I have written before about how the world’s press descended on Beeston, putting their need for a story before the needs and feelings of the community. I don’t want to go over that ground again, but an interesting debate sprang up on the blog yesterday about the use of images from Woolwich.
We took down an image that you will have seen, it’s been in every newspaper and television news broadcast. We took it down because we were advised that we were in breach of copyright. The debate, however, was about whether showing an image of the event played into the hands of terrorists, by publicising their cause.
This was Margaret Thatcher’s (her again) reasoning for banning the voices of Sinn Fein politicians in the 1980s. She was denying the IRA the “oxygen of publicity”. Well that didn’t work.
It raised two issues. The first was press freedom and the second was how to bring peace to the north of Ireland. The notion of press freedom has been tarnished since the Murdoch press and the Tory Party wheeled it out to derail the Leveson proposals. It’s not about tapping phones or saying whatever you want about someone. At its best it’s about “talking truth to power”, it’s part of the democratic process.
Terrorism is never a solution, but it is usually a response to a problem.
The IRA fought for a united Ireland, independent of Britain. They got support because Catholics were being systematically discriminated against in jobs and housing. The Taliban and Al Qaida, as I understand it, want a Caliphate operating their version of Sharia law across the world. They get support in Afghanistan because there is an army of occupation in the country: first it was the Russians, now it’s us. They get wider support because of the treatment of the Palestinian people.
Fighting these organisations with military power tends to build their support. Events like Bloody Sunday or drone strikes on wedding parties act like recruiting sergeants.
Yesterday the First Minister and Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland unveiled plans to increase integration and take down the “peace” walls that separate communities in Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and elsewhere. We are fifteen years on from the Good Friday Agreement and the proposals are for this to happen over a further ten years. That’s a long time to sort out a problem, but it isn’t it better than bombs in the night and troops on the streets?
The press – and I do mean everyone from Rupert Murdoch to South Leeds Life – have a part to play in these issues. We are part of the public discourse, the public debate. We (and here I can’t speak for Mr Murdoch) aim to inform our readers about issues that affect our neighbourhoods. We try to report the facts, but also reflect the debate that goes on around the interpretation of those facts.
It is a fact that a round of golf at Middleton Park is subsidised by the Council to the tune of £10. But is that because there are too many golf courses, or because their marketing isn’t up to scratch? Lets debate the issues and help the Council come to the right decision.
Can I finish by clearing up one fact as a public service? It was the EDL who were trying to stir up racial unrest after the Woolwich attack, not EDF. EDF are an energy company, blame them for high fuel prices, but not for racial hatred.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.