Press Standards

A Private Affair

Posted on Updated on

On the whole the French are not that interested in the Affair Gayet. In a survey 56% of French people in a YouGov poll said that they really thought the Holland-Gayet affair is a private matter. Only 25% said they were interested in any way. The French are not curious!

But there is more, the YouGov poll shows that those who are politically on the left or left looking are less interested. For them the scoop of Closer is an invasion of privacy. They are very protective of their privacy notwithstanding the political resonance of the affair. But the opinions are partisan to say the very least; those on the right and supporters of the odious Marine le Pen do not share this view of privacy, for them it is a matter for the public to debate, discuss and titillate themselves over.

One might suggest a link between small things and tiny minds at this point.

tiny minds

Respect for privacy or not that the French populace has shown, the media nonetheless is in something of a frenzy. The priority given to the press conference by the President of the Republic, the rolling news reporting and the pitching-up of foreign news agencies has been nothing if not exceptional. The media is doing its very best to try to encourage the French public to take an interest.

The victim of these intrusions, the President Francois Holland has remained tight lipped about the matter to the point of refusing to complain. No doubt thinking about the judicial immunity the Presidential Office enjoys for his entire term. The actress Julie Gayet by contrast has decided court action is in order and is suing Closer for €50,000.00 damages for invasion of privacy. This didn’t stop the magazine going on to promise further revelations however or all sorts of rumors circulating on the internet and on social networking sites.

francois holland

What is interesting however is that the French public have said that they think the budget of the First Lady should be removed. 55% of the respondents to the YouGov poll say the budget of the First Lady is an anachronism of the Republic. But the budget set at less than €20,000.00 is hardly a kings ransom for Valerie Trierweiler the current First Lady (for how much longer she will be we don’t yet know). Furthermore 69% of respondents said the budget is unjustified regardless of political allegiance or age.

In France even the most high profile of affairs is a private matter, the contrast to Britain could not be any starker. You only have to look at any of the tabloids to see the difference in approach. Privacy in the UK is a matter of contention, in the public eye means you are public property, all the time. To quote “every Katie has a Price…”

The Hordes are coming?

Posted on Updated on

Schengen Agreement
Schengen Agreement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since 01 Jan. 2014 Romanians and Bulgarians have had the restrictions on free movement lifted, 7 years since accession to the EU and now they are free to travel for work.

The Disaster Scenario for British PM David Cameron I guess. He announced that Romanians and Bulgarians would not enjoy the same freedoms as those from other European countries, no not a bit of it, they would be excluded from claiming the same social benefits freely available to others. Britain would not be over-run by scroungers!

David Cameron knows this ‘problem’ does not arise, they are coming to work in the main. But he nonetheless continues to agitate the populist radical right who are spoken to by UKIP. He will continue to do this right up to the European Elections in May 2014, after then who knows what his and his party’s position on the matter will be. Add to this political frenzy of over-speculation the British tabloid press coverage and yes we have a storm of Romanian and Bulgarian scroungers just simply queuing to get on planes, trains and automobiles to get to Britain, and only Britain!

This is no shock, back in 2007 when the 2 countries gained accession there were fears, deep seated fears. The British tabloids at the time imagined hordes would come, fill-up the remaining few British social houses, hospitals and school places.

At the time experts in immigration and population movement said that the effect would not be great. Yes, some would move to Britain but not so many as to swamp the country in feckless beggars and scroungers though. All that has to be remembered is that from 2001 Romanians and Bulgarians could travel freely in the Schengen area without a visa. There was no mass migration, there is no reason to believe that there will be a mass migration so spectacular that the social fabric of society will be torn away at the seams.

But at the time there was no UKIP, the political tone was much more moderate. This time the press and politicians outdid themselves and their hostile and xenophobic language has attracted amazement and bitterness in Bulgaria and Romania. Many articles on the subject are translated, and often make the headlines in both countries.

But there is a great paradox, in Bulgaria, 18,000 Britons have bought holiday homes in the resorts, enjoying an almost Mediterranean climate on the cheap. There is no animosity between the British and Bulgarians to my knowledge, except in the virtual space of the tabloids and the comments they generate from our political leaders.

