Heather On the World

Hello there! This is my blog - I write about the digital world, journalism, music, communications, politics, energy, water and local social issues. I also love all things creative and new. Let me know what you think, and feel free to drop me an ask, or follow me on Twitter.

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Posts tagged "my opinion"

When the Snowden story broke on BBC World I was doing a trial session at my local Nuffield gym.  Since I saw his trembling but sure face over the top of a treadmill I won’t be paying £50 a month to use, I’ve been hooked on the story.  This week, the first and last things I’ve done is check what’s happening to Edward Snowden, and wondered where he is.  I’ve found the phrase “I want him to win” rotating in my head, gripped to the edge of my seat, imagining the chase. I’ve heard myself say “this’ll make a great film some day” to other people, while the man is presumably terrified, running for his life.

It’s been quite sickening for me to admit the above, and to type it out in truth. And the reason stems from what drove Snowden in the first place, which has been overshadowed by the media hysteria in trying to place him.

To start at the beginning (and hopefully not the end) in the video interviews carried out in his Hong Kong hotel room with journalists Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Lauren Poitras, Snowden says that the worse possible outcome of his whistleblowing is that we go on with our lives as usual, and let governments go under a shroud of corrupted democracy to continue treating us as they will.

The timing of the discovery of how our police force in the UK has been treating us is poignant and astounding – it suddenly illustrates exactly how we can be hurt by exactly what Snowden is trying to expose. George Monbiot outlined how difficult it is, in the light of these disgusting discoveries, for us to trust our government, and even more, our so-called protectors, the police.

And while Snowden runs exotically from Moscow to Havana, we’re still looking for him, joining in the search for this wanted man.  Instead of spending hours poring over the information about how the British and American governments have been manipulating our information, we’re interested in the manhunt. I wonder, in all honesty, why viewers (I include myself in this) see him as a savior or heroic man on the run when we’re not being given the content he’s released in an accessible form by our media ,who are spending hours on profiling the man.

The danger is exactly as Snowden fears – that the actual content of what he’s been whistleblowing will be forgotten.  We’re focusing our energies on the Hollywood-movie side that the media are feeding us with excitement – its beginning to block our view completely from the issue at hand and where it is that this has all come from. 

And right now – its still exciting enough for us to care.  If Snowden gets caught and the media shushed, how much will the public sphere care about his fate? We don’t seem to care much about Bradley Manning – this seems to be the dark side of the moon in the Wikileaks saga – it’s almost that its too dark and easier to think about a smear campaign against the affable and placeable face of Julian Assange.  

Patrick Galey recently marked how violence in the portrayal of Syria is becoming more and more about the sellable shades of blood (Sontag has developed overarching theories that illustrate but don’t define this) rather than adding much to the story or illustrating equality of content approach. Manning is a goner, spoiled by torture. Snowdon, pure as yet, is a runaway, uncaptured and unmarked. I hope he doesn’t get caught, but if he does, I hope the numbers obsessed with his plight will pour far more energy into his release than some have for Manning. And that maybe, people will reflect on how long it is that Manning has been suffering with limited support.

At the recent Oslo Freedom Forum, Jacob Applebaum said that “the fate of Bradley Manning is the fate of all of us. It’s not just about them, because we could be next.” I feel that this is indisputable. As much as we shouldn’t forget Snowden and the information he’s released, we cannot ignore the facts that connect him to Manning. 

If we’re interested in Snowden as an exciting news story then we should be interested in the perversion of our rights and our freedom, and the corruption of the principals that we hold up as democracy.  If we forget Snowden or Manning, glamorize and then deglamorise them, stay quiet and forget the nature of what they’ve been trying to expose (the fundamental injustice of the US, and by collateral UK, governments), then nobody wins - not them, not us. Only the ones doing the waterboarding. 

Hello dear followers!

It’s been a little while since I’ve flung a comment piece your way, so I thought I should update you a little.  

I have been working - a lot.  My responsibilities in my current role have evolved steadily, and I am proud to say (and hopefully, with some due humility) that I have achieved more in the last 8 months in my professional life than ever before.  The biggie was when I held the head role of organising our stakeholder event, Water Innovation Europe, which drew in 150 delegates from around Europe, and the world.  It was a success - but don’t let me blow my own trumpet too much.  You can check out the website here (content and website built by yours truly).  And below this little boast is a picture of me engrossed by the fantastic Wim Van Vierssen, one of the two pictures I had captured of me during the event. (On an unrelated note now is probably a good point to say that my opinions in this blog are my own and do not represent the Platform I work for.) 


Following this, I was lucky enough to attend the European Commission’s Green Week, an eye-opening and truly thrilling experience.  The theme this year was “The Water Challenge: Every Drop Counts”, and it was interesting to see the struggle between depth and breadth in creating productive results. Sometimes I worry about the money involved in these matters, but I think on the whole, the Commission did a good job in encouraging active collaboration - which is actually an incredibly difficult thing to do. So many people in Brussels talk about collaboration, that actually making it happen turns into quite a feat.

I’ll be in my current role till September, rocketing back and forth between England and Brussels, but am opening my doors to any prospective employers for the autumn (contain yourselves, please). But seriously, you can access my CV on this page, or see my website for my portfolio in full. 

