judges forced to halt intimidating, humiliating or distressing questioning.
The safeguards come in a revamped courtroom code aimed at ending the nightmare ordeal faced by thousands of witnesses and innocent victims of crime.
It follows the shameful treatment of Bob and Sally Dowler by lawyers defending their 13-year-old daughter’s killer Levi Bellfield.
The distraught couple endured cruel questions about their sex life, Bob’s porn collection and letters which showed Milly was unhappy.
Such vicious cross-examinations will be halted under a charter of rights for witnesses drawn up by Victims’ Commissioner Louise Casey.
She wants to tilt the justice system back to give victims at least equal status with the rights of suspects.
She said yesterday: “I see lobby groups and campaign organisations in droves on the offender side. Yet victims struggle to get heard.”
Ms Casey will hand her 60-page report to Justice Secretary Ken Clarke on Wednesday.
Among its other proposals is one that courts should have flexible start and end times to make it easier for family members to give evidence. Another is that the bodies of murder victims should be returned to their families within a month.
The report is expected to be backed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, who chairs the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee overseeing court practice.’
LOUISE CASEY writes for the News of the World
‘MANY of us felt such compassion for the brave family of Milly Dowler and anger at the way they were treated in court.
Sadly for me, although I was shocked and appalled, I wasn’t surprised.
When I started working for the rights of victims I thought I was unshockable. But what I have found over the last year has made my jaw drop.
Like most people I assumed that families who, like the Dowlers, have had their lives ripped apart by criminals, would get all the help they need. And that the criminal justice system would be on their side.
What I discovered is they are often not given the support, care or consideration they deserve. Many are still treated as if they are an “inconvenience”, and this can make their grief worse.
These families deserve not to have to sit next to an offender’s family in court listening to them laughing and joking. They deserve to be told that their rapist is going to be released before they bump into him in the supermarket.
They deserve to bury the body of their child without defence lawyers asking for autopsy after autopsy – in one case I know a 35-day-old baby only got to be buried by her family on what would have been her first birthday.
They deserve to not find out that the murderer of their husband is appealing by reading it in a newspaper. They deserve to be treated with humanity, dignity and most of all a bit of respect.
So when my report comes out about the treatment of families like these, I ask that you be shocked too. And then those in charge might sit up and listen.’
“All you citizen journalists/bloggers – call the NOW newsroom on 0207 782 1001 email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out their views”
Members of the National Union of Journalists are expected to abide by the following professional principles:
I sometimes wonder what this country would do without its whistleblowers…
Welfare cuts ‘could leave 40,000 families homeless’, Eric Pickles’ office warns
David Cameron has received a stark warning from within his own administration that the coalition’s plans to cut welfare payments risk making 40,000 families homeless.
The media have taken up the story and have wrung every last fact out of it. It is being discussed on internet fora, Facebook and Twitter and has the country in a proper tizz!
But why only now? The details have been there for all to see for nearly a year! First suggested in the Emergency Budget and then fleshed out in the Spending Review.
So why the uproar now? Why is this such a matter of concern today and not when it was announced initially?
The real hidden consequences were realised and pointed out by the Labour Party and many important charities such as Shelter, but uptake and publicity from major news outlets has been very small.
I have spent an unproductive afternoon searching press and TV archives for any substantial coverage of warnings of an impending crisis. I scoured Hansard, charities’ websites and relevant blogs.
In May 2010, Karen Buck MP, Labour, gave a speech in the House of Commons stressing that new benefit policy would cause great difficulties. A transcript of her speech can be found here .
So over a year ago, the Government were warned.
