To access citizen journalist reports at the Climate Change Summit – live coverage at this link.

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The following press release was issued by the National Union of Journalists today and is reprinted here in full:  

 Tough and urgent action is needed in response to violence, intimidation and death threats targeting journalists covering far right demonstrations.

 The call by NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear comes in the wake of specific email threats against photojournalist and investigative reporter Marc Vallée, and video journalist Jason N. Parkinson.

 The emails follow verbal threats and intimidation aimed at photographers covering a march by the English Defence League in Leeds at the weekend and other EDL protests this year.

 Professional journalists covering the events have filed reports with the NUJ detailing physical violence, including one being punched in the head, verbal threats, and attempts to seize cameras and smash equipment. The union is to file complaints to the police.

 Jeremy Dear said: “In a week when yet more photographers have been targeted by right-wing hate website Redwatch, when out on the streets professional photographers are subjected to violence and intimidation by right-wing thugs, there must be tough and urgent action in response to these latest death threats.

 “These are not idle threats made by kids – these are direct, named threats made by individuals who can be traced – in one case an individual already convicted of stabbing someone. They are designed to silence the media and stop photographers showing the true nature of the protests and protestors. The police must act now before a journalist is killed or seriously injured”.

 Jason N. Parkinson said: “It is ironic the English Defence League claim they are protesting ‘peacefully’ against Muslim extremism. Then late Saturday night, after returning from covering the Leeds protest, I receive a threatening email from one of their Welsh and English division organisers entitled ‘Fatwa’.

 “This is exactly the behaviour and tactics of extremism the EDL claim they are against. Someone should remind the EDL that the fundamental root of all democratic society, including in the UK, is press freedom. Intimidation, violence, Fatwas and death threats are not.”

 Marc Vallée said: “I find it intriguing that only four weeks after attending a BNP press conference – at London’s City Hall – I’m targeted by Redwatch in this way. We should be free to go about our lawful and necessary work without such intimidation. I’m determined that when journalists are targeted in this way the only effective response is a collective one as well as journalistic one.” 

See also:

http://jasonnparkinson.blogspot.com/2009/11/death-threats-for-journalists-covering.html

Riazat Butt, the Guardian’s religious affairs correspondent, and Simon Woolley, director of Operation Black Vote analyse what happened in yesterday’s BBC Question Time. The Guardian asks: “Did the panel and the audience expose the weaknesses of his argument and the hatred behind (Nick Griffin’s) ideology?”

Follow this link to access the Guardian podcast.

Update: October 2011 paragraph deleted.

On a European level debates continue. For more read yesterday’s Guardian article by Timothy Garton Ash:

“Cameron may have helped the Polish right, but he has not served Britain” –  Garton Ash analyses new political groupings in the European parliament. His comment:

 “A dubious rightwinger now heads conservatives in Europe. What on earth does the Tory leader think that he’s doing?…What service has the Conservative leader done to his own party? Or to Britain?…” (Quote from The Guardian Thursday 30th. July, 2009).

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has called on the Palestinian Authority to rescind its decision to close down the office the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television in the West Bank. The network had been accused of broadcasting “incitement and false information”.

According to the IFJ: This decision (to close the network.F.L.) is a serious violation of press freedom,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. ” It shows intolerance on the part of the Palestinian Authority and suggests that it is trying to control media by suppressing reporting which it does not like. The ban should be lifted immediately.”

The Palestinian Authority yesterday (Wednesday the 15th.) ordered the office of Al-Jazeera to close down after allegations that the network, which is very popular in Palestine, was displaying bias against the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, who is also in charge of the Ministry of Information, has according to reports signed the order to close the office until the court decides on the case against Al Jazeera filed by the Ministry.

 The move against the network is believed to have been triggered by comments made by a senior member of the Fatah movement on the satellite channel about the alleged involvement of President Abbas in a plot to poison Yasser Arafat, former Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. The IFJ says the use of the courts in a case like this will intimidate all media and the Authority should find other ways of challenging the comments that have been made.

“If the authorities want to counter these statements they should do so in a professional and transparent manner,” said White. “Then journalists can report their position and provide the balance they say is needed.” The IFJ says public figures and political leaders must show tolerance of adverse reporting and respond to it in the context of continuing support for independent media and democratic pluralism. (Text in bold: IFJ press release).

According to the Guardian newspaper (breaking news) “The Palestinian Authority said today it was suspending the West Bank operations of al-Jazeera, alleging incitement and unbalanced reporting by the Arab news station from the Palestinian territories“.

For further information on this story click here.

I read Olly Zanetti’s article on police surveillance in the ‘New Internationalist’ magazine today and immediately renewed my subscription.

