24 April 2006

Clarke attacks UK media

He argued it was fair that breaches of anti-social behaviour orders (Asbos) should be punishable by up to five years' jail. And he claimed the ability to impose Asbos on individuals without trial did not contravene the principle that individuals are innocent until proven guilty.

(Source: BBC)

Charles Clarke today accused the UK media of perpetuating "myths" that his law and order agenda is an attack on human rights and civil liberties. Aside from all the other dubious contentions Home Secretary Charles Clarke makes (including his attack on the three liberal newspapers - the Guardian, Independent and Observer - for showing "general intellectual laziness"), this would appear to contradict everything he states. I wonder if Clarke could explain how the ability to place an anti-social behavioural order on an individual, which could lead to five years' imprisonment, without trial is not "destroying the rule of law"?

England's finest newspapers raise their prices

The Daily Mail and Daily Express have both increased their cover price by 5p.

In today's page two announcement of the increase from 40p to 45p, the Mail says it had put its price up "reluctantly" and reminded readers it was the first increase in five years.

(Source: The Guardian)

Whether this will put readers of The Daily Hate, er, Mail off purchasing England's most patriotic of newspapers only time will tell. Rumours that it is an attempt to price immigrants out of purchasing the "thick, grey tombstone of a tabloid" are strongly denied.

Give Murdoch some credit

Pan-stick palaver

The make-up people at Sky have had, er, a makeover to help them cope with the particular challenges of high definition TV. Traditional make-up, you see, isn't enough to cover the spots and blemishes for presenters on HDTV. So thick is the new stuff that it has to be applied with an extravagant device nicknamed the "blow-job gun" by Sky insiders. Delightful.

(Source: Media Guardian)

While the intention here is to poke fun at the people at Sky News with Monkey's (see the Guardian site) inside 'scope', I think the people at Sky have done a very clever job of conveying the improved quality of picture with HDTV. This is something they failed to demonstrate (for obvious reasons) in the adverts on regular television screens but appear to be more successful at with this 'leak' - which I wouldn't be surprised to see in The Sun or The Times (for similarly obvious reasons).

20 April 2006

Welcome back to the free-world Buzz

I wonder if "Buzz" Patterson could explain exactly how Seymour Hersh has potentially placed the lives of US pilots in danger? He hasn't revealed any military secrets or uncovered any hidden government plans. Hersh was merely speculating about what he believes the US government plan to do next and stating his opinion.

Patterson clearly longs to return to the immediate aftermath of September 11 2001, when the American media was terrified of being labelled unpatriotic if it dared question its wise and noble leader George W. Bush. The former Air Force pilot implies that anyone who questions any of President Bush’s military decisions is endangering US troops and abetting the ‘enemy’. Clearly it would seem illogical to Patterson that the man who continues to set tens of thousands of men and women onto the war-path is the one who is risking American lives. Patterson was no doubt taught to never question and always obey those in power and it must be hard for him to ‘return’ to live in a society where people are allowed to form opinions of their own.

I think George W. Bush sums it up best with his now immortal line: "Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."

Global crackdowns on democracy continue

Today brings news of continued silencing of the free media in Morocco, brutal crackdowns on demonstrations in Nepal, plans to increase fines for Iranians with satellite dishes (which allow them to receive foreign news) from £60 to more than £3,000 and also to jail women who are deemed to flout the regime's definition of Islamic morals, and, finally, news from China that Yahoo! helped convict a pro-democracy campaigner.

In the case of Iran it is important to remember that 65% of the population are under 25 and, as a result, are probably not irreversibly anti-West. However, if George W. Bush continues to make such inflammatory statements ("We are ready to consider all options, including military operations in order to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon," Bush said yesterday. "All means are acceptable in order to prevent the danger represented by Iran.") then Timothy Garton Ash's terrifying, but utterly plausible, vision (which I would urge everyone to read) could become a reality.

Bloggers beware

A tale of caution for any blogger that posts scandalous rumours or lies on the internet in the belief that it does no harm, and for any newspapers or TV station that report information found on the internet as the truth without a thorough fact check:

It later transpired he (Ilyas Kuncak, 47, a grandfather who ploughed his bomb-laden truck into the front of an 18-storey HSBC building) was driven to murder by Turkish press reports about American soldiers raping 4,000 Iraqi women. The reports, entirely erroneous, had been based upon a misreading of a blog posted by a Californian "sex therapist".