On the National Housing Federation’s Website, I found this:
‘Helen Goodman, Labour’s frontbench spokeswoman on child poverty, childcare and housing benefit, said it was plain that the government had “rushed through the changes without thinking through the social consequences”. National Housing Federation Friday 23rd July 2010′
Further examples of articles and blogpieces expressing great concern:
‘This cut is certainly going to hurt, particularly as the Department for Work and Pensions confirmed today the new cap will apply nationally. Labour MPs warn of a housing crisis in London and the South East, where rents are higher. For example, in parts of Hackney, the maximum housing benefit is £1,000 a week for a four bedroom house. Losing £600 a week would mean families currently claiming housing benefit would have to move to cheaper parts of London. Anti-poverty campaigners say that will entrench the divide between the haves and the have nots.’ Ch 4 Factcheck 22nd June 2010
BBC News – Benefit Cuts: Your Stories – 3rd Oct 2010
In his speech at the Conservative Party Conference George Osborne announced the proposed new cap on Housing Benefit as reported by Channel 4, complete with Video:
Osborne Imposes Cap on Family benefits – Video – Channel 4 News – 4th Oct 2010
Perhaps it would not not have been unreasonable to expect a flurry of articles in the mainstream press as well as programmes on TV following such an announcement?
Nothing could have been further from reality! Many of the local papers did carry short pieces assessing the implications for their own areas. There were, on Channel 4 and the BBC valiant attempts to flag up possible problems. But what are considered the right-wing papers remained mostly disinterested in the possibility of many of the poorer members of society, the vulnerable amongst us, losing their homes.
There were a few journalists with an eye for balance and honesty who did occasionally try to highlight what may be about to happen:
South London Press Today – News – MP Warns More People Face Becoming Homeless – Chuka Umunna MP, Labour – 5th Oct 2010
In its Spending Review last week, the government announced major changes to housing benefit – including cutting it by 10% for the long-term jobless.
Labour has offered to join forces with Lib Dem backbenchers to force the government to rethink the policy. BBC News – 25th October 2010
‘These measures, taken together with the removal of caps on the amount of rent housing associations can charge, has led critics to claim thousands of people will be made homeless across the UK.
‘Scaremongering’ Labour has warned the moves – which represent the biggest shake-up in housing policy in decades – are unfair and could lead to an increase in support for far-right groups.
Ministers have conceded that some families will have to move to less expensive areas – but have angrily rejected suggestions by London Mayor Boris that it could lead to “social cleansing” of poor families with long-established roots in the capital to the suburbs or the south coast of England.’
Independent on Homelessness – Housing Benefit Homelessness – 19th November 2010
‘Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “Labour will maintain the pressure for further changes to this ill-thought through housing benefit package, not least their plans to punish people who have been unable, despite their best efforts, to find work for a year by cutting their housing benefit by 10%.”‘
BBC News – 30th Nov 2010
Other journalists however were not so scrupulous and continued to grind their political axes at the expense of the truth both before and after Osborne’s speech:
It beggars belief: How the fake homeless are raking in more than £20,000 a year
By Claire Ellicott
Last updated at 2:13 PM on 16th August 2010
How brave was the Dowler family to stand up and criticise their ordeal… ? Then there is this afternoon’s breaking news…
However, much of the press coverage has been about Milly’s family – her father, mother and sister who bravely stood up outside the Courthouse to deliver their verdict on the process to which they’d been subjected. The jury took seven hours to debate and as the verdicts were read out the family broke down sobbing and Mrs. Dowler collapsed, clearly very seriously upset. But was their upset about the verdicts or the fact that the episode of the inquiry into Milly’s death had ended… probably both.
The four-week trial saw Milly’s father, Robert Dowler and her mother Sally subjected to cross-examination by Bellfield’s defence team. Each of them had broken down in the witness box – it was suggested that Milly may have run away because she was unhappy at home. In their statement outside the courthouse the Dowler family said that the process had been “mentally scarring” and that the justice system was loaded unfairly in favour of the criminal http://is.gd/T57Hfx.
There have been different accounts of this from the Police and the Defence team, defending their actions although the Police did apologise and has called for changes. Surely the Chief Constable was aware of how the family were being treated? This was a high profile case. Wonder if an apology would have been made had the Dowler family not read out their statements? http://is.gd/7kRgug.
The defence barrister, Jeffrey Samuels QC, has been unavailable for comment. A spokesperson for the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) argued that the adversarial nature of trials is fundamental to justice. http://is.gd/ogZfCM. He may have a point. But what about the reporting. Should parts of this trial been held in private.
