Storified by Brian_Condon · Thu, Nov 15 2012 15:03:58
Frontline Club Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of TortureCruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture November 15, 2012 7:00 PM From the Second World War to the War on Terror, via Kenya and Northern Ireland award-winning investigative journalist Ian Cobain’s new book Cruel Britannia explores Britain’s role in the development and use of torture.
Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain – ‘To get to the truth I needed to keep asking questions …’
Ian Cobain, an investigative journalist with the Guardian and author of Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture. His inquiries into the UK’s involvement with torture since 9/11 have won the Martha Gellhorn Prize and the Paul Foot Award for investigative journalism, and has been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize.
"To get to the truth, I needed to keep asking questions…"#cruelbritanniahttp://t.co/7lmYGwe2
Chaired by Humphrey Hawksley, leading BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator on world affairs.
Humphrey HawksleyHumphrey Hawksley Humphrey Hawksley is a leading BBC foreign correspondent, author and commentator on world affairs. For more than twenty years he has reported on key trends, events and conflicts from all over the world.
With:Clive Baldwin, the Senior Legal Advisor for the Legal and Policy office at Human Rights Watch, where he has been working on issues of international law since 2007.
Rt Hon David Davis MP, Member of Parliament for Haltemprice and Howden since 1997 and former Shadow Home Secretary. As a Minister in the last Conservative government he served in the Cabinet Office and the Foreign Office.
Dr Ruth Blakeley, a senior lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on state violence and terrorism, particularly by liberal democratic states.
I’m at the @frontlineclub for "Cruel Britannia" http://t.co/TKu2GUhQ with @iancobain and hwhawksley; excellent panel
At the @frontlineclub talk by @IanCobain on Cruel Britannia about to start #britain #secret #history of #torture
At the @frontlineclub for Ian Cobain’s talk about #fccruelbritannia
Hawksley asks who in the room has been a victim of torture – one person puts up their hand. He asks who has been on the other side – three people put their hands up. David Davis MP holds up his hand and says “we are all complicit”
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torturefrontlineclub
A pattern of torture suggests a policy of torture, says Ian Cobain #fccruelbritannia
Clive Baldwin from Human Rights Watch: definition of torture is serious physical or psychological harm #fccruelbritannia
Dr Ruth Blakely: we must remember the international context of torture – many countries complicit not just Britain #fccruelbritannia
The atmosphere in the room is very cold – people listening hard and concentrating on the views of the panelists. It’s, as you might expect, a very serious mood – especially when Blakeley says “British context”.
Packed room at #frontlineclub for panel discussion on torture pic.twitter.com/ObRogQW4Chris King
David Davis MP – torture was seen to be in the greater good #fccruelbritannia
David Davis : ticking bomb scenario as seen in 24 never happens in real life #fccruelbritannia
Clive Baldwin: the Bush administration redefined torture. Claimed waterboarding not included. #fccruelbritannia
‘Did the Blair govt have a secret policy of torture?’@iancobain @frontlineclub ‘The answer’s in the book.’ @PortobelloBooks #cruelbritannia
David Davis MP surprised "level of active duplicity at the highest level" in British Government re involvement in torture. #cruelbritannia
Now looking at the historical context – did it work in Aden, did it work in WWII. Cobain says that there was experience in WWII re trying to find out about a “Fifth Column” – and the British Union of Fascists. And the use of torture with Nazi agents also in WWII. And the use of interrogation by British forces in Germany after WWII.
Baldwin says the terms get re-defined – “waterboarding is a redefinition of torture”.
How can torture have intimidating effect when done in secret asks Dr Ruth Blakely. Not secret for those being tortured #fccruelbritannia
Ruth Blakeley says that "torture is more about intimidation than intelligence gathering" #cruelbritannia @frontlineclub
Here’s Blakeley’s site:
www.ruthblakeley.co.uk – HomeFull Profile @ruthblakeley I am a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Kent , Canterbury, UK. Current Research The Rendition Project Funded by the ESRC, The Rendition Project examines the ways in which the Bush administration developed a global system of detention sites, linked by the covert transfer of detainees across state borders.
This is Blakeley’s project:
The Rendition ProjectThe Rendition Project Welcome to The Rendition Project website. This site is the product of a collaborative research project between Dr Ruth Blakeley at the University of Kent and Dr Sam Raphael at Kingston University, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council ( ESRC), and accredited under the Global Uncertainties programme.