(Source: The Guardian)

19 April 2006

Bloggers aren't breaking news stories just yet

MAINSTREAM media is increasingly monitoring blogs for story leads, according to a journalist-turned-blogger at a forum on free expression and cyberspace in Manila.

With a common goal to expose the truth, the mainstream media have now embracing blogging as means to engage readers in a "conversation," said Rebecca Mackinnon, co-founder of Global Voices, an aggregator of blogs around the world.

(Source: INQ7)

While it would be nice to see a situation in which bloggers are the one's breaking the news, in the vast majority of cases they are simply adding their two cents. Most bloggers lack the money and the resources to lead with new (newsworthy) stories and most are content to comment on what is reported by the mainstream media. That is not to say that it is not possible for a blogger to bring a story to the attention of the press. At a local level, where some newspapers may lack the resources required to send a journalist to cover a local council meeting or another seemingly unimportant event, a blogger may find he or she has an exclusive story on his or her hands. In this case, newspapers and TV stations may turn to the blog to discover what transpired. In the majority of cases though, it will be the mainstream press that breaks the news. However, it is important that media organisations still turn to blogs to see what news matters to its readers and how they react to it. Newspapers or TV stations that may have under-reported or ignored a particular news item may find that it is important to many people and be required or persuaded to report it as a result. The conversation must remain the two-way process that it is slowly becoming and the mainstream media outlets that ignore the voices of their readers, viewers and listeners do so at their own peril.

18 April 2006

Kent State bans athletes from Facebook

Kent State University athletic department has joined Loyola University Chicago in banning its student-athletes from using the website Facebook. Kent State athletic director Laing Kennedy claimed that the move was purely intended to keep students safe from "weirdoes".

"In this day and age, there's enough weirdoes out there that we thought we should take a good hard look at it," Kennedy told WKYC.

Kennedy told the Daily Kent Stater that the athletic department's "interest is to protect our students".

"What really got our attention was that we had one student athlete that was contacted inappropriately," Kennedy told the university newspaper. "In checking that out, we discovered that there was personal information by a number of our student athletes on Facebook."

However, anyone accessing the university website can bring up the same information on students, including their home address and permanent phone number. While this information can be removed should a student wish, many probably remain unaware of just how much personal information is available at www.kent.edu. In contrast any information on Facebook is placed there by the user themselves and can be quickly removed. Additionally, unlike the university site, which is open to literally anyone with internet access, Facebook users must log in and can only view details of those who attend the same university or who are their 'friends'. Should we therefore presume that the university is only interested in the welfare of student-athletes?

If this was merely an issue of protecting the interests of the student-athletes the university would be better off educating them about potential dangers, which is exactly what the University of Colorado decided to do (even in light of offensive tackler Clint O'Neal and his girlfriend, cross country runner Jackie Zeigle, being accused of sending a racially threatening Facebook message to Hispanic cross country runner Greg Castro in December 2005).

"We're not going to get into the censorship business," sports information director David Plati told the USA Today in response to the potentially damaging situation. "We're just giving them smart advice."

Kennedy would be better advised to be honest and admit he is protecting his, and his department's, own interests. This is a case of an athletic department censoring its students and removing their First Amendment rights to prevent any potentially bad publicity that may be generated through Facebook. Instead they may just find that future athletes think twice before electing to compete at a school with such seemingly totalitarian policies.

Although in no way comparable, it seems rather ironical that this has taken place at a university which has a history of impinging on the rights of its students.

WKYC article
Daily Kent Stater article
USA Today article

Bloggers increasingly exerting disproportionate influence over society

According to a report by technology research company Jupiter Research, bloggers and internet pundits are exerting a “disproportionately large influence” on businesses and opinion. The study suggests that although ‘active’ web users make up only a small proportion of Europe’s online population, they are increasingly dominating public conversations and creating business trends. Companies like McDonald's and computer firm Dell have both fallen foul of internet buzz in recent years.

“It’s always been the case that vocal minorities are listened to by media organisations, brands, advertisers and marketers - normally because they’re thought to represent a wider swath of opinion,” said Tom Coates, a technologist with Yahoo! and prominent blogger. “TV and radio programmes are censored or pulled on the green-inked letters of a few hundred people, products removed from shelves because of less than 100 complaints. On that basis, these figures start to sound like a pretty large number of people, and probably a much more representative sample than perhaps before.”

(Source: The Guardian)

While it has always been the case that a relatively small number of people exert a disproportionately large influence on society, the advent of blogs and the Internet has given anyone with access to the net the opportunity to be part of that select group. Whereas in the past money and one's position in society determined whether the individual even had a chance to really influence anyone outside of one's immediate group, the creation of the worldwide web has led to an army of potential 'leaders'.

