Posts Tagged ‘media bias’

Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007. On Saturday 24th February 15 years ago I spent a long afternoon photographing around 50,000 protesters marching through London calling for an end to Britain’s nuclear weapons and for our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

The march was organised by Stop The War, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative, and on My London Diary – back then still only in lower case – I made clear my support for the marchers:

i’ve for many years been opposed to the so-called independent british nuclear weapons. even at the height of the cold war they were never credible as an independent deterrent. if they have ever had any justification it was that they made the usa feel less guilty, although american guilt at its huge nuclear arsenal and at being the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons has always been an incredibly stunted growth.

i was also firmly against the invasion of iraq. it was always clear to those who didn’t want to be deluded that the so-called ‘intelligence’ on weapons of mass destruction was laughable. blair was either a liar or a fool as he misled a minority of the british people and a majority of their mps. or most probably both. (saddam may also have been deluded and certainly was an evil dictator, but we had long failed those who tried to oppose him.) the invasion was criminal, but the lack of planning for the occupation that inevitably followed even more so.

My London Diary – Feb 2007

My account also points out the ridiculously low estimate of the numbers taking part given by the police of 4,000 – though I think they were eventually forced to increase this somewhat – and gives my own method of assessing numbers on such large demonstrations as this. The marchers took 90 minutes to pass me as I photographed them in Park Lane. My usual rule of thumb was to double the police estimate, but on this occasion they surpassed themselves, being an order of magnitude out.

There certainly is always a policy by our establishment, backed up by the BBC and the press, except on rare occasions to minimise dissent, particularly left-wing dissent, in this country while often exaggerating any protests against left-wing governments abroad. It’s a bias which has been very obvious in the coverage of events in Latin-American countries such as Venezuela.

Tony Benn

The BBC and some of our newspapers have some excellent reporters and correspondents, and it is more in the selection of what they are asked to report on and the editing of their reports and the context in which they are placed that the bias occurs. Some things are just not ‘news’, while others, often trivial or flippant, get major attention.

Fortunately there are other sources with different biases, including the almost invisibly small left-wing press in the UK (the two daily papers – the Communist Morning Star and Workers Revolutionary Party’s The News Line together have a circulation probably well under 10,000), but more importantly large news organisations such as the Russian-funded RT International and the Qatari Al Jazeera English – the latter particularly interesting about current events in the Ukraine.

Every journalist has a point of view and while we may strive to be factual I don’t think there is such a thing as objectivity. Our reporting is always subjective, based on what we feel and what we think is of importance. Every photograph I take involves choice – and the rejection of other things I don’t photograph – even at times things I think would make eye-catching images but would misrepresent people or the event. Further choices come in the selection of which images to send to an agency, and also which I choose to put on My London Diary.

On this occasion I chose rather too many to put on-line, with 17 pages of pictures, though this reflects the typical internet speeds of 15 years ago, when pages with more than ten small images were too slow to load even though I compressed the images as lower quality jpegs than I would now. But the number of pictures also reflected my intention to tell the story of the event as fully as possible rather than creating a single image for the event that might appeal to a picture editor.

Julie Felix

Looking at the report now I feel there are rather too many images particularly of some of the well-known faces I photographed at the rally. Perhaps also I made too many of the marchers, some of which might be of far more interest to the people shown in them than the general public. But if people make an effort to make an interesting placard or banner I think it deserves a little recognition.

You can read more of my report of the event and see another 160 or so pictures on My London Diary, beginning on the February 2007 page, though you will need to scroll a long way down the page to reach this march and rally.


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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London 20 May 2017

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Probably the question I’m most often asked about my photographs of protest is how I find out what is happening. Back in the old days of the last century it was difficult, and I photographed far fewer events. I’m not sure if there were fewer protests, though I think so, but it was certainly then much harder to find out about them. Apart from the printed newsletters and magazines of organisations there were posters pasted illegally on mainly derelict sites around parts of London and the flyers that were handed out at one protest about others in the following months. And word of mouth, again mainly from people I met at protests.

With the Internet, and in particular the World Wide Web and web browsers things began to change, though fairly slowly at first. Organisations slowly began to have web sites and advertise their protests on them; others set up e-mail lists and in 1999 Indymedia began. Google had been founded a year earlier, but there were other search engines more prominent for some years; at the time I was earning money writing for a commercial web site and much of my work depended on web searching to find content to write about – and I also searched for protests, building up a long list of useful sites.

Over the next few years, Google came to dominate web searching and social media began to be more important. By around ten years ago most protests had become Facebook events and much of my diary could be filled in by a search through the events on that platform. Also as I put more of my photographs on-line, at first through Indymedia and later through Facebook and Demotix, I began to get more and more invitations by e-mail and through Facebook to events, some in London and others around the country and world I could not possibly attend. And of those that were in my area I could only cover a fairly small fraction, generally those I saw as most important.

But there were and are those protests I came across by accident, often when covering other events. I’m not sure now whether or not I was aware that 20th May 2017 was Fight Dog Meat Kindness and Compassion Day, but while I’m against torturing animals I would not have gone out of my way to photograph the End dog and cat meat trade protest but was there in Trafalgar Square for Teen Voice says votes at 16, where young people were saying it was unfair they had not been able to vote in the Brexit referendum – while they can work, pay taxes and even join the armed forces they had no say in a decision which will effect their future to an arguably greater extent than anyone who voted.

The protest at The Guardian newspaper was very definitely in my diary, and I was saddened by their coverage of events in Venezuela, which has consistently taken the side of the right-wing middle class in that country against President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez whose reforms have done so much, decreasing poverty, providing free health care and education, devolving power into the hands of local collectives and building homes for the working class. While reporting on the ‘pro-democracy’ protests which are part of a US-backed right-wing coup it has failed to report their attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities which have led to many deaths and the mass demonstrations in favour of the government by working class supporters.

Thanks to the Jubilee Line I was able to travel on to Stratford to photograph Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag, a handout giving some of the facts about Newham Council which somehow were not included in the council’s glossy information sheet. Newham has more homeless than any other local authority in England – one in 27 residents – and more evictions from rented accommodation than any other London Borough. As well as failing housing policies with many homes deliberately kept empty for over ten years, Mayor Robin Wales is also responsible for huge and disastrous expensive long-term loans which mean 80% of council tax from Newham’s residents goes directly in interest payments to the banks.

The protesters here on the wide plaza in front of Stratford Station were harassed by both police and Newham Council officers who made the ridiculous claim they were causing an obstruction in the large uncrowded area and issued them with a £100 fixed penalty notice, part of the ongoing attempt by Newham to silence Focus E15 who continue to throw a spotlight on the activities of Newham Council and Mayor Robin Wales, both a disgrace to the Labour movement. Eventually even Newham Labour could no longer stomach another term for Robin Wales, though his successor has yet to greately improve matters.

Finally it was back on the Central Line to Grosvenor Square, still then the home of the US Embassy, where March Against Monsanto was protesting – along with others in an international day of protest – against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, dangerous bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and the need for improved protection victims of multinational corporations. It turned out to be a disappointingly small protest even though the then ongoing secreetive TTIP trade talks between the EU and the USA could have lead to a deal which would override our national laws which protect our health and safety and endanger the integrity of our food supplies as well as banning or greatly restricting the traditional practice of farmers saving their own seeds.

March Against Monsanto
Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag
End media lies against Venezuela
Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.