I’m pretty angry about a few political matters which revolve around an assortment of, but not limited to: George Galloway, Cote D’Ivoire, Kony 2012 (was there anything ever as terrible as this?) and Syria. Soon, my friends!

Till then,

H xx

I haven’t updated with an opinion piece in a while - quite frankly because I’m not sure where to start! Since beginning my job in the heart of the European Parliament in September, my political opinions have evolved massively.  There’s nothing like reality to get a real grip on the world.  I’m enjoying my job, and putting all I have into it, and in my spare time, I’ve taken more to a bit of Bukowski and countryside walks to clear my head. I’ll write a more detailed update on this soon. 

Today, however, is an important day.  While I sit here in Brussels thinking of back home, people are thinly flocking to vote.  In my constituency, George Galloway is pitted to win. I absolutely believe that people are voting for him because he is, on the whole, very sympathetic to the South Asian population of Bradford.  His manifesto is vague, probably because he knows he doesn’t have to bother much.  I don’t deny that Respect is a party I respect (ha), because I like the idea of putting people first, and its voice is relatively progressive for a left wing party.  

However, anyone who says they want to completely abolish tuition fees loses my vote in an instant.  I have far too much debt to pay back following university - and I fully support manifesto’s that call for a lowering of fees or a freezing of them at the current state.  But even if it were 500pounds, I feel that any person who goes to university should spend part of their working life paying back that institution, and contributing towards incoming students. Its a matter of principle, and when we live in a country like England, one we can absolutely afford.

Local elections are important, and they can reverse apathy towards politics and motivate people into hope.  The important thing to remember is that its the results that are important, and not the hype.  I hope you can vote for who matters to you today, and not feel like you have to be strategic or fickle with your choice. 

A brief introduction

This week I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 3rd Annual European Innovation Summit, hosted in the European Parliament by the Knowledge4Innovation European Parliament Forum.

It’s necessary to give some background, so here’s a brief overview that you’ll have to bear with before I launch into my opinion on the matter.

The basic overview of the conference is thus: that Europe is currently in a state of crisis (true), that the current market needs new drivers (true) and that utilising new ideas and research is the best way of doing this (also potentially true given the panicked state of stagnancy we are reaching).

On the first day I attended a conference entitled Future Internet PPP: Smart Cities of the Future.  This consisted of a riveting set of talks, by a set of respected and exceptional speakers on how we could improve our urban centers to deal with issues such as traffic congestions, monitoring behavior (this one’s an absolute cracker: “by wiring up each cities CCTV infrastructure, we will be in a better position to monitor ethnically neutral anomalous movement”), and the integration of ICT in public-private partnership.

In the afternoon I attended a press conference where the need for and approach to competition with the US and China was discussed at a fair length.  This theme was concluded in the following mornings conference where it was ascertained that taking entrepreneurial risks (with the youth talent currently on the dole or equivalent following university) and pushing innovative research was the way to win that particular game.

All in all, I was impressed by the ideas. As terrifying as they are, I can see the value in the talks going on: Bio-engineering in the 21st Century; Privacy, Data Protection and Policy implications in whole genome sequencing; the blueprint for Europe’s future Nobel Prize winners.  I met a lot of interesting and knowledgeable people for whom I have a lot of respect.  Similarly, the organisers and contributors I saw speak fully impressed me.  My opinion obviously matters very little in such a forum, but if you’re reading this you will wonder whether I thought it was “good” or not – and so there is the answer. Great work K4I etc.

Hoorah for the multitudes of dystopian parallels

On a superficial level, I can see the value in such a summit.  However, by the end of the 3 days, I felt thoroughly disillusioned about the actual topic theme – Innovation.

Anyone who has ever read and been convinced by any Atwood, Orwell or dystopian novelist thus far, will need little convincing as to why I thought the heavy reliance on technology and new research was a) scary and b) potentially irrelevant to the challenges facing the EU currently. 

Here’s the key thing – the whole summit approach seemed to construe the term “innovation” as meaning absolutely brand-new sparkly plans to re-haul the current state of Western mankind and temper our current inability to just do things right and provide some kind of stability. 

This approach is fatal, and it is my opinion that it is this that is infecting the current wound pulling apart the continent. Without a doubt, every single presentation and debate provided a wealth of well-considered and well-researched ideas to help improve society.  I don’t doubt they would help create what Aldous Huxley might label a “stable” society.  The fact that I don’t feel safer with a well-connected CCTV system or better served by my local council with bins that electronically indicate when they’re full (perhaps it’s the Bradfordian in me that wanted to ask why we couldn’t just lift up the lids and have a look) is just my personal preference on how the world should be run. 

It seems that in some ways, it is easy to live in a forum where we batter around ideas of how great life could be, instead of coming up with ideas to doubly utilise how great life actually is…And that’s because, outside of Imagination, and relative to more recent times of prosperity, life is not so great in the EU. 

 So instead of coming up with sensible and practical ideas of what to do with the pile of mess in front of us, these key innovators and thinkers are spending their time living in some kind of dreamland where they will be able to get hold of a magic jar of million-euro sprinkles to help create neuro-devices to help improve market development.  