Finally, it transpires that although the jury debated for seven hours, and this was on the issue of whether Levi Belfield had abducted another girl Rachel Cowles, the judge discharged the jury without reaching a conclusion. The judge blamed the media coverage of the trial. http://is.gd/MXtmLW,
So basically the media got the in way of a fair trial of Levi Belfield the man suspected of also trying to abduct Rachel Cowles. The attempted abduction file will lie on file. Clearly questions will be asked about the Judge’s decision to dismiss the jury.. it appears that the Attorney General’s office will be looking into it.
Yet again the media is in the spotlight. In May the Attorney General’s office won permission from the high court to bring contempt of court proceedings against the Sun and the Daily Mirror over their coverage of the Chris Jefferies in December last year. He was the man who was arrested on suspicion of murdering Joanna Yeates in Bristol. A date is awaited for the case to be heard.
This afternoon, as I write this blog, the death and reported possible suicide has been announced of Mr. Christopher Shale, a Snr Conservative in David Cameron’s constituency. I won’t say too much as it is early days but as the circumstances of Mr.Shale’s death unwinds, one has to wonder if external bodies had a role to play – all roads appear to point in that direction! http://is.gd/Tqk15v and http://is.gd/YwrYMZ. Questions arise here too…
At this stage, despite what our political beliefs may be, we should consider the feelings of Mr.Shale’s family. This will be a very sad time for them.
But watch this space…
Some of the latest media coverage : Dowler family
The Telegraph – Chief Constable talks about ‘shock’ of experience for the Dowler family http://is.gd/fOi4ES
The Indy – Lawyers defend cross-examination of Dowler family http://is.gd/ogZfCM
The Mail – Murder tore Milly’s family to shreds, and the legal jackels feasted on what was left http://is.gd/XojSJ4
The Mail – Police & Lawyers blame each other for ‘inhumane’ court ordeal http://is.gd/MkCCoD
The Guardian Milly Dowler’s family solicitor re phonehacking Milly’s voicemail http://is.gd/YvqeJA
Some of the latest media coverage : Christopher Shale
The Guardian – Christopher Shale found dead.. http://is.gd/Au05rZ
Daily Mail – Did Cameron’s ‘rock’ die of a heart attack 20 hours before his body was discovered in a portable toilet at Glastonbury? http://is.gd/yRw5HN
The Telegraph – Tests to reolve mystery death… http://is.gd/BBW0sg
The Telegraph – Christopher Shale – big society man http://is.gd/zX72OT 26th June 2011
Sky News – announces Post Mortem on Christopher Shael is ‘unascertained’ 27th June 2011
The Indy – ‘Top Tory’s festival a mystery’ Undetermined pathology findings re death of Christopher Shale http://is.gd/YWC5lI
“Labour coup: Ed Balls and his five fellow plotters
Ed Balls is exposed in the documents uncovered by The Daily Telegraph as the key figure in the plot to oust Tony Blair and replace him with Gordon Brown.”
The story was taken up by most of the papers but without the ‘secret’ documents, written five years ago and ‘given’ to the Telegraph by an unnamed donor. These were said by Ed Balls to have been taken from his desk when he left the Education Department after the general Election. There is now an investigation, headed by Gus O’Donnell, underway to see if there has been any breach of security and in an attempt to find whoever was responsible for removing the papers.
Since the Telegraph’s ‘bomshell’, the media have run with similar stories including one from the Guardian of the acceptance speech David Miliband would have given had he won the Labour leadership election, and a ‘Brothers at War’ frontpager today in the Independent:
|Independent on Sunday – 12th June 2011|
Little wonder, then, that by this morning many Labour supporters were feeling jittery and wondering what had hit them! Once most of the articles had been read and discussed on Twitter and those wide-awake enough had written their thoughts in their blogs, the general consensus was that most of the content was supposition, guesswork and ill-informed trouble-making!