We know some of what Zanettii is saying already, but there’s plenty more ‘meat’ there for activists and journalists alike. Marc Vallee, a photojournalist describes a Gaza protest in Britain:

‘I was working at a protest against the attack on Gaza. I saw an officer with a camera speaking to another officer, who I know works with the FIT. (The Police Photographers Forward Intelligence Team -the FIT as they have come to be known – F.L) They were going through a notebook which had a number of pictures in it, spotter’s cards. And I got a shot of it. Enlarging the picture, you can see the mug shots with people’s names underneath each one. Not codes or aliases, but full names. They were clearly looking for particular individuals.’  (New Internationalist, July 2009)

I’ve been looking through past emails today and came across several from Pauline Campbell(now deceased). In one of them she’s thanking me for the organisation of a (now historic) meeting held on the 12th. January, 2006 at Chester Quaker Meeting House (in Cheshire, England).

The meeting was held under the auspices of the Wirral and Chester Quaker “Testimony in Action Committee”. I remember it well. My daughter was just six months old, I had to take baby along and was so relieved that she slept or fed her way fairly peacefully through the evening…

I’d initiated this public meeting. It was very well attended (about 100 or so people came). I hadn’t spent much time with Pauline Campbell, (I’d met her through Joan Meredith) but I’d put Pauline’s name forward to chair the meeting for a reason. 

They say that heroes and prophets are never properly recognised in their own towns and cities. And so it was with Pauline. There had been a series of vitriolic letters about her work and her daughter Sarah in the local (Cheshire) press and I wanted to give this grieving mother an opportunity to experience the respect I felt she deserved to have, in a supportive environment. On our own patch.

In the end, Pauline supported me, more than I supported her. She didn’t hesitate to help me – even holding my child I think, at one point. We finalised arrangements in a little side room off the main meeting room – and I suddenly realised how much effort it was costing her – how kind she was and what a challenge it must have been. In that little room, away from the public gaze – I think I was the only one who noticed how her hands started shaking – but she chaired the meeting magnificently. I promised to take her out to dinner to say thank you – but time went by. Pauline died and I never got the chance. I really regret that now.

Pauline is no longer able to answer her emails or pick up the telephone – but the memory of that meeting stays with me. I like to think it played some part in the events of the years that followed, during which Pauline gained confidence in campaigning and became known as ‘the suffragette of penal reform’.

 The title I chose for that January evening meeting was:

“Truth and Integrity in Public Life”

In Quaker circles this title has something of a history. It belonged to a committee which is now disbanded. For reasons which have much to do with the war in Iraq – I felt these words needed taking down from the shelf and dusting off.

David Shayler, the ex-MI5 officer was the invited speaker. In the end, David did not come. Annie Machon, his former partner, did. There was no shortage of courageous, intelligent, astute personalities on the podium that night.

In her own words: Annie is “a former intelligence officer for MI5, the UK Security Service, who resigned in 1996 to blow the whistle on the spies’ incompetence and crimes with her ex-partner David Shayler. She’s an author, journalist and campaigner on a variety of issues: security and intelligence, the war on terror, press and media freedoms, secrecy, legislation and government accountability”.  

Since that meeting in 2003, my role has shifted – it’s not part of my job right now to organise public meetings. I take my press card along and tell the human rights story that way, as best I can.

Three years on – I’m glad to see that talking about ‘Truth and Integrity in Public Life’ (at least!) is still alive.  Last week I went along to another meeting in the same series and the same place, once again organised by Wirral and Chester Quaker Testimony in Action committee.

The speaker this time was Lindis Percy – of the Campaign for the Accountability for U.S. Bases. She chose a subject and a title which has been a recurring theme in my work too:

 “The Right to Protest”.

Much of Lindis Percy’s talk concerned events surrounding Menwith Hill.

This is a blog for news (and analysis) that ‘doesn’t normally get out’. You won’t see Menwith Hill on the front page of the tabloids. To find out why: see my next post on ‘The Right to Protest’ and Menwith hill – coming soon.

News update from the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border received June Tuesday 30th : (For more background and analysis see my previous post – F.L )

“Rafah Border has been open for four days !.. and it is said that tomorrow, the border will be open again ! Even if the conditions are inhumane, hundreds of Palestinians got in and out of Gaza Strip. Violence, extortion, no more water in the overflowing toilet, etc. 

The international camp to open Rafah border is still there, and has been holding its ground for 17 days ! Today, the members were 15, five being from USA, France, Norway and Italy, the others Egyptians activists, who are very badly treated by the police. However, the fact that Egyptian activists are in the camp and stay there has been conquered. Nada talked today to an officer and obtained that they would be treated properly. 

Paki and Marta (USA) are going for a couple of days in Cairo, to meet with people in US embassy and Egyptian foreign affairs department. They will also take part in a press conference on Thursday July 2nd. Video footage by Nada Badawi.


 

 The border is open on a daily basis and it is a significant pace towards the end of the siege. To open Rafah border for good, civil society has to mobilise everywhere. This is July, take an airplane ticket for Cairo and come on to join the international camp for some days or a couple of weeks. Make your holidays part of this historical movement !