In any setting of political study, it is a well-established and accepted fact that you cannot overhaul any system without causing major instability and probably considerably undoing progress already made. Much conversation recognised that we would have to “do something with the old infrastructure of cities”, but that just seemed to be placed there to tick the argument off the list quickly. When I think of how little this approach will help the UK, and the various friends I have watching their own European countries falling apart, it saddens me deeply.  

The whole construction of the EU panders to this, which is why this kind of approach to thinking has developed and matured into protocol within institution doors.  I’m not working on high enough a level to presume this – but I’ll bet its rubbed off in some manner as regards economic policy.  I know people in London are worked far too hard, but I am shocked at how many people who work in political institutions in Brussels look at their watches at 6pm and cheerily pack public policy away into their drawers for the next convenient window of time they are approached with. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but I’m lucky enough to have some time left yet to test this cynical first analysis of how things work in the European Parliament. 

AS A DISCLAIMER – none of this reflects the views of any employer of mine, past, present or future, and I should also mark now that I have full respect for the Secretariat I work for and its approach to European policy and strategy.  Neither am I intending to mark any single “aggressor” in what I am criticizing – more the fact that we have moved into the current state Europe is in. Phew.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this – politics may not be dead, but the concepts of left and right in England are getting there.

I have a lot of friends whose political persuasions are mildly to dramatically different to my own. And whether we are left wing or right wing, we all have a pretty similar outlook on how we want to see our country. Policy is policy, and ideology is ideology, but I rest comfortably at night knowing that we count our freedom of speech and our position as active citizens’ precious things we would not throw away. People trying to cut a clear line between Conservatism and Liberal Democracy against the backdrop of the riots will inevitably fail to make much of a point.

Neither is it making much of a point against the police – while the injustice of 1000s of people dying in police custody without any officers being charged is an important factor to consider, I despair that it’s come to such measures where the statement of protest has turned into a statement of violence that undoes this original central message, and if anything, will only make the police come off looking better.

Let’s be clear about something else as well – policy is not always constructed in a whirlpool of toffish laughter and ignorance, or by Boris Johnson.  For all those people screaming that they could have run the country better – you didn’t and I am genuinely sorry about that. There is a clear reasoning behind why there is social unrest – there is always a reason. At this point it stems from years of inequality, a sharp stab of funding cuts and a group of people who have nothing left to lose.

Those who argue that there is nothing political about the intentions of a group of thugs jumping on a band wagon to steal nice gear – I’d agree. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t stem from or contribute towards politics, and this is a fact we simply cannot ignore.  Last night, Manchester youths announced openly that they’d carry on looting because the cells were full and the worst they’d probably get was an ASBO. In the same vein – London youths who ransacked a small business explained their action to a protesting bystander:

Why would you gut his shop –it’s all he has. He’s one man, what good has this done?

But he’s one rich man, and we’re going to show all these rich people that we can take back what we don’t have.

Whatever you might think of these statements, they cannot be ignored.  Of course, this is not how people “should” be thinking. When I think about the basic freedoms those in other countries riot for, I feel ashamed that its trainers and television the youth of England believe will satiate them.

But I disagree with the statement that this has come from no-where. The handkerchiefed youth who said the main thing he’d achieved was having his voice heard epitomises the issue here. As Just WY rightly outline, education, integration and economic standards in Britain are worsening and have been doing so for the past ten years. The reason people are rioting is because they can. Let me map it out like this – do you honestly believe that if those rioting now weren’t doing so, they wouldn’t have as tough a time finding employment as those coming out of prison? They have absolutely nothing to lose, and plenty of material to gain.

If you do want to be left or right about it, they are the group of people the Big Society has to chew up and spit out to actually function properly and achieve the nuclear family perfection it desires.  Whether they realise it or not, their uprising signals how much these people have been put on the backburner, that their moral compassing is so askew to not even realise the damage they are doing to themselves, their cities and their country.

The black police officer standing guard behind Cameron as he gave his first press conference on the riots, and the agreeing black guy nodding his head next to Miliband were PR packages that especially made my skin crawl.  If the government weren’t so concerned to be seeming to do something, they might actually be doing something far more constructive, and listening to those voices that are speaking in a non-violent way from the hearts of communities. 

I can only assume that Bradford hasn’t fallen into the trap yet because it still carries the scars of extreme rioting, and works cohesively to keep the city that is loved by its inhabitants together.  As soon as the EDL rile up enough hate to want to purge the blacks and Asians from “our” streets however, the picture may well change, though I hope it does not with all my heart.

And that’s another thing I wouldn’t want to deny.  While you can sweep over and narrow down the potential causes for the riots: money, race, class and police treatment, there are plenty of people who operate in any society under a large degree of hate. The spirit of those marching up to rioters and prodding them in their chests, those cleaning up the streets patiently and making tea to help out – these are the people who contribute above and beyond what the Big Society ever wanted, and I hope their selflessness will be the reason it fails.

When confronted with a problem, it is easy to apply an aggressive hindsight, or “I told you so” attitude, but I for one, hope I can contribute more than this analysis to making Britain, and the world, a better, less selfish place.