So my conclusion: Bulgarians and Romanians do not have much to worry about Mr Cameron. You have expressed your doubts, you have agitated. Although in my opinion, it is losing the European elections that you are worrying about, not the moderate influx of people wishing to better their lives through toil and hard work. But for many reasons, the Bulgarian and Romanian have a bad image in the EU. This has nothing to do with Mr. Cameron and Sofia and Bucharest it is to do with the economic disadvantages of their nations. The EU is large and will do well to continue to enlarge itself for the time being.

Britain was after-all the architect of Romanian and Bulgarian accession, she got what she asked for so why complain?

End of the EDL?

Posted on Updated on

English: EDL Protest
English: EDL Protest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2013 will be memorable for many reasons for me; personally I have started my journey to a new life in the South East of France with the sale of my home in Manchester. The money is in the bank, I have a nice house on the outskirts of a town in Northern England and a house rented near Grasse from which to conduct my search for a new permanent home.

But what of one of the reasons I despair so much about Britain – the far right!

Well 2013 was a bad year for the EDL, it cannot be denied. They lost their charismatic leader Tommy Robinson in an exit facilitated  by the Quilliam Foundation and a BBC documentary. But the organisation’s demise could have come sooner, had it not been for one key factor, the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich.

The killing, in broad daylight near Rigby’s army barracks, gifting Robinson, aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, a new impetus. In dire financial straits and concerned about neo-Nazi elements in his midst, the EDL leader had wanted a way out for some time, say those close to matter.

“Prior to Lee Rigby’s murder, the EDL was finished. It was physically dead…” said  Matthew Collins of Hope not Hate the anti-Fascist movement. The founder and leader, Lennon (Robinson)  had absolutely no interest, he was worried about going to prison. The EDL had radicalised people, however, people who thought they had no way of expressing what they didn’t like. So 2,500 people came out in Newcastle after Lee Rigby’s murder.

No such response to 7/7 and no response either from the numerous Muslim Organisations. The EDL gave people a branch on which to cling in what they thought were desperate times. But no longer I think. Social integration never really existed in Britain and the EDL spoke to those who believe that the country is being over-run by immigration, the EDL feeds those fears to its own ends based on hatred.

Since Robinsons departure the EDL has become quiet but insists it will go on, but how without the media friendly (well media worthy is probably more accurate) Robinson it is difficult to say. The EDL may pass but the ideology will not. The EDL has radicalised around 3000ish working class men into counter-jihadists who will be looking for a new home, new leadership at the very least. They may (re)turn to the BNP who have a political foothold in the European Parliament through their leader Nick Griffin or they may find solace in UKIP (unlikely though, these are working class men not high rolling bankers).

It would appear however distressing that the tattooed working class racist thug is here to stay and should the Muslim community remain separate; alien to some, then these thugs will persist and may go on to kill in kind.

2014 is probably the last year we will hear that chant of E – E – EDL! but if our French cousins are anything to go by then the far-right will re-emerge again and again in ever more nasty and ugly guises I fear. Helped in recruitment no doubt by the gutter press media and acts of plain stupidity in public by those in the eye of the media. Take for example yesterday where Nicolas Anelka made a goal celebration which appeared to be the quenelle salute made famous by the French comedian Dieudonne. The gesture is strongly linked to anti-Semitism in France. The perfect example of why tensions will be persistent.

The end of the EDL? I think yes. The end of racial hatred and the far right? definitely not I’m very sad to say.

Pussy Riot Free – PR Stunt!

Posted on Updated on

Free Pussy Riot
Free Pussy Riot (Photo credit: gaelx)

Today the jailed band members of Pussy Riot have been freed under a controversial amnesty by the Russian Government. I am not sad but I am not happy either.

I don’t believe the amnesty is a humanitarian act, its a PR stunt aimed at softening the image of the Russian Government and specifically Mr. Putin.

I would accept that the stunt the band pulled was ill-advised and that it was totally disrespectful in the extreme to those who feel the church has a place in their lives. But honestly, imprisonment for being a real pain in the backside? I ask was justice served by sending these women to prison? NO! it was revenge plain and simple. And now when it suits the governments purpose the women are released.

As a PR stunt I’d say its pretty blunt and unsophisticated – Russia government – try again cos we aint convinced!

