Wednesday, 10 February 2010

It’s all about “image” and “strategy”.

How a continent, country or “small nation island” sells or markets itself to the rest of the world is crucial to its economy and prosperity. Negative press is not good for the image, so when a child-abuse scandal erupts, it can only bring negative publicity because this is the ultimate taboo subject.

This bad publicity needs to be addressed and – if possible – turned into good. For this you need the right people at the helm both politically and within the media and the services of a Max Clifford might be deemed useful. But, in our case, in Jersey, we are stuck with the States Communication Unit, the Council of Ministers and some extremely highly paid Civil Servants.

For these people, restoring the image of Jersey is paramount and they must come up with a political and media strategy to suit – but thus far they have failed miserably.

Nobody will forget the musical chairs Press Conference (below) orchestrated by Chief Minister Frank Walker where some of the silliest behaviour ever was displayed. Then we had the BBC “Newsnight” debacle which everybody, especially Big Frank, would prefer to be erased from the memory.

More recently we had Mick Gradwell all over our “accredited media” doing his utmost to discredit a fellow police professional with an unprecedented tirade of “opinions.”

Last week “Verita” held a Press Conference but Louise Journeaux – the latest recruit to the government PR machine – refused Team Voice entry because it was only for her “accredited” press chums.
As a former press-pro she must have felt some unease - and she did tell us that it was not her decision - but she could not actually pluck up the courage to say who’s it was.
Only carrying out orders as they say!

What Louise and her employers in the States Communications Unit (surely a trades description issue there?) don’t seem to grasp is that refusing to allow Citizens Media into a Press Conference can only do more harm than good. What is the worst that might have happened had we been allowed in? Suppose we asked a couple of questions. So what!?
By her refusal to deny our access she has done more harm to the reputation of our government than we could ever have done if admitted.

Unfortunately, it seems that our government and their media clones have devised a strategy of “batten down the hatches”, ”deny everything” and “do everything behind closed doors” and hope it will all go away.

But, that strategy evidently has not worked.
Instead, people have been forced onto the internet where our government has very little control.
If only our government’s strategy had been to “face up to our failings”, “let us be responsible” and “show the world how we want to put things right” – then we might just have rid our government and Civil Service of the disease that has festered for decades.

It need not have turned into a disaster.
The reputation of Jersey would have dived for a while but we could have demonstrated to the whole world that we are a responsible, caring little community that is capable of doing the right things in a prompt – albeit now belated - fashion.

Instead, the whole sorry saga looks to be grinding-on for years yet and an international audience now has more questions than ever left unanswered and many personal reputations lie in tatters.

Besides which, for far too many survivors of child abuse in Jersey, there has still been no justice achieved after decades and they must continue to seek peace of mind, as best they can.
And, so far as the running of Jersey’s General Hospital is concerned - and the patient death three years ago that provoked the damming “Verita” report – the reform clock is already ticking.
The initial responses from the current Minister of Health and the closed attitudes demonstrated at the Press Conference do not promise well.

Yet, we would still implore our government to CHANGE STRATEGY and to start being open with the people of Jersey and the wider world audience.
Only further damage and anguish can result from current press policies and Jersey’s reputation will remain damaged for many years to come.

Credit must go to Eric Blakley for this bulletin.

Submitted by Team Voice.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you wish to be included in 'Press' briefings and to be invited to attend future events, can you confirm that the Voice understands, and agrees to abide by, the Press Complaints Commission guidelines on libel, defamation and slander, and accepts the remedies available for breaching these guidelines ?

voiceforchildren said...

Very interesting question But without knowing all the rules and regulations set by the PCC I can’t say that I, personally could agree with them all.

Speaking for myself, I probably wouldn’t like to be constrained by all these rules and regulations, that I believe impinge on freedom of speech, I just want to “tell it as I see it” from a Pleb’s point of view. I want to be able to give a non professional just normal man on the street point of view.

I believe the “accredited” press, rather than looking to get Bloggers constrained and bound by all these restrictions, they should be looking to get them overhauled or reformed. I take it by the question(s) you believe the PCC have “got it right”?. Perhaps they have, but what if they haven’t? Are the BBC and ITV etc. comfortable with all the restrictions imposed on them?

Do I intentionally want to defame, libel or slander somebody? Hell no! and do my utmost, with my perhaps limited knowledge on the subjects, not to do this

Ian Evans said...

Anony-mouse, you have clearly lost sight of the whole principle of reporting. The fundamental principle of reporting news is to unvail the truth, not to cover-up for corrupt regimes or to keep the guilty from being named and shamed. So let me enlighten you, as follows.....


"The Truth is the Truth, Wherever and whoever, it is spoken by"

Anonymous said...

This point of this comment is not the adequacy, fairness or otherwise of the PCC guidelines. It is merely to point out that if you wish to be treated as ‘press’ and thus be invited to attend ‘press’ briefings, then it is surely appropriate that you abide by the same guidelines as all other ‘press’ who are attending. (Who do so whether they agree with the existing guidelines or not)

If the meeting is a public briefing, rather than a press briefing, then of course it is appropriate that you attend.