While the 7th of July brings the sad recall of the London terrorist attacks, it also represents the birthday of a completely separate tragedy that seems to be more easily forgotten: the tenth anniversary of the Bradford Disturbances, or so-called “Riots”.

It seems strange to most Bradfordians that such a date is so easily disregarded – after all, the disturbances have shaped patterns not only in Asian youth culture, but have also had a massive impact on how Muslims and Asians as two subgroups are treated in Britain – and how some people have chosen to act on the back of such treatment.

Here’s a summary: a large group of National Front supporters come to protest against cultural festival in Bradford; get drunk during the day, beat the odd Pakistani kid up here and there in town; night falls and the Asian youth of Bradford (one of the biggest in the country) emerges to fight their ground.

While the behaviour of anyone involved in the disturbances should not be condoned, it is no wonder that the police, the courts and the media in Bradford are regarded with little respect: while 191 people were given a combined custodial sentence of 510 years, the harshest and most widespread sentences for public disorder since the Second World War, few NF supporters were charged. Any Bradfordian – white or brown – could tell you that this is a serious miscarriage of justice which many officials simply shrugged at.

Even now the city wears the scars of the notorious weekend – there are still pubs burnt out and boarded up, still piles of rubble to moved, and the Mela, the festival the NF so strongly opposes, was cut down to one day this year for the first time since its induction.

The aesthetic of Bradford, however, is very different to its atmosphere. The BNP, the EDL and National Front have all been to Bradford repeatedly since the disturbances, and the public has waved an airy hand and gotten on with its day. The number of socially aware projects and organisations that have sprung up indicate more than the wish to be progressive – they embrace the spirit of healing a city that wants to be, and be itself at that.

This, sadly, is not how the national media sees it. The coverage of a recent set of gruesome murders that marred the streets of Bradford illustrates this profoundly. Print, web and broadcast alike all intonated something that echoes the coverage of Africa in the international news: a hopeless, dark basket case where violence is expected. This may seem like a harsh criticism, but as Arturo Escobar marks “it is difficult not to look at the Third World through the signifiers set for us: famine, poverty, illiteracy, violence…these images do not seem to go away.” So too, in the context of the UK, is it difficult to see a city like Bradford outside of such terms.

Bradfords local media’s coverage echoed a similar sentiment, with little discussion about the victims, little blame placed on extremist right wing groups, and an overemphasis on the police’s role that conveniently disregarded the tales of those who suffered brain damage from truncheon battering.

The media play a central part in establishing such pigeonholes and images. I would hate to have to speculate that the fact that the murder victims were young, Asian Muslim men were sound reasons for the lack of newsworthiness of their coverage. But when considering how much time and energy was spent covering, all be it in a slightly voyeuristic manner, the death of Joanna Yates, it should be expected that such a series of murders are seen as an atrocity of a far greater size. But Bradford is a city with a troubled past, and if the country and its media doesn’t join in with helping it heal itself, it could become a city with a troubled future.

The close timeline between the Bradford Disturbances and the 9/11 terrorist attacks resonates – as a young Bradfordian at that time I remember that being the summer that I realised how much my race and religion was about to delineate me from those I went to school with, those that I would one day work with. The impact on treatment of Pakistani youths and Muslims in Britain finds a representative crux in Bradford, and it is an illustrative picture that shouldn’t be ignored.

Linking terrorism to Asian youth run amok would seem an easy link to make – various newspapers, The Daily Mail and the Mirror in particular, have worked tirelessly to make such connections seamless. I hope at the 10 year anniversary of the Bradford Disturbances the media will look to the strength the city has shown, and avoid clouding it with too much doubt, or, far worse – neglect.

 As the coalition governments debate rages on as to how far involvement in Libya should go, and as the situation begins to cripple itself into stagnancy, I had a muse and decided to ask whether Muammar Al-Gaddafi is actually a target. 

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In May 2010, the aid flotilla the Mavi Marmara was stormed by Israeli Defence Forces, resulting in the deaths of 19 unarmed passengers and the injury of many others. In January 2011, Israel’s self-appointed board to review the incident announced it as legal.  The invasion has been hushed down into silence a year on.  In the context of growing injustice against innocent Palestinians and Israelis, the aniversary of the Mavi Marmara should not be forgotten.  Hasan Nowarah, of Glasgow-based charity Justice For Palestine was aboard the flotilla and left relatively scot-free, with five broken bones in his leg.  Here, he discusses how initial reporting by the mainstream British media has led to an unravelling of justice. 

It’s a generally acknowledged fact that the American media, balanced in the Right direction by a little something called the Israel Lobby, have a very distinct approach to coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is becoming more evident that this viewpoint has filtered, in a more discreet form, through the British media.  

When Nowarah was released by Israeli forces, he spent several days relaying his account of events to the mainstream media.  The end result left him feeling “disgusted”.

Lets recap: The base matter of the fact is that international law was defied on the part of the IDF by storming the Mavi Marmara.  The flotilla was boarded with little warning in international waters – which is categorically, according to some treaty written by the UN, not on.  A year on, there has been no punishment for this crime.  Neither has it been confirmed that their reasons for storming the flotilla in the first place gave them qualification (it was because of those general troublemakers, that’s why they did it! Oh – and obviously terrorists.  Connected to Hamas and Al Qaeda. Shit.).