Quotations were not, on the whole, attributed to anyone in particular, but gathered from a great many anonymous ‘friends’, ‘senior MPs’, ‘frontbench’ sources. Some of the least convincing were from well-known Conservative political pundits…..
|Sunday Times – 12th June 2011|
To which John Prescott responded, adding a link to the part of the article where his name is clearly shown:
If the ‘victim’ in this case hadn’t been a well known politician with a great many ‘followers’ on
Twitter, would an apology have been forthcoming without recourse to the courts?
One last point, why are so many people convinced that to report a case like this to the PCC would be a futile exercise?
An article has appeared on the Guardian’s online site: Sunday Times Apologises to John Prescott Over Wrong Quote
(‘Wrong quote’?- He didn’t give one at all to the Sunday Times…)
“He added: “I refuse to accept this mealy-mouthed apology. I want a front page retraction – due prominence – in next week’s Sunday Times.”
Prescott, a potential victim of phone hacking by an investigator working for the News of the World, another Rupert Murdoch paper, has been one of the most vociferous critics of the handling of the hacking scandal by News International and the Metropolitan police.”
Perhaps the ‘mauling’ hasn’t ended quite yet…?
13th June 2011:-
Extract from Rupert Murdoch’s letter to News Corp staff introducing the company’s ‘Standards of Business Conduct’.
Yesterday in the House of Commons, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Tom Watson used Parliamentary Privilege to reveal further allegations, adding to a growing mountain, in the increasingly widely publicised phone-hacking case.
A BBC recording of his question and David Cameron’s reply can be found here.
|Clegg, Cameron, Osborne listening to Tom Watson’s question at PMQs|
Press reports written following Tom Watson’s allegations yesterday are here:
“A spokesman for News International, the News of the World’s parent company, said: “It is well documented that Jonathan Rees and Southern Investigations worked for a whole variety of newspaper groups. “With regards to Tom Watson’s specific allegations, we believe these are wholly inaccurate. The Met Police, with whom we are co-operating fully in Operation Weeting, have not asked us for any information regarding Jonathan Rees.
“Tom Watson MP made these allegations under parliamentary privilege.”- Telegraph.
The Metropolitan Police spokesman said yesterday, as reported in the Guardian:
“[We] can confirm that since January 2011 the MPS [Metropolitan police service] has received a number of allegations regarding breach of privacy which fall outside the remit of Operation Weeting. These allegations are currently being considered.”
As these new allegations and slivers of information emerge, it becomes increasingly obvious that phone-hacking and the News of the World may be the tip of an enormous iceberg, involving many more journalists, criminals, newspapers and methods of intercepting information.
We are watching, perhaps, the denouement of a murky plot with far-reaching and dramatic consequences.
Will we eventually witness the disappearance of not only criminal methods of news gathering but of the equally harmful character assassinations in the name of the ‘public interest’ such as this, reported today?:
Sun apology and damages to Baby P social worker
A social worker targeted by The Sun in its Justice for Baby P campaign has received an apology and substantial damages.
Full story here.
Yet another apology wrung from the News Corp stable of titles, this time by the Press Complaints Commission.
Many, many more will, no doubt, be added in the future..!
Updated – 9th June 2011:
Tonight, writing in the Guardian, Tom Watson has made an impassioned plea for those Labour MPs, Shadow Ministers, who were also victims of the News of the World hackers to come forward and ‘speak out’.
“Yet it’s not just the Conservative prime minister who could do with a spine replacement. It’s the former Labour ministers who were allegedly hacked by News International’s private investigators who have made secret, out of court settlements with the company. I want to be clear to my parliamentary colleagues (in the Lords and Commons): if you were the target of a News International private investigator you have a democratic duty to speak out. You owe it to yourselves to put an end to a toxic media culture that allows journalists to think it acceptable to hack the phones of the families of murder victims.”
If these people were to publicly denounce the practices employed by the editors, journalists, hackers, newspaper proprietors etc, they would not only be helping those mentioned by Tom Watson in his article, – they would be helping to restore to health the democracy of this country.
They owe it to us, the ordinary people, who need honest, principled reporting and unmanipulated facts to enable us to make decisions as to who represent us in Parliament.
I add my plea to that of Tom Watson.