I do not believe that your oft-used appeal to be representing the ‘normal man on the street’ or a ‘pleb’s’ point of view is sufficient defence for exceptional treatment. You can’t expect to be treated as press on one hand, yet on the other hand expect to be immune from existing constraints on how the press should act.

For your reference, perhaps this will help your understanding:

LIBEL / SLANDER / DEFAMATION
It is called libel if the statement is in a permanent form (ie: print), if it is transient (ie: spoken) then it is slander. The exceptions to this are broadcast media and public performances where defamation is termed as libel.
A statement is defamatory if it tends to do any of the following:
• Expose someone to hatred, ridicule or contempt;
• Cause someone to be shunned or avoided;
• Lower that person in the estimation of other right-thinking people;
• Cause a loss of business, trade, rank or professional standing.
The party taking action does not have to show that actual damage occurred… just that it could. To test this, a judge will instruct a jury to ask whether the statement would have any of the above effects on the reasonable person.
Additionally:

SEDITION

Sedition
This is where there are words that are likely to disturb the peace and internal government of the country.
The tests:
• Do they bring the sovereign or her family into hatred or contempt?
• Do they bring the government and constitution of the UK into hatred or contempt?
• Do they bring either Parliament, or the justice system, into hatred or contempt?
• Do they cause people to attempt to alter any matter in Church or State by law established?
• Do they raise discontent or disaffection?
• Do they promote inter-class feelings of ill-will and hostility?

On checking previous blog postings, and despite your protestations to the contrary, it would appear that either willingly, or perhaps unwillingly because of your ‘limited knowledge on the subjects’, you have committed multiple breaches of the above guidelines in recent history. Whether the comments made are justified or not is not really my concern. However this might give you some understanding as to why you have not been treated as ‘press’ and afforded the opportunities which other media have ?

I have attempted to be fair in this comment, despite it appearing as criticism, and would restate that if briefings are public, rather than press briefings, there is no reason why you should be excluded.

Anonymous said...

Ian Evans

I'm really not sure how your reply was relevant to my comment, but thanks for the uncalled for mocking and insulting tone. Not too difficult to see how this sort of attitude has worked out for you in the past I suppose.

Rob Kent said...

To the person who posted the long definition of libel, you missed the most important element: in nearly every legal jurisdiction, certainly in the West, the 'libellous' statement has to be false. If it is true, it isn't libel.

Also, the last prosecution for sedition in the UK was 1972, when it was used against IRA supporters: "sedition and seditious libel were abolished by section 73 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (with effect on 12 January 2010)." In fact, most of the tests you list for sedition are, in my opinion, essential freedoms under a democratic system.

"Do they bring the sovereign or her family into hatred or contempt?"
You could say that every republican and anti-monarchist does that, along with most Friday-night comedy shows on the BBC.

"Do they bring the government and constitution of the UK into hatred or contempt?"
You could say that accusing the government of lying over Iraq and its use of evidence obtained by torture is doing that.

"Do they bring either Parliament, or the justice system, into hatred or contempt?"
They do that themselves so there is no need for us to do it.

"Do they cause people to attempt to alter any matter in Church or State by law established?"
You would hope so.

"Do they raise discontent or disaffection?"
You would hope so. Without discontent and disaffection, political change is not possible.

"Do they promote inter-class feelings of ill-will and hostility?"
If the society is inegalitarian on class lines, you would hope so.

So to accuse this blog of being libellous, you would need to provide the libellous statements and then challenge the authors to prove them. I think that you would have a difficult time because I haven't seen anything written by the authors of this blog (not the comments) that is not based on credible testimony from documents or witnesses.

And to accuse this blog of being seditious is merely quaint and recherché.

continued...

Rob Kent said...

But when you draw a line between what this blog does and what, for example, the JEP does, you are on shaky ground. Does the JEP conform to the Editors' Code of Practice? I could cite numerous examples where it doesn't. One egregious one was the recent headline along the lines of 'Lenny Harper a Disgrace, says Judge'. The UK Editors Code of Practice states: "The press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information..." and that the subject of an article must be contacted beforehand to get their response, and that if the newspaper is in possession of facts that indicate a statement to be untrue, they should include them.

The JEP were already in possession of evidence that the judge was wrong, that is, there never were any day books and they could not therefore be withheld by Lenny Harper. So to boldly print the judge's statement as a headline without mentioning this contradiction contravenes the Code. Incidentally, it defamed the reputation of Lenny Harper.

Of course there is an argument to be had around the issue of press accreditation - anyone who tries to blag a backstage pass to a media event knows that. But to use your definition of libel and sedition as the yardstick is not helpful. The satirical magazine Private Eye has only successfully defended a handful of libel cases out of thousands, but nobody is going to deny that it the status of 'accredited press'.

In fact, it has itself become a yardstick for the application of the UK Editors' Code of Practice. From the Code itself:

"Common sense has always been the key to the application of the Code. In this area, many publications apply what they describe as the "Private Eye" test: if it would embarrass a journalist to read about his or her actions in "Private Eye", and at the same time undermine the integrity of the newspaper, then don't do it." (http://www.editorscode.org.uk/guidance_notes_9.html)

Anonymous said...