Nowarah’s main frustration has been the omission of this as a crime in the mainstream British press.   “There is no such thing as balance – they should provide the truth.  When we were attacked, we were 18 miles deep into international waters.  The media has twisted whatever was wrong to right, and whatever was right to wrong.  I have no respect and no trust for such kind of media.”

His anger at this is understandable from several viewpoints – if not most from the fact that Somalian pirates who have operated in a similar manner in international waters are widely condemned, while the behaviour of Israeli forces is largely condoned by the media.  The real problem with media representation was (and is still) of course, the lack of context which has been reflected historically in reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Nowarah noted the ambiguous shroud around what Chris Hedges, former New York Times journalist, has marked as the “slow-motion ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinian people.  “The newspapers, they came up with general information, just vague information, about the blockade.    Why nearly 1000 people from all around the world got on that flotilla and put their lives on the line to enter is never mentioned.”

The push for a certain kind of back drop echoed through the questioning: “The mainstream journalists were asking me things like ‘do you think Israel has any right to exist?’ I said I will answer your question: does Palestine have any right to exist? All the Palestinian refugees around the world have no right to go back to their homeland.  They were driven out.  Palestine has every right to exist as well. That’s what I answered them with.”   

The cloudy and unspecific reporting has damaged, significantly, the plight of the Palestinian people.    Even British counter-culture movements such as Channel 4’s “The Promise” and Louis Theroux’s ‘Ultra-Zionism’ documentary (though I can only fault Louis least of any British journalist, to be honest) relay a shocking lack of context.  It takes very little to vocalise the importance of why Israel and Palestine are fighting in the first place (granted, I’ve taken it as a given anyone reading this article understands the conflict already – if you don’t just Wiki it).  When Palestinian Christians aren’t allowed with any kind of ease into Bethlehem during Christmas, the conflict becomes almost sickeningly postcard perfect in its injustice.  Making the excuse of indigestible journalism is a poor one.  People will eat what you feed them, so why not feed them the truth?

And then, of course, there are the far more sinister undertones to Nowarah’s account of the Mavi Marmara incident. 

The fact that the Israeli soldiers on board had every passenger’s details to hand: “they even had photocopies of our passports”; the fact that all video, mobile, photo and paper evidence was confiscated from all of those on board (including journalists) and destroyed; the fact that the Turkish police were actively involved in checking the loading of the flotilla, with the Norwegian and Swedish media looking on; the fact that, if such logs were made, a complete lack of weapons was evident; and the fact that Nowarah suffered 5 broken bones in his foot for trying to defend an 83-year-old American diplomat who was punched to the floor (“I’ve seen my mother, my two brother killed by Israeli soldiers.  When I saw them hit an old man, I could not stand it”, he explains simply). 

And most sinister of all is the communication between the Mavi Marmara crew and Israeli forces before the flotilla even left the dock.  The Israeli forces contacted the IHH, the main Turkish charity in charge of the flotilla to ask for help.  “They wanted us to talk to Hamas, to gain access for the Red Cross to two Israeli soldiers being held as prisoners.  Our answer was to them: We are sorry, but we are not intermediaries for the government, terrorists or other such bodies.  We are carrying humanitarian aid, we are activists.  We are not here to help Hamas or to support Hamas.  We are here to help the innocent civilian people of Gaza.”

It’s important to note that, in some ways, that which leads to mass ignorance isn’t even an out-rightly engineered evil by the press – it has just progressed into having a much more negative impact than was ever anticipated in the past.  It’s reflected in our everyday, in everything we do, in the institutions we chose to trust, be it the Metropolitan Police, The Guardian, the BBC or Al Jazeera English. 

Though I will always count the community spirit in Sheffield as its beautifully beating heart (and as an English Literature graduate see the drive behind this cause fully), I was sickened to see hundreds of people protesting last month against the closing of a library in the town centre, and only about 50 people the week before protesting about 50mm bullets ripping through the skin of Libyan protestors. 

But who can blame any of us when the British media has perverted its own discourse to continue a pattern that suits or government and their foreign policy (which may not, in the long run, help the British public at all)? 

And isn’t it just as worrying on the same card, that thousands of people in the UK who might consider themselves more aware, to be celebrating the tenure of the rebellion of Egyptian and Libyan people, when hundreds of people are dropping like flies every week in the Sudan and Cote D’Ivoire for trying to do the same, without as much as an eyelid bat from our media?

The actions carried out by Israel in their boarding of the Mavi Marmara were illegal, and the lack of recognition of this by the media is symptomatic of many other international issues that are brewing to danger point under a shield of repetitive hypocrisy.  If there’s anything that Nowarah taught me during our interview, it is that it’s not the place where it’s all happening that is important – it’s the principle behind it.  

