Home POLITICS “Can you believe this?” asks Chris White

“Can you believe this?” asks Chris White

by asma
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President Biden made an interesting comment at his press conference in Brussels last week. He told a journalist that she was trying to “set me up” and declared that others had also been doing so.

The directness of his response is a profound message on a much broader scale. An important question is whether the remark was just Biden’s view of his own situatuon or a reflection of a much more general view of the media among politicians.

There is a widely held view that, for want of a better description, the established media is fast descending into the realm of social media. Can you believe what you see on television, hear on the radio or read in newspapers or magazines? Were people ever able to? The answer to that last point must be more or less.

Twitter is a social media platform that gives voice to a form of gossip that is largely out of order. Following television coverage of Biden’s meeting with EU leaders Twitter was flooded with hostile comments about Boris Johnson being ignored and isolated as Biden chatted with French President – and the current EU President – Macron.

One commentator did post a view that “there were at least 20 other leaders standing alone”. In fact Biden had just left his press conference saying he was an hour late for his EU meeting.

Press Gazette, the U.K media magazine, came up with something highly relevant article last week entitled “How to debunk misinformation coming out of war in Ukraine”. They interviewed verification experts at Full Fact and Bellingcat. One key issue was the revelation that footage used by the BBC of fighter jets said to have been flying in close formation over Ukraine was taken from coverage of a military parade in Moscow. Apparently another video that the BBC itself proved was several years out of date was viewed “more than 27 million times in one day”.

The point of the article was to highlight that bad information ruins lives. The article highlights how journalists can verify the verity of videos some of which supposedly showed attacks on Ukraine but proved to be clips from video games. The problem is information circulated by the Open Source Community.

Footage released by separitists in Donetsk and Luhansk of supposed attacks by Ukraine on their regions supposedly from a bodycam of a Polish saboteur was filmed several days earlier. Press Gazette quoted Bellingcat’s Abbas Panjwani saying: “While it’s sometimes hard to see the impact of what we’re doing to others through sharing misinformation, it can still hurt people. People in Ukraine don’t deserve to have their tragedy exploited for the sake of shares”.

I have not checked out the Centre for Media and Democracy but almost coincidentally they sent me a press release about how non profit organisations are key to the creation and spreading of harmfukl falsehoods about climate science. They highlighted “ideological funding vehicles, right wing family foundations and donor-advised fund sponsors tied to mainstream investment firms”.

The release also mentions a religious group allegedly puling strings in Washington but for me that would require extensive checking-out.

More importantly, perhaps, British Brussels-based journalist Martin Banks, who was recently stopped and interrogated by British Border Police at Calais, has had his case taken up by the Council of Europe ‘safety of journalists platform’.

Another journalist and former MP has won his court fight against being forced to hand over material that would identify confidential sources as demanded by West Midlands Police. A step in the right direction but such cases are too numerous to count.

Everywhere professional journalists are facing similar problems. What amounts to harrasment has become the norm. Everywhere organisations are battling to protect journalistic freedom. Equally administrations are effectively curbing them.

But there is another manifestation of the broader problem. It has been highlighted by President Joe Biden. “Journalists” have, like society in general, become politicised. The old Fleet Street (British National Press) maxim “don’t let your personal views affect your reporting” have very largely been abandoned.

Putin is not to be admired in any sense but his introduction this month of 15 year sentences for spreading false information stirs faint glimmers of respect.

————— Dateline: The Corner Cafe, Deal, Kent. —————

Title Photo: Paulo Miretti

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