Rob Kent, thank you for your considered reply. I totally accept your comments on Sedition and the behaviour of the press in relation to these guidelines, and in relation to democratic free speech.

I should have been more specific in stating that I believe such actions as depicting our Chief Minister, regardless of our thoughts on his efficacy, as 'Comical Terry', printing demeaning cartoon mock ups of the same person, constant references to variations on the 'Bridgette Bullshit Corporation' and the like could be in breach of:
A statement is defamatory if it tends to do any of the following:
• Expose someone to hatred, ridicule or contempt;
• Cause someone to be shunned or avoided;
• Lower that person in the estimation of other right-thinking people;
• Cause a loss of business, trade, rank or professional standing.


If your aim is to be a satirical magazine vis. Private Eye, that is one thing.(With the attendent resources to meet ongoing legal claims which I don't believe the Blog publishers have). They are treated as the press because they have something to lose if they stray outside of acceptable boundaries.

If however the aim is to be taken seriously as a member of the 'press' with it's attendent priveliges and invites, then indulging in infantile jibes, and comments that are clearly in breach of libel / defamation guidelines, is unlikely to engender an invite to participate on an equal footing with those who don't resort to these inflammatory tactics.

As for the tone and content of many of the comments that are posted, it is looking increasingly likely (As case law is gradually being built on this subject) that they are also the responsibility of the blog authors who, legally, could be actionable if a breach of the PCC guidelines occurs, so your exclusion of Blog comments in the penultimate paragrah of your first message might not be appropriate.

http://www.dba-oracle.com/oracle_news/2005_9_1_liable_blog_comments.htm

Comparison of the blog's' behaviour to similar behaviour by the JEP or any other media for that matter, does not make the blog's actions correct. However I hope you will see that the thrust of all of this is to suggest that the powers that be might be more inclined to engage with the various 'Voice' publishers if they toned down the more infantile jibes and took a little more care about the comments they allowed to be published. But wrong or right, these are just my opinions, which I'm glad the sites allow to be aired. If it helps the blog get treated as they wish to be treated, then everyone's a winner.

Rob Kent said...

Re Anonymous: "If your aim is to be a satirical magazine vis. Private Eye, that is one thing.(With the attendent resources to meet ongoing legal claims which I don't believe the Blog publishers have). They are treated as the press because they have something to lose if they stray outside of acceptable boundaries."

I think we are almost in agreement. I am a great fan of political invective and ridicule - from Thomas Nashe, to Gilrais, to Steve Bell and Private Eye, with Brass Eye and Spitting Image thrown into the mix. I think that any public person or institution (or idea, for that matter), is an allowable subject of lampoon and ridicule, including monarchs, politicians, celebrities, religions and religious leaders. Where that becomes libellous is for the courts of each land to decide.

But I do think that genre matters. The problem with lampoon and satire is that it can be discounted as just that: one person's humorous intention. Even if the satire is powerful, it is by style allegorical with a distorting relation to the facts. That distortion in itself can be a powerful truth, as with Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal". There have been several successful defences against libel based on the fact that the libel was in a comedy programme and not intended to be taken seriously.

And there's the rub: if you intend to be taken seriously but you introduce lampoon, ridicule, scatter-gun invective, and vitriolic personal attacks, you undermine the seriousness of your content and provide people with an excuse to reject you out of hand because of your style or because of your manners. Whether or not that stops you being treated as a serious journalist is still a moot point; Steve Bell from the Guardian is, I am sure, treated as a journalist and allowed to attend the Party conferences, for example, even though he is a satirist. But he has the weight of the Guardian behind him.

So my objection to some of the content that you refer to is not that it is libellous or seditious but that it is counter-effective and doesn't help the debate. You may be correct in thinking that it makes it more difficult for the author of this blog and others to be treated equally with other media, but it is possible that they would never be anyway, and the reason for that is that the establishment has no leverage or control over them: they can print what they like.

Most established media is embedded in the political establishment and the general society in ways that it could make it difficult for them if they just printed everything they knew, whether it was true or not. They even have to keep on the good side of politicians in order to carry on being privy to press releases and leaks. They have to be friendly with businesses that support them with advertising revenue. All of this restricts their freedom to be fully critical and 'outside the loop'. That makes politicians feel comfortable with them.

Bloggers obviously don't fall into that category. So even if this blog and others were perfectly polite and well-mannered, while revealing and dissecting facts that are hugely embarrassing for the local elites, I still don't think that, in a place like Jersey,they would be treated the same as a newspaper, for example, owned and run by a local businessman who sits in the Chamber of Commerce and hob-nobs with his politician pals.

If it was a choice between the two, I would prefer them on the outside, free to splatter political blood, rather than on the inside, toothless and deferential.

Anonymous said...

Ogley : I would leave.
Walker: Um.
Ogley : I would leave.
Walker: Yu.