Russians protest against media clampdown by state

A thousand people protested in Moscow on Sunday against the government’s clampdown on independent media, five years after the Kremlin effectively took control of private channel NTV. The protestors, who included well-known television reporters who have lost their jobs, brandished placards reading “Today censorship, tomorrow dictatorship” and “Down with Kremlin-TV”.

The Daily Times reports on the backlash against the government clampdown on independent media in Russia. While this signals a dangerous intent to return to the communist days of total state control, at least it appears as though the Putin-led government is allowing some form of protest to take place. Perhaps the same thing should be happening in Italy now too.

14 April 2006

China battles free-flow of information

China's government has told local TV stations not to use video from foreign sources to produce news bulletins. New rules ban the use of footage acquired from foreign satellite TV and other channels that are not state-run. Stations have been told they should only use news reports provided by the state-run China Central Television and China Radio International.

(Source: BBC)

Following the reports of crackdowns on the media in Iran and Belarus, comes the news that the Chinese government has banned local broadcasters from using foreign sources. The Chinese State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has reportedly called on the media to show greater "political and propaganda discipline".

Reporters Without Borders have called on members of the World Trade Organization to oppose the media restrictions just adopted in China. President Hu Jintao is visiting the US later this month and the group hopes that President George Bush will raise the issue with his counterpart.

"This reinforcement of protectionism by China is clearly aimed at increasing control of media content and is a new violation of press freedom," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

After Google's submission to the Chinese authorities, this news appears to be another step back in China's international relations. The government in China knows that the internet and the media represent the biggest threat to their power and are doing everything they can to prevent a free-flow of information. Informed citizens are the biggest danger to an autocratic government and the officials in charge of China will fight any knowledge that seeps through with all the propaganda they have at their disposal.

Bloomberg misleads public over Iran's nuclear capabilities

Bloomberg yesterday ran the headline 'Iran Could Produce Nuclear Bomb in 16 Days, US Says' with the following reported underneath:

Iran, defying United Nations Security Council demands to halt its nuclear program, may be capable of making a nuclear bomb within 16 days, a U.S. State Department official said.

Iran will move to "industrial scale'' uranium enrichment involving 54,000 centrifuges at its Natanz plant, the Associated Press quoted deputy nuclear chief Mohammad Saeedi as telling state-run television today.

"Using those 50,000 centrifuges they could produce enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon in 16 days,'' Stephen Rademaker, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, told reporters today in Moscow.

However, later in the report Raedmaker reports that the Iranians currently only have 164 centrifuges in operation today and his '16 days' response was to how soon Iran could produce a nuclear weapon once it reached the "industrial scale" capacity. Seven paragraphs into the article, Raedmaker predicts that it would take at least 13 years for them to reach this stage. So why did Bloomberg choose to use such a misleading headline and spend the majority of the article pressing home this sensational statement? While this is something we have come to expect of British tabloids, it is disappointing to see an organisation that calls itself the "leading global provider of data, news and analytics" following the same path.

13 April 2006

Iran brutally cracks down on media

"Freedom of press and speech is not absolute and subject to the rules of Sharia and the law," General and Revolutionary Prosecutor, Saied Mortazavi, who was reportedly involved in the murder of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, told a group of reporters who cover the regime's Majlis (Parliament) yesterday.

(Source: The National Council of Resistance of Iran)

Whilst Mortazavi's comments are hardly likely to shock anyone around the world they do highlight the desperate situation in that country right now. Two journalists have been found dead and another severely beaten in recent weeks as part of a crackdown on reporters and press in Iran under the rule of the mullahs. While the imprisonment of journalists and closure of newspapers has been commonplace in Iran in recent years, events have taken a sinister turn for the worse. In April 2001, the National Union of Journalists called on trade-unionists - both in the press and other unions - to " isolate those who are hoping to silence the Iranian people into submission" by boycotting the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting network. In addition, it is important that these cases receive coverage in the mainstream media, alongside the current nuclear weapons' story, and that Iranians who are able to get online can find out what might otherwise be censored.