 Send messages to your government, to Egyptian and USA embassies, demanding the end of the siege and supporting the action of the international camp on Rafah Border. 

 For the end of the illegal and murderer siege. For the freedom of circulation for goods and people. (article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – statement by IMORB)”

Tent at the Rafah Border Peace Camp. Picture IMORB, June 2009

A family and their tent at the Rafah Border Peace Camp. Picture IMORB, June 2009

Recent events at the Rafah border tell us why our world press needs to document these peace camp protests.

On the eleventh day of the peace camp at the Rafah-Egypt border, International Movement to Open the Rafah Border(IMORB) activists have sustained their sit-in protest against the prolonged siege of Gaza. 

The International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (IMORB) says: ” The group of three US citizens and two Egyptian journalists awaits more participants but is concerned that border police are turning people back. An Australian delegation has been unable to get to the border area for four days. A second international delegation is expected to join the sit-in camp soon”.

According to IMORB a number of journalists were prohibited from joining a press conference at the Rafah camp on June 22. One news reporter did come to report on the camp. Mohammad Alhur documented the protest. Alhour writes for www.factjo.com and told IMORB that  journalists had been threatened with losing their primary government ministry jobs if they attended the IMORB conference. 

 An earlier press conference welcoming the ambassador to Japan, a government sanctioned event, had brought a large media contingent to the Rafah border area, says IMORB. The Japanese ambassador  had come to announce that Japan would join the US government in a high tech border surveillance project. 

Pressure to remove Egyptian homes and Bedouin farms from the Rafah border area has increased. IMORB say the Egyptian government attempted such evictions in 1996, sparking an uprising, Intifada Masura. To quell the uprising, some deaths occurred and the leader was jailed. 

Separately, IMORB plans a March for the Martyrs (shohadeh) on Wednesday, June 24, noon, to commemorate the deaths of Gazans in the Israeli winter invasion.

The border is expected to be open for the sick and injured on this day. 

A second Martyrs March is planned for Saturday, June 27, to recognize the fatality victims of the Siege of Gaza. Border authorities have said that the border will be open June 27, 28 and 29.

” They have promised this many times before, only proving to be untrue, disappointing many Palestinian families and individuals,” said Ellen Graves of Western Mass. USA.

SEE ALSO: JUSTICE IN THE NEWS: THE INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF JOURNALISTS REPORT ON TARGETING OF THE MEDIA DURING THE WAR ON GAZA in 2009.

The report describes how the media were subject to: ‘intimidation, direct military assault, and deliberately prevented from working freely during the 22 day military offensive launched by Israel’.

Following up from the Trade Union Solidarity Conference on Palestine I emailed the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists to get a policy and action update:  Jeremy Dear said:

“We have been active supporters for justice for the Palestinian people for many years. In particular we have always maintained a tight relationship with the Palestinian Syndicate of Journalists sometimes directly but mostly through the work of the International Federation of Journalists in the region. The most recent flurry of activity has been around the war on Gaza.

We participated in all the decisions taken by the IFJ regarding the situation of journalists during the invasion and have done more on this than any other union in the UK:

We participated in the protest over the media ban on the foreign media entering Gaza imposed by the Israeli military – I spoke at the national demonstration in December and again in January on these issues

  • We participated in the protest over the violations of journalists’ rights, the bombing of the stations, including Al Aqsa TV and the general mobilisation of IFJ affiliates to help alleviate the security situation of Palestinian journalists

 (i)         Jim Boumelha sent an urgent letter to the UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon, asking him to investigate and take actions over the media crisis and the targeting of journalists;

 (ii)         IFJ affiliates were requested to join this action and send similar letters;

 (iii)                We joined the Gaza Defence Committee set up by the IFJ as a support group in defence of journalists in Gaza. This group was tasked to send humanitarian assistance and organise the investigation of all violations of international humanitarian law, especially the right to protection for journalists as enshrined in Security Council Resolution 1738 of 23 December 2006.

 (iv)                We circulated to members the appeal to the special safety fund established by the IFJ. 

We were part of the discussion that set out the terms of reference and tactics of the international delegation that visited Gaza on January 21-23rd. The report Justice in the News: A Response to Targeting of Media In Gazaand recommendations, which we endorsed, can be seen on the IFJ website. The NUJ did not participate in this solidarity mission but will be represented by Jim Boumelha in a forthcoming second mission.

 Since the mission, we have played a role in helping facilitate a safety training programme in Cairo of Palestinian journalists from Gaza and the West Bank.

 In the long-term we will be giving support, as it is our policy, to the next round of projects to help the syndicate develop its capacity.

 As the syndicate is going through a difficult period of divisions, we would be called upon to help facilitate its next congress. 

We have also been active in opposing the decision by the BBC to ban the DEC Appeal in respect of Gaza”.