  • First of all, fair followers, thankyou for your interest in my blog and reposting my posts so often. In case you wanted to see my most recent full length blog pieces, my analysis of Obama’s ME speech is here, and my piece on the death of Bin Laden is here.
  • Secondly, I hope you enjoyed the Syria and Palestine focus this week.
  • Three things are in the forefront of my mind in terms of global news this week:
  1. Pakistan - the heat is building, and I feel despair that the Pakistani government’s foolishness and greed has led to it being played like no-one was ever played before. I pray every day that Pakistan is saved, that it can reconstruct itself into a peaceful country, and that there is no war.  I pray also that drone and suicide groomed attacks end also. I hope you can all pray with me.
  2. Palestine - Obama did a brave thing in his attempt to stand up against Israel. It seems, however, that only one sad lesson has been learnt - never defy the Israel Lobby. Netanhyu speech can be seen here: http://bit.ly/jIQJxW I pray for Palestine, and for Israel - enough people have died on both sides. I know in everyone’s (But the elite’s) hearts they want it to stop.
  3. Cote D’Ivoire - I beg, beg, beg of you to keep your eyes open for coverage of Cote D’Ivoire, and of Sudan.  Both countries are falling into a worsening situation, and it is up to us not to let the media let us forget this.
  • This week I am sitting assignments and exams at university, and so I will not be doing a Focus.  I will however, be started on Pakistan from the 1st of June, so please do keep your eyes peeled.
  • If you’re interested in what I study, I am currently working on the following assignments:
    • An essay on whether there is a moral obligation for journalists to remain objective when reporting conflict or civil war.
    • Reading for my dissertation: “The Times (England) coverage of genocide over the last century, and how this has influenced legal and social definitions to aid foreign policy.”
    • Working on a PR project for my “Communicating with the Media” module - our campaign is to raise the minimum drinking limit in England to 21.
    • My content analysis of coverage of the Sudanese referendum in The Telegraph and The Guardian.
  • It is the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara this weekend. I had the honour of interviewing Hassan Nowarah last year about the media coverage and impact of this invasion.  Having listened to Ilan Pappe speak last week, I will reformulate this interview and speech as an article piece, and post it here on Tuesday.
  • Have a wonderful week, my friends.

The text of the speech is here.

I’ll start off by saying that I thought Obama (or whoever wrote the speech for him) was eloquent and articulate in talking about Osama Bin Laden. You all know my feelings on the issue, but I thought that he calmed the hysteria somewhat by making a reference to the “irrelvance” of Al Quaeda.  I think this word is highly effective, and does all kinds of dismantling.  Whether I agree with how the US’s has executed its war on terror or not, this is how terrorists of any kind should be treated by the media - as pathetic. This applies to state terrorists too (which makes what I’m saying essentially hypocritical)- but we all know that once someones killed, especially killed those we consider bredren or innocent, it’s difficult to ignore their twisted plight.

That’s about where my good feeling ends. His references to old icons (classic US speech tool) are quite sickening - especially his use of Rosa Parks. Pulling on the strings of ancestory to softly coerce those who are listening into believeing your intentions are pure is just a bit lame.

As far as his outlining of the Middle East Revolution has the hugest hole in it.  To quote one debate from The Economist:

Hundreds of demonstrators have been killed in Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt, and Western governments did not only stand by: they in fact stood firmly in support of the dictatorships there (and it is not clear that the Libyan tyrant killed more of his people than Hosni Mubarak or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, but Western governments exhibit more concern for civilians in countries rich with oil or gas, as it happens). Barack Obama did not call for Ben Ali to step down until he was sure that his plane had left Tunisian airspace, and he managed to conspire with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu (neither of which stands as a champion of Arab democracy) to prolong the life of the Mubarak regime. The code word then was “reform”, which is a euphemism for prolonging the lives of dictatorial regimes by implementing cosmetic changes to soften public anger and undermine protests.

I noticed shortly after the speech that the US State Department tweeted documents to “proove” it’s helping hand in Bahrain. Obama’s insistence on the US’s hand in the Middle East Revolution confirms the media paradigm that is being created - that a group of old Arab kings with shawls on their heads are being usurped by a group of young, new-Arab men, who watch MTV and know how to fight what they want. What guys! Aren’t they great? They’re so strong. Etc. The media are watching a battle unfold with some relish, and not really zoing in on the context of each regime seperately - when they have had more than enough time to stretch to do so.  If I were editor of anything I would have asked somebody, by now, to do a high profile piece on the context of each regime. One a day for a couple of weeks. Doesn’t take a lot - just saying.

And then, we really got rolling, with a lovely bit of development:

"In a global economy based on knowledge and innovation, no development strategy can be based solely upon what comes out of the ground. Nor can people reach their potential when you cannot start a business without paying a bribe."

This really is rich (pun unintended). It is also incredibly clever - it acknowledges that famine and pain do not come from just the rain.  But it discounts that it comes from weapons selling and trade sanctions that favour and hinder different places. And it doesn’t break the development paradigm of Afro-and what is now becoming-Middle Eastern-pessimism. Here’s another one of my favourite quptes. I’m not going to even comment on it - because I really don’t need to:

The West was blamed as the source of all ills, a half century after the end of colonialism.