12 April 2006

Berlusconi must give up power

Despite Silvio Berlusconi's narrow loss in the recent Italian election it will be extremely difficult for Romano Prodi to shift Italy's richest man from power. Berlusconi, directly or indirectly, currently holds sway over 90% of the country's broadcast media. With a reported one million spoilt ballots, a lead of just 25,000 and the Italian broadcast media against him, Prodi faces an uphill battle to shift the man who declares himself to be the "Jesus Christ of politics". If he secures his rightful place as prime minister of Italy, Prodi must immediately push for a new conflict-of-interest law that will force Berlusconi to relinquish ownership of his family holding group Fininvest SpA or leave politics. It is a disgrace that a democratic nation ever allowed the situation to develop whereby the head of state controlled such an overwhelming majority of the broadcast media and, should he emerge victorious, Prodi must rectify this as quickly as possible.

Rumsfeld turns on racist American media

US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has rightly criticised the American press over its handling of the sale of national ports to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.

"The UAE has been a staunch supporter in the war on terror and you people were on their backs like they were a bunch of criminals," Rumsfeld said to a gathering of the nation's press yesterday. "Norway hasn't sent a troupe to Iraq but they get to do anything they want. Look here on page D-27 of the San Francisco Chronicle. There's a fascinating little pictorial on this hairy little Norwegian fellow who goes by the name Hagar the Horrible, who's apparently launching an invasion against some unnamed country. Where's that Viking ship going? I'd sure like to know, wouldn't you? Talk about threats to national security. Yet, because the Norwegians are fancy Europeans, all we get from the media is three panels of lousy pen-and-ink drawings. Is this serious journalism?"

DP World was immediately condemned as a group of terrorists just because they are based in the Middle East. This was despite the fact the UAE was one of America's allies and the US would still control all port security. The American media was quick to jump on the bandwagon and join the xenophobic banter that did little for the credibility of many newspapers and broadcast stations. While the US expects to Americanise the rest of the world through incessant expansion and take-overs of foreign companies, heaven help any group from outside America who dares come to their shores with similar ideas.

The media's reaction may be expected of small-minded individuals unaware of the facts but for the press to join in the ranting and raving was incredibly disappointing. The US is lucky their allies in the UAE did not react with more anger and DP World can at least withdraw from the US with their dignity in tact - something which cannot be said of much of the American media.

Premiership wages leap 65% since 2000

According to a study conducted by the Independent and the Professional Footballers' Association, the salaries of players in the Premiership have risen by 65% since 2000. The average player in the English top flight now earns £676,000 in basic pay, in comparison to £410,000 just six years ago. (Source: The Irish Times)

There is one person behind this astronomical wage rise: Roman Abramovich. The Russian billionaire's financial clout has led to an inflated transfer market in which clubs and players are demanding obscene fees safe in the knowledge that at least Chelsea can, and are probably prepared, to pay them. A salary cap may be the only way to keep the Premiership competitive.

Only £600,000 to go then ...

The Sun and News of the World today agreed to pay £100,000 in damages to Wayne Rooney over allegations that he assaulted his fiancee in a nightclub.

(Source: The Guardian)

Immigrants are invading America, claims Hollywood director

"The result is the south-west (of USA) will fall away. At some point, ethnically, demographically, those people will say, 'This belongs to Mexico. We're the northern province of Mexico. They're already saying it'... I think that 20, 30 years from now, we will be looking back at this period. This will be the watershed. And we have to decide now, this , I don't, this is not immigration. This is an invasion. This is a future annexation, a satellite state north of the Rio Grande. "

Ron Maxwell, director of the movie Gods and Generals, speaking on Fox News on 10 April 2006 (Courtesy of Media Matters).

In case you thought Mexicans were crossing the border into the US to find better job opportunities and an improved way of life, Ron Maxwell will set you straight. According to Maxwell, the reason those pesky immigrants are crossing the border is an attempt to turn the south-west part of America into Mexico and, presumably, return to the poverty they led us to believe they were escaping. No doubt this all makes perfect sense to regular Fox News viewers.

11 April 2006

Blair hints at less Iraqi coverage

Which brings up the role of the media. Blair said that the Western media too often serves as a mouthpiece for terrorists in Iraq. He said reporters tend to view every killing "as an indication of the coalition's responsibility for disorder, rather than of the 'wickedness that causes it.'"

Full story at AIM

Although editors make decisions on a daily basis about what to report and what not to, I do not think the government should be offering advice on what appears in the news. This should be an entirely independent process from the state. While Blair is careful just to offer his opinion on what is reported here, there appears to be an underlying suggestion that perhaps the western media should ignore some of the atrocities - which comes perilously close to crossing the dangerous line of inappropriate government interference.

Blogs burst into mainstream press

A syndication service that delivers commentary from 600 bloggers for use by newspaper publishers is set to launch on Tuesday, further blurring the lines that divide blogs and mainstream media.

