30 January 2008

Offical Complaint to the BBC re Somalia

Why is the BBC deliberately suppressing information?

Yesterday I saw this article on the BBC website:

Somali insurgents in deadly fight
Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 14:51 GMT

In the article, we had quotes from "the head of the country's UN refugee agency":

"Guillermo Bettoki told the BBC it was still too dangerous for the UNHCR to move its operations back to Somalia."

"Mr Bettoki said while the UNHCR would still be based in neighbouring Kenya, the agency would continue its humanitarian work in Somalia. "

"I have never felt the way I feel now in the sense of frustration for the lack of progress in the situation," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

But he said the Somali people themselves were less negative. "They see the conflict that is affecting Somalia for so many years as something that is the creation of the politicians or the warlords for their own interests," he said.

"The Somali people do appreciate the work that we are doing and they do have hopes and it is those hopes that keep us on the move."

While the BBC was reporting worthless titbits, Reuters, however, were reporting this:

"Somalia is worst humanitarian crisis: UN official"

"LONDON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - High levels of malnutrition and the difficulties of delivering aid make Somalia the world's most pressing humanitarian crisis, the U.N. refugee agency's representative there said on Tuesday.

More than 1 million people have fled their homes in Somalia, which is convulsed by fighting between Ethiopian-backed government forces, Islamist insurgents and an assortment of warlords.

"I've never seen anything like Somalia before," Guillermo Bettocchi, representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said during a visit to London.

"The situation is very severe. It is the most pressing humanitarian emergency in the world today -- even worse than Darfur,"

Why did the BBC not report the Darfur comment and the figures?

The only piece of data you reported was "Since then it is estimated that 60% of Mogadishu's residents have fled their homes" which is meaningless to most people. What's 60% of a figure you don't know and haven't been told?

If the UN High Commissioner for Refugees feels that Somalia is worse than Darfur, why does the BBC believe that part of his discourse was not newsworthy, but his other comments were? It just doesnt make sense. You would have received the Reuters feed so you knew exactly what he had said.

The article was also misleading as the reader was under the impression the BBC had spoken to Guillermo Bettocchi in Somalia. Thankfully Reuters has provided more accurate and less misleading information than the BBC.

13 January 2008

Gordon Brown's new chief of strategy: "'What I tell them is nine-tenths bullshit and one-tenth selected facts."

According to the Guardian:

"The man appointed to Downing Street by Gordon Brown to improve the running of government and help restore Labour's flagging fortunes allegedly 'misled' the media and 'issued false statements' that helped to inflate artificially the share price of a massively indebted telecoms company, according to court documents filed in the United States.

Stephen Carter, Brown's new chief of strategy, who has given up a lucrative job chairing a City PR firm to take up his new £137,000-a-year government post, was chief operating officer at British cable TV company NTL between September 2000 and 2001. When Carter arrived, NTL had $17bn of debt on its books and the company was struggling to retain customers. He continued to reassure investors and the media that the company was performing well and was expanding its customer base, according to a class-action lawsuit filed in the Southern District Court of New York in 2002. One document alleges that following a teleconference call with investors and analysts in 2001, Carter was asked by his customer marketing director, Charles Darley: 'How can you ... persuade investors to believe that NTL is going to be OK when you know it isn't?'

According to Darley's recollection, quoted in the lawsuit, Carter allegedly replied: 'What I tell them is nine-tenths bullshit and one-tenth selected facts.'"

"The settlement is likely to prove an embarrassment for the man who is now Brown's key fixer, charged with ensuring the government averts future crises after the debacles involving missing data, secret donations and Northern Rock.

While friends of Carter, 43, have been quick to argue that NTL's problems were not of his making and that what he found when he arrived from advertising firm JWT 'shocked him', allegations that he attempted to spin the company out of its problems are likely to be seized upon by opposition parties."

And quite rightly too...

More on this in the Times:

"Soon after his alleged remarks the group - dubbed NTHell by disgruntled customers - went bankrupt with debts of £12 billion.

It was one of the largest corporate bankruptcies in American history. But in a move that outraged investors, Carter walked off with £1.7m in compensation, including a £600,000 bonus."

The Times points out something that should have us all worried:

"Brown surprised Westminster last week by appointing the former advertising executive to beef up his administration after a string of high-profile scandals. The £137,000-a-year job makes Carter one of the most powerful officials in government."

This is getting outrageous now, wherever we turn we see criminals getting rich, and they are then rewarded...

Here's the Independent on Sunday'd obituary of Philip Agee:

"Philip Agee: Former CIA agent who accused his government of 'state terrorism'"

Other news:

Libya key transit for UK-bound migrants

"Up to a million migrants have gathered in Libya, from where they will attempt to sail across the Mediterranean for Europe and, ultimately, the UK.

New estimates reveal that there are two million migrants massed in the North African country and that half of them plan to sail to the European mainland and travel on to Britain in the hope of building a new life.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), most have travelled from sub-Saharan states such as Ghana and Sierra Leone, attracted by Libya's reputation as a centre for people smugglers. Most are expected to wait until the spring, when the seas are calmer, before making the crossing on unseaworthy and crowded vessels."

Damian Thompson is a leader writer for the Daily Telegraph and editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald. The Daily Telegraph has just given him free space to advertise his new book and in passing take a swipe at what he calls "counterknowledge: misinformation packaged to look like fact" for people "who are susceptible to conspiracy theories": "Lies, damn lies and 'counterknowledge'". The establishment must be getting really worried!