Marsha Alyokhina (one of the jailed band members) spoke on Dozhd TV, saying she would have preferred to have stayed in prison, but had no option but to accepted the amnesty, calling it a “profanation.” Human rights activists were waiting to greet her as she came out of prison, with Alyokhina telling reporters she wanted to meet her band-mate Nadia Tolokonnikova before speaking to journalists.

Nadia Tolokonnikova is expected to be released imminently from a prison hospital, where she has been following a hunger strike.

The pair are freed under a controversial amnesty bill passed by the Russian parliament last week, which grants the release of 25,000 “vulnerable” inmates, those who are elderly, sick or pregnant. Both Pussy Riot members qualify because they are mothers of young children. Indeed?

Analysts believe that the amnesty, as well as the release of Russia’s most famous prisoner, the Kremlin critic and former oil tycoon Mikhail Khordokovsky, is an attempt to stem criticism of Russia’s justice system and human rights before the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The Arctic 30 Greenpeace protesters are also free under the amnesty.

The third Pussy Riot protester, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was given a suspended sentence in October last year, because she had been thrown out of the cathedral before reaching the altar to perform.

Pussy Riot may not make great music or give fantastic performances but they are artist’s nonetheless. For anybody who disagrees look-up situationalism and dada as examples of what Pussy Riot do.

Good Luck Pussy Riot and all who go in their wake.

Death of a Peacekeeper

Posted on Updated on

Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material ...
Setting off with 2 trucks, jeeps and material in Bangui; © OCHA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It was a strange day yesterday, a very strange day indeed. There was the world media event that was the Nelson Mandela memorial, President Obama et al involved in a ‘selfie’ caught on camera by the press and then there was the conflict in Central African Republic.

The French Army, there as peace keepers, peace makers actually but I’m sure you know what I mean banned all media activity for the day. This is unusual to say the very least. Journalists were banned from filming with the French Forces, cancelled until further notice.

Journalists were left to report and film in the absence of armed protection and so they did what journalists do, they made reports.  And these reports, what did they say?

They told the story of a lawless country, of streets barred to ordinary people and to the journalists as it happens. But yesterday the army roadblocks had been removed, almost as if the effort to prevent further slaughter by the militia were suspended for the day! And then the news came that French President Francois Holland was to visit or more accurately fly into a secure, (very secure actually, the army had been taken off the streets to protect him during the visit) airport surrounded by soldiers and barbed wire then fly back out again.

Nonetheless journalists did witness some peacekeeping forces in action. Forces from FOMAC from the UN, African Troops this time were engaged in a fire-fight with local militia whilst covering people seeking to go about their business as usual as possible in these extraordinary circumstances. At least one was felled, killed I don’t know but probably and given the reports possibly from gunfire from his own troops who were seen to be firing what can be best described as in a chaotic manner.

But did we see the report? Not unless you go looking for the information.

I am reminded of Romeo Dalliers, the most senior UN military official on the ground during the Rwandan conflict who said of Africa and Africans that they were people who had nothing to lose except their lives. But that their lives were worthless in the eyes of the world and so what should be expected is more not less conflict, more not less hate, and more not less death.

The death of the two French Soldiers is without doubt a tragedy, but we have to place a higher value on human life, all human life no matter where they were born, what their wealth, no matter what their skin colour or who they pray too. Human life is NOT an economic statistic!

Gender Gaps

Posted on Updated on

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, Internat...
Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christine Lagarde, Director of the IMF, said recently, “In the long race ahead, it makes no sense to simply eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life can yield enormous economic benefits.”

Its probably fair to say that in the developed west that women get a better deal in terms of equality in the workplace than probably anywhere else on the planet. That’s no to say there is absolute equality, there isn’t, but they do experience a much closer to the male experience than almost anywhere else. Of course Asia is probably the most desperate place to be a woman right now but the Middle East offers some hope.

The Middle East is a key region of interest because although increasing numbers of women are receiving a good standard of education, the region still lags behind on the core issue of economic equality. On a global scale, the latest figures from the World Economic Forum‘s Global Gender Gap Report show that although the gender gap in education is 93% closed, the gap in economic equality has closed by only 60%. A problem!

There is plainly a disconnect from the classroom to the workplace. Education will continue to be vitally important generally but it has to be questioned where the focus for women’s education is. What educational support do women need to prepare them for the world of business and work?