Full story at Reuters.

BlogBurst has the potential to bring niche topics, that may otherwise have been ignored, to the attention of the mainstream media. It may also bring a bigger audience to insightful bloggers who aren't employed by any particular media outlet. However, as in any case of citizen journalism, the onus remains strongly on the editors to thoroughly fact check everything before it is published.

10 April 2006

Adidas accused of racism

Chinese-American groups have reacted with fury over Adidas' marketing of a HUF trainer with an image they claim perpetuates a negative image. The $250 shoe features an image of a Chinese man with bowl-cut hair, slanted eyes, pig nose and buckteeth.

"It's very sad and disturbing that in this day and age, this stereotype is coming from a global company like Adidas," said Vincent Pan, of Chinese for Affirmative Action in San Francisco.

HUF owner Keith Hufnagel dismissed the accusations of racism as "Internet garbage."

"They should do their studying before they say anything," Hufnagel said.

Adidas seems to have scored a spectacular own-goal with this move and it is hard to believe that no-one in the company even considered the negative publicity this might generate. In 2004, the Chinese government banned a "blasphemous" Nike advert in which a US basketball star defeats a cartoon kung-fu master, saying it offended national dignity. Don't be surprised to see a big Reebok (who, perhaps unbeknownst to many Chinese, are now owned by adidas) advertising campaign featuring basketball star Yao Ming in the near future.

(Source: BBC and Shanghai Daily)

New deal brings citizen journalism to the fore

Mobile phone network 3 is in talks with ITN and Sky News about feeding clips, produced by its customers, on to television news bulletins. A deal would create a direct channel for anyone caught up in a big news event. 3's UK chief executive said he wants to harness customers' potential as reporters. The onus will still remain on the TV companies publishing the content to check whether it is a bona fide source however.

"Clips from the public definitely add to the story," said a spokeswoman for Sky News. "The best you can get is TV footage that tells the story. The next best thing is citizen journalism where the cameras have not yet arrived or have not been. Some images are very, very powerful. Some of the images from inside the tunnels in the July 7 bombings, for instance, were very powerful."

This deal doesn't appear to really bring anything new to the table, except some exposure for 3. Citizens can already send their images into the news networks should they wish and this perhaps offers a slightly more effective channel. With the rolling 24-hour news channels there is an increasing danger that fake video footage makes it on to network television news and editors need to be even more vigilant than ever to avoid being conned like Piers Morgan.

(Source: The Guardian)

Manchester United look to mobile venture

Manchester United its considering a move into mobile telephony by selling branded handsets to its millions of fans around the world, and then running the service itself.

"It's a real possibility and is something we have been actively considering," said Andy Anson, the club's commercial director.

The model United are most likely to follow would probably be Virgin Mobile, which rents capacity from established operators, rather than spend billions of pounds buying a network. Should this deal become a reality it has the potential to be a very lucrative venture which could catapult United back to the fore as the world's richest club, ahead of Real Madrid. With millions of fans around the world and many people now owning more than one mobile phone United should this turn this into a very profitable venture.

Ageist, ageist Arsenal

Richard Linskell, employment law partner at Dawson's solicitors, has warned football clubs that they could be liable if they only give short contracts to players aged over 30. His comments come after Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said he would not change the club's stance to provide Robert Pires, 32, with anything longer than a one-year deal.

"I think challenges will be able to be made; whether players will bring it is another matter altogether," said Linskell. "There are a lot ofplayers like Teddy Sheringham who carry on playing well beyond the age of 30, and Bolton recently signed an Israeli (Idan Tal) who is 31-years-old. Playing over 30 doesn't mean you're past it, a policy based on age can be actionable. It's quite rare that the employer will have such a blatant attitude."

While I don't like the idea that age discrimination legislation can apply to professional sports, neither do I agree with Arsenal's policy of not offering players over 30 anything longer than a one-year contract. Many players have had years of success past the age of 30. In fact numerous sporting stars only began to start tasting success when they hit 30 - Dave Moorcroft breaking the world 5000m record, for example. Ian Wright, who was, until recently, Arsenal's all-time leading scorer, only joined the club a couple of months before his 28th birthday and was still scoring on a regular basis at 33 (when Arsene Wenger first arrived to the club). I doubt Wenger would have even considered signing a player who was only two years away from 30.