Following this was an over -concentrated look at how technology is going to save everyone (bit weird considering how smart weapons seem to - oopsidaisy - keep missing their targets and killing people in abit of the old “collatoral damage”).  Nice bit of triadism to build up the fist waving getures, and then - the biggy - the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When you start this area off with the following statement - which completely discounts the ethnic cleansin of Palestine, you know things are not going to end so well:

For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could get blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them. For Palestinians, it has meant suffering the humiliation of occupation, and never living in a nation of their own.

With the way the Israeli Lobby operates in America, it is a difficult task. But the rhetoric which surrounds his proposal buries it in the ground, even before a group of so-called religious man bombard him with requests to "terminate the plan like Bin Laden". 

In general conclusion: Obama makes some “valid” and antiquated points which were nice in a way, to see again, the alternative being bleak -

"A failure to change our approach threatens a deepening spiral of division between the United States and Muslim communities."

But the manner in which he follows them implies that no change will be wrought. His speech continues with the regular anti-Iranian sentiment, pure propaganda - with no explanation, just dictation on one facade of a huge issue. It kind of undermines the above quote.

If I were to be objective, I could look back at a history that balancing on a thread, where any nation involved, including the US, has got drawn into a fight they could not escape. I acknowledge this, and use it often to calm my own fury and cyncism down. 

However, this is not the past. And this speech indicates that the future, as delicately as it hangs now, is not going to be something easy or logical to govern, nor should it be governed.  There is an edge of real indecision to Obama’s speech, as convincing as it sounds.  The outright rejection of the 1967 border deal in Israel shows that nothing will be as clear as he’d like to make it, because the world is not all stars and stripes.


Into takes on the Syrian regime.  To maintain balance, here are a couple of pro-Israeli slants on the issues, which I think are valid (to some degree) and interesting.

Israel’s Jerusalem Post:

"How much longer will Palestinians allow themselves to be captives to extremism and intransigence, and pawns to rogue states such as Syria? The only path to their independence lies through reconciliation with the State of Israel."

(Oh! I suppose that’ll mean the ethnic cleansing will stop? Sorry - its not meant to be objective, just balanced).

The New York Times:

Reports that Syrians were bussed to the border. I think this is an interesting take, and potentially not that far from the truth.

"For the first time in his 11-year reign, Mr Assad demonstrated to Israel, the region and world that in an uprising that has posed the greatest threat to his family’s four decades of rule, he could provoke war to stay in power."


Matters of attention:

First of all, the Live AV blog didn’t go 100% to plan, though I definitely kept up with it on the Twitter if you were watching. Over the space of three days our team contributed as political “experts” on 2 newspapers, a live website, 6 live radio bulletins and 2 live TV slots. If you want to see a sample of my work, click here. When the TV and radio is uploaded I’ll provide a link to it.

I have to say that I enjoyed working on the radio bulletins the most fun - and the most interesting. The adrenaline, and the opportunity to work with a team of people I know only as friends/acquaintances, as well as working closely on high pressure research and debate with my closer classmates and friends, really was wonderful.

We stayed up all night on Thursday covering the results of the local election live - I’m going to write a big piece on this today hopefully. I’ll also include my thoughts on the huge dissapointment that is the failure of AV. 

Thirdly: the focus this week is Syria, present, past and potential options for the future.

Off to a lecture shortly on the moral obligation of objectivity in conflict reporting, hope you all have a lovely day. 

Hello dear followers and readers,

I have to say I am overwhelmed with the number of people who appreciated my opinion piece on BinLaden, and hope it is a sign of this blog working harder and getting more readers. It’s actually the first time that I’ve promoted this little blog in other social media, so to get such a response is a real honour.

Back down to the real stuff! Today is the voting day for local elections and the AV referendum in the UK.  Until a couple of days ago I really was quite undecided about AV, but after much research on both arguments I am a concrete Yes2AV supporter.  I feel that First Past The Post doesn’t let the majority win, and that the main argument that AV lets people have “more bites of the cherry” a void one - in this scenario having more bites of the cherry weakens your vote each time.  So the idea that the BNP will be in government because of a thuggish minority and an AV system is ludicrous.

Production week has been a lot of fun and very interesting so far. As political correspondents we don’t take part in the hectic technicalities, but we do get to sit in on the broad news meetings and schedule settings, which is probably the most fun part of planning TV, radio, print and web.  On Tuesday I recorded a slot for a TV program which was screened in the department yesterday, and on Wednesday I got to spin my views for a short time during the live 5pm radio bulletin. I have to say, I’m now quite drawn to broadcast.

Anyway, today will consist of:

  • An easy day time with some researching at home and of course I’ll be going to VOTE.
  • Then, after lunch, I’ll be leaving my humble abode and popping down to Sheffield for 3pm.  I start the night shift at 5pm officially, but all the “political experts” will be gathering to pool ideas and information.  There are about 8 of us currently on board, helping about 140 print, web, broadcast and magazine students.
  • We’ll spend the evening researching furiously and debating different areas which we’ve mapped out between us.
  • At 11pm we go live - and will be contributing to 16 radio bulletins interspersed as the polls come in - lasting till 3am. This is the part I’m looking to the most.

The adrenaline and team work this week has really made me sure I want to be some sort of journalist. I’ve loved pretending to play grown up and then realising -actually, some people are actually listening to what I say - what a surreal feeling.