Perhaps the Middle East is swayed by overt sexual discrimination? This might be too simple an explanation but nonetheless probably forms part of the explanation. Women entrepreneurs seeking loan capital may have their ideas and suggestions dismissed on the basis of them being a woman rather than straight forward commercial measure of the likely hood of success of the business being proposed. Women’s enterprise then is choked-off at source! The net result is retarded economic growth with only 50% (at best that is) of economically active people partaking in forwarding the economy.

Youth is the key to forward growth and engagement economically. The youth of today shape the future of tomorrow. This despite the political and military challenges facing the region at the present time, youth hold the key.

I am quite sure that each country will need a unique approach, cultural challenges presented by national identities possibly being the most difficult of challenges to overcome, but not insurmountable over time. My assumption is that the majority of countries of the Middle East will face many common challenges, possibly more so than any other region and this then may prove to be the deciding factory in regional success and therefore the model for the rest of the world to follow. Well we can hope I guess.

The exception to the Middle East rule is Israel with an economy broadly speaking similar to developed European and US economies. Although I’m not suggesting that Israel is not without economic issues to overcome, but they are much closer (and in some respects further on) than the close by European economies in respect to equality of opportunity.

Women in the workplace, women in business… it simply makes no sense to eliminate half the contestants before the starting gun is sounded. Letting women participate more fully in economic life will yield enormous economic benefits.

Reaction to Racism

Posted on Updated on

Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and J...
Christiane Taubira during Ségolène Royal and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s meeting in Toulouse on April, 19th 2007 for the 2007 presidential election. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

France it would appear from recent media reports seems to be developing a resurgence in Racism. French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira is to give an interview in the Left Leaning daily Liberation on Wednesday 20 Nov. 2013. In the article she will attack the rise of racism in France and the lack of the French political classes for not speaking out against racism.

Herself a victim, Anne-Sophie Leclere a candidate from the far-right posted on her Facebook page that she could be compared to a monkey and a 12-year old brandished a banana at her during a rally. Taubira said: “The reactions have not been sufficient….What’s most shocking to me is that there has been no strong, beautiful voice raised in alarm at the downward spiral of French society [when it comes to racism].”

The justice minister’s remarks come just one day after Harry Roselmack, France’s most prominent black newsreader, penned an opinion piece for another French newspaper, Le Monde, accusing France of harboring “deep-seated racism”. “Racist France is back,” he wrote.

The one-two punch from two of France’s most visible black personalities has shone a harsh spotlight on an issue that the theoretically “colour-blind” country, with its proud motto of “liberty, fraternity, equality”, has had some difficulty in tackling.

The problem is I suppose is that just like Britain Racism, Antisemitism and Anti-Muslim feeling and actions are on the rise and are all outlawed, but there is little respect for the law and its not enforced anything like sufficiently. There is no threat from the law so to speak. Racist speech has become more acceptable on the basis of ‘its deplorable but should be allowed as a matter of free expression’. This of course is the negative effect of supporting free speech, basically if the leaders are doing it then it must be okay for the public to openly express these odious opinions right? Well, NO actually it isn’t.

Then there’s the rise of the politically far-right parties across Europe. Media attention on these parties puts a sanitized face on their political propositions and provides a platform for their racist speech. The far-right is no-longer politically and morally seen as marginalized. The deafening silence offered in response allows, encourages even the far-right to go further, to claim to speak for the average man/woman, and the Left, how do they respond? They are intimidated and do not respond.

In her interview with Liberation, Taubira also accused the French political class, but particularly the National Front, of inciting racial resentment with their focus on the “threat” posed by immigration. “We need to stop making a daily soap opera out of immigration data,” she said. “How is immigration a problem? How is it endangering French society?” The same of course apply’s in Britain, the issues are the same.

Where the two nations differ (thankfully) is on classification. In France there are no classification on the census for racial origin. In France race statistics are illegal, to be French is sufficient. For me I find myself agreeing.

The honest conclusion has to be that the recent rise (lets hope its a spike) in racism is related to more multiculturalism, more mixing, more openness to the wider world. Over time my guess is that it will abate, but until that time comes we should not ignore its rise, to ignore it is to feed it. No, it must be challenged and we should implore our political representatives to challenge it on our behalf even more than we ourselves do. The very fabric of our societies are easily stained and could be permanently stained if we allow racism to go unchallenged.