07 April 2006

End of the line for 'fake sheikh'

The News of the World has lost its battle to prevent pictures of investigative reporter Mazher Mahmood, aka the ‘fake sheikh’, being published. The paper’s barrister argued that publication would prevent Mahmood from carrying out future investigations and breached his privacy and was therefore unlawful under the Data Protection Act. The News of the World claims Mahmood was responsible for the conviction of more than 130 criminals. However, Justice Mitting said the intention was not to protect Mahmood “but the protection of his earnings capability and publication of his investigative journalism and his utility to his employers in that respect”.

The fact that the News of World defended its reporter on the principle of privacy would be laughable even if it wasn't true. For a newspaper that prides itself on invading and exposing every aspect of celebrities lives it is quite astonishing that their arguement was based on this skewed logic.

To see a picture of Mahmood you can visit George Galloway's site here.

Swedish ministers furious at Ryanair

Sweden’s prime minister Goran Persson and foreign minister Leila Freivalds have filed a lawsuit against Ryanair, complaining that the airline used their images without consent in an advertisement for cheap flights. The budget airline used the politician’s photos above a caption asking, “Time to flee the country?” at a time when Sweden’s Social Democratic government was facing heavy criticism on several issues. They have filed court papers demanding SKr75,000 (£5,600) each in damages.

Whilst Ryanair will no doubt defend itself on the principles of free speech, I would be intrigued as to whether George and Condoleezza would have demanded less than $10,000 in similar circumstances.

06 April 2006

Iraqi blogger needs help to attend US university

As someone who attended graduate school in the United States, on an athletic scholarship to study journalism, I would encourage anyone who is able to support the more worthy cause of Zeyad A. in his ambition to attend City University of New York (to which he has already been accepted). Zeyad publishes the insightful blog Healing Iraq and there is a story from the Wall Street Journal here.

BuzzMachine.com now offers details of how to help Zeyad.

05 April 2006

EU parliament pays journalists for coverage

The International Herald Tribune has reported that the European Parliament is subsidising journalists to cover its parliamentary sessions in Strasbourg. Legislators say the move aims to ensure that the EU’s only democratically elected body is not ignored. Whilst this is likely to generate outrage from many media pundits it cannot be compared to the Pentagon’s contract with the Lincoln Group. In the latter case the Bush administration was paying Iraqi news outlets to print positive articles while hiding their sources. There have been no reports of the EU parliament attempting to influence coverage in this case. As the European Parliament begins to hold greater power over the countries it encompasses it is important that the less-wealthy nations have equal access to the decision-making process. It is clear that the media can influence decisions made by governments, not least by raising awareness amongst its readers. If certain countries are denying their citizens coverage of a body that can have a major influence on their lives then they are equally taking away their opportunity and right to question any decisions being made.

However, in the case of the journalist quoted below, I would suggest they are in the wrong profession:

"The parliamentary sessions are stultifyingly dull, so the Parliament does whatever it can to make it easier for us to work here, including paying for our journeys and providing plush facilities" said a broadcaster who has benefited from the program.

04 April 2006

Media banned from Niger

Niger has withdrawn permission for a BBC team which found evidence of hunger in the country to continue to report on the humanitarian situation there. Officials said international and local media would not be allowed to do stories about the food situation as they did not want that subject touched.

It is difficult to analyse the underlying motivations behind this decision but for the sake of the people in Niger this sitaution cannot go unreported. Despite being the poorest country in the world it rarely receives any press in the western media. French President Jacques Chirac was reportedly the only head of state to bring up Niger at the G8 summit last year, despite the fact that 3.5 million people are malnourished and 1.2 million face starvation. A culture of denial still appears to exist in the African nation and cannot be allowed to continue.

Wal-Mart in Brokeback storm

The American Family Association has urged members to call Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville or to stop in and speak to their local store managers in regards to the retailer's promotion of 'Brokeback Mountain' on DVD.

Would someone please:

(a) Explain to these people that watching a movie starring homosexual characters that are verbally and physically abused, before being beaten to death will not make your children want to 'turn gay' unless they are already.

(b) Find them a new hobby (quickly).

How to trick a blogger

"Bloggers have started a war against some companies, and it could happen in travel. The trick is to get into their psyche and become a blogger too."

Graham Donoghue, TUI UK's head of new media.

When will executives realise that bloggers are just people with access to the internet, not a new human race bred to destroy multinational corporations. At least Donoghue understands that discourse is the way forward though.

03 April 2006

The Jack and Condi show rolls on

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Baghdad said any sleeping arrangements between the two politicians was "a private matter, which I can't imagine we would comment on".

I'll lead you to infer what you will from this suggestive comment.