If you want to have good laugh read it, if not forget it. It's really just more propaganda for the truly gullible...

12 January 2008

The Persian Gulf Incident

Here are a couple of letters sent to the BBC and Salon.com

E-Mail to Paul Reynolds

Posted by David Sketchley on January 11, 2008, 11:50 pm, in reply to "BBC - US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda"

Dear Paul,

I just wanted to make a few comments about your article "US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda". (1)

Your never-ending loyalty, always willing to give the benefit of the doubt, to the US military would be commendable if it were applied with equal vigour to both sides which, with all due respect, does not appear to be the case in this instance.

The BBC and other western news corporations willingly gave headlines and text to US claims without first either seeing the evidence or seeking a response from the other side. Indeed, you yourself were quoted in the first BBC online report about the incident:

"The BBC's Paul Reynolds says the key question is whether this is a one-off incident or whether it heralds a more aggressive stance by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

The latter policy would be unexpected, given the lowering of tension over the nuclear issue, he says, but as the incident of the captured British naval personnel showed, tensions are always high.
There is no doubt that the US is ready to respond, our correspondent adds. ". (2)

We had to wait till the following the day to read the line in the fourth paragraph "Iran has dismissed the incident as a "routine" encounter " and then at the very bottom of the article, the last 2 paragraphs to be precise:

"Iran has played down the event, calling it an "ordinary occurrence".

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said: "This happens for the two sides every once in a while and, after the identification of the two sides, the issue is resolved." (3)

It is only after the story received the contempt it deserves in internet blogs and forums worldwide (just check out the comments section below the corresponding articles at the Times of London and the Washington Post websites, did we begin to hear the other side of the story from the BBC: "Iran says US video was fabricated" (4) and " Iran airs video of navy stand-off". (5)

Why do you never give the other side a similar benefit of the doubt, which is a logical consequence if there is rigid balance and taking into consideration the track record of both sides viz-à-viz telling the truth?

Indeed, your own article confirms the suspicion that you only reacted once you saw the "admission by the US Navy that Iranian speedboats might not have been the source of an apparent threat to attack American ships in the Gulf", and in fact, you never once refer to the charge reported by the BBC that "Iran says US video was fabricated". (4) Nor do you mention the report put out by Press TV quoting Republican Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi who "said Iran's boats had only approached the US ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable" mentioned by Richard Holt in the Daily Telegraph. (6)

Perhaps you were referring to this when you then stated that "This goes beyond the back and forth of a propaganda battle, in which once again the Iranians show themselves to be masters", when actually it appears your skills are equally as good if not better.Tthere are facts which point to deliberate manipulation by the US. As Prof. Juan Cole commented: "The Iranians analyzed the Pentagon video released to the US media and found that the audio track was not synchronized properly with the video, pointing to serious tinkering. And sure enough, we now know that the tape is a fabrication in the sense that the Pentagon says the video and the audio were recorded separately and then combined. And they can't even be sure where the audio came from!" (7) Cole quotes the NYT: "On Wednesday, Pentagon officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak officially, said they were still trying to determine if the transmission came from the speedboats or elsewhere." and "the recording carries no ambient noise — the sounds of a motor, the sea or wind — that would be expected if the broadcast had been made from one of the five small boats that sped around the three-ship American convoy." (8) Further, Cole states "The Iranian press is suspicious about the timing of the Pentagon videotape, noting that it was released just as Bush was heading to the Middle East to try to convince the Arab allies of the US to make common cause with Israel against Iran."(7) You obviously feel this view of the Iranian press is not even worth commenting on.

Finally you mention that "Iran's always determined to exert its influence in what it insists on calling the Persian Gulf". Why do you use the word "insists" here when, according to Working Paper No. 61, UNITED NATIONS GROUP OF EXPERTS ON GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES , dated March 28, April 4, 2006, the name "Persian Gulf" was confirmed again as the legitimate and the official term to be used by members of United Nations? (9)

Yours Sincerely

David Sketchley
Seville, Spain


(1) Last Updated: Friday, 11 January 2008, 10:56 GMT US-Iran stand-off not mere propaganda

(2) Monday, 7 January 2008, 23:34 GMT Iran boats 'threatened US ships'

(3) Tuesday, 8 January 2008, 22:49 GMT US releases Iran stand-off video

(4) Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 January 2008, 11:55 GMT Iran says US video was fabricated

(5) Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 09:38 GMT Iran airs video of navy stand-off

(6) Iranian video 'shows no threat to US navy' by Richard Holt Last Updated: 2:47am GMT 11/01/2008

(7) Informed Comment Friday, January 11, 2008 US Video of Iran Speedboats Doctored; Iranians Charge Fabrication

(8) NYT Published: January 10, 2008 Iran Accuses U.S. of Faking Persian Gulf Video By NAZILA FATHI

Twenty-third Session Vienna, 28 March – 4 April 2006

In reply to:

The U.S. military inflicts more damage on its own credibility

  • Another important point


    You appear to have overlooked the question as to why the Iranians would have been acting 'provocatively', when they got within 200m of one of the warships. The UK's Daily Telegraph, using a Press TV report, quoted Republican Guards Brigadier General Ali Fadavi who "said Iran's boats had only approached the US ships to examine the registration numbers as they had been unreadable".

    Why has no one mentioned this?