CIA naive in the wake of 9/11 – hadn’t interrogated anyone for 25 years – David Davis #fccruelbritannia
David Davis argues that torture is also about revenge. #cruelbritannia
British torturers of Mau Mau believed they were a subhuman race, psychotic #fccruelbritannia
Now David Davis is talking about the difference between the FBI’s approach (interrogation devoid of difficult conditions) and that it was allowable psychological pressure and short of actual torture. And that of the CIA’s – for example the use of waterboarding. Panel looking at when things have gone too far. Davis says that there are legitimate uses of questioning and a certain permitted degree of psychological pressure – especially when other people’s lives may be in danger.
Dr Ruth Blakely : US detained and interrogated tens of thousands of people in Fallujah. Practice spread around world #fccruelbritannia
Blakeley mentions the CIA Inspector General’s report says waterboarding did not work nor was it safe and that it was torture:
IG Report: Waterboarding Was Neither "Efficacious Or Medically Safe"A CIA inspector general’s report from May 2004 that is set to be declassified by the Obama White House will almost certainly disprove claims that waterboarding was only used in controlled circumstances with effective results.
Dr Ruth Blakely: harder for orgs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty to hold people to account with secret prisons #fccruelbritannia
Questioner says that the degree of secrecy and levels of corruption in the legal system mean that it can’t be changed and that the State has the power to cover it up and inhibit change.
Baldwin says that he feels that there are some things that mean there will be increasing visibility and the use of legal means to bring those in the British establishment responsible for torture to justice. Blakeley disagrees. Look at the Iraq enquiry she argues.
David Davis says that the idea that this government, his government, is contemplating secret courts is "bloody disgraceful" #cruelbritannia
David Davis: secret courts "a bloody disgraceful proposal" #fccruelbritannia
Ian Cobain: I don’t think MI5 officers will be brought to account #fccruelbritannia
We’re almost getting to what needs to be done. But we keep going back to the legal measures and structural issues. Need for more parliamentary oversight. But as Davis says, there’s not many votes in it. Actually quite the reverse if evidence from the USA is borne out in Britain. Cobain says he told Blair that he knew of the secret torture policy and that he could prove it. That the result of Blair’s policy led to people being tortured. The Justice and Security Bill is very dangerous says Cobain – Davis seems to agree. There will be more secrecy and this will make the matters worse. All the panel seem to think that there is a “democratic deficit”. Blakeley argues for education of our children to think of their roles in a civil society.
Dr Ruth Blakely: no point talking about lesser cases of torture as if they had the chance would go further and further #fccruelbritannia
David Davis: people find it hard to believe that people can do this to their fellow men #fccruelbritannia
Dr Ruth Blakely: cultural imperatives like 24 set a dangerous agenda for views towards torture #fccruelbritannia
Ian Cobain: our political leaders know there are no votes in stopping terrorist suspects getting tortured #fccruelbritannia
David Davis calls present government "the current ruling elite" – with a cheeky grin #fccruelbritannia
However, the Gibson enquiry gets a mention and the “Long Grass” of public enquiries and the thought that the existing structures will resist investigation.
Here’s the Guardian’s take on it…
The Gibson inquiry: good riddanceSir Peter Gibson’s inquiry, which limped to a halt last week with the news of a fresh round of police investigations into official complicity in torture, has been decently put out of its misery.
…and the Daily Telegraph’s:
Gibson torture inquiry abandoned – Telegraph"But there now appears no prospect of the Gibson Inquiry being able to start in the foreseeable future. "So, following consultation with …
Need to put pressure on MPs to defeat the Justice and Security Bill – Baldwin says it’s very dangerous. “Democracy won’t save you on this” argues Davis re “being against torture”. It’s about our national honour. He stresses the need for us to behave honourably – because that’s what we do and what we believe in.
In breaking or developing news situations, with audiences wanting to know the latest and most up-to-date pieces of information, many news outlets have introduced live streaming approaches to their news output, from liveblogs to more permanent pages dedicated to the streaming of the latest news snippets, images and social media content. The final panel will discuss the different approaches to this real-time reporting of news online, the decision making processes behind it and its impact on process within the newsroom.
With: Jason Mills, editor, web for ITV News; Raju Narisetti, managing editor, Wall Street Journal Digital Network; Patrick Heery, UK editor, BBC News website; Pete Clifton, executive editor, MSN; Ben Schneider, senior director and general manager for CoveritLive, Demand Media. Moderated by Kathryn Corrick, digital media consultant
As news become increasingly social, outlets are using social media to reach out in different ways both to tell stories and to gather videos, photos and feedback from their networks. This session will look at how to engage the title’s community and how individual journalists are building their own personal brands.
With: Luke Lewis, editor, NME.com; Faisal Islam, economics editor, Channel 4 News; Mark Coatney, media outreach director