Aside from all of this international news is, of course, building an enormous pressure. I as incredible saddened to see a classmate, also studying global journalism, state simply that Pakistan should be “bombed” this morning. As someone who is generally completely against violence of any sort, seeing this sentiment directed at anyone, at anytime, always upsets me.  In this particular case, it shows how divisive world matters have become. I’m not sure we can pretend that war brings peace any more, if it did, the whole world would be at peace now, surely, followed the century of such action?

Keep your eye out on here, and follow jus news if you want a really comprohensive update overnight. I’ll also be updating my twitter feed: @heatheriqbal

All the best for now,


So - today was Nick Clegg’s visit to Bradford, for a question and answer session organised by the T&A local newspaper. 

If you don’t know much about Bradford here’s the situation in a nutshell: residue of the 2001 race riots, general poverty, poor education and a serious youth and homeless problems. It’s not the worst place to live, but neither is it the best. This article by the Economist actually sums up some of the challenges Bradford faces.

Overall, Nick did well today. Sadly, the internet in the room the talk was held in was inaccessible, so I couldn’t tweet or blog along the way.

Here are some of the claims he made:

  • The state pension transformation will definitely make people better off.
  • The elimination of EMA isn’t a bad thing because the compulsory age of education is to be raised to 18 by 2016.
  • In effect, the £9000 fees will “never have to actually be paid back”  in a lot cases, by those students starting University in the next few years (I’m quoting here).
  • He’s employed a man called Andrew Dilknot, whom he’s never met, to review the situation of welfare services in the country.
  • It’s not the UK’s responsibility alone to deal with the problems in Congo. (Nice general semantic field of Afropessimism in his answer there).
  • That he opposes cultural prejudice. (That’s wicked, Cleggers - maybs do something about it? See concluding note on coalition compromises.)
  • That he finds the police to be highly reliable.  I don’t doubt there are numerous excellent police men and women out there, to whom I probably owe my life, but given the degree and frequency of police brutality in Bradford, I’m not all that sure this answer went down well.
  • Sadly there was not the opportunity for me, or anyone else to ask about the AV referendum.

In essence, all these claims are true. But there is a chunk of about 10 years when these plans will effect, extremely negatively, what is actually a generation of people.

These people, currently about 17 years old are perturbed by the amount of money education will cost - no matter how much Clegg tries to convince them that it will not - and these are the ones will be geniunely worse off - no EMA, more to pay, less to earn, pension barriers and no jobs.

A few people inadvertently made this point, and Nick Clegg simply made the “long term effect” defence. My question, really, is this: taxpayers money poured into the wedding and the AV referendum (which couldn’t really work effectively given the current instability of the nation) could be spent on creating a better system to regulate banking, which should, and could, easily start paying back the deficit. I don’t feel like I’m hyperbolising in this claim - but I need to read up on my economics, doubtless, to back it up.

I have to say that something that resonated with me was when Nick responded to a student’s claim he had “lied” when it came to tuition fee policy:

"No, listen.  When you are in politics - when you make commitments for policy - you do so, quite candidly and openly, on the assumption that you have won the contest.  We didn’t win. It’s very unfashionable in politics to do this - to remind people of the limits of our success. We came third. I am a leader of a party which has got 57 MP seats out of 600. You expect me to behave as if I won a landslide - I didn’t. What happened was - no one won the election.  What we could have done was stand aside and said we were going to take no responsibility for the future of the country, we’re just simply going to comment from the side lines. Or, we did what I believe to be right, at a particular time during an economic crisis, we said, "No, we are going to play our part in trying to sort out the mess in this country". I have never, ever hidden from anybody that that would involve difficult compromises."

While his point is a pertinent one, and one that he should make far more often to former (and current, if there are any) LibDem supporters - how far will his compromises go? Presumably the plans in the LibDem manifesto were valid and executable, otherwise he would never had made the promises he did, given the above claim that he would not make blatant Uturns.  How far is it before the party’s role in the coalition becomes completely redundant? We shall find out this week following the local elections and referendum.

Thanks for reading, if you have. Good night and good luck for now. More tomorrow.

Hello everyone. Though today is internationally significant (as most days are), its also the start of my live AV blog. Which is also internationally significant, you might say.

This week, us journalists at Sheffield will be covering the AV referendum in close detail during our annual production week.  As a politics student, I won’t be taking part in the production aspect, instead I’ll be asked to frequently voice my opinions - hooray!

However, I’ve been given the very, very prestigious chance to meet Nick Clegg this afternoon, so thought I’d dive back into live blogging and start my reporting on the AV referendum now.  I’m going to be looking at this from the viewpoint of a Bradford citizen, and what impact the local and referendum elections will have on our town. 

If you want to follow my stream on Twitter, my name is @heatheriqbal but I should hopefully be embedding my Twitter feed on here at some point today.

There are various arguments for and against AV. Shall we start with one for? This mathematician has made some pertinent observations on why we should vote AV. It is well argued, and though I’m against AV for other reasons than those he outlines, I really see his point.

Coverage kicks off this afternoon so keep your eyes peeled! And please, please let me know what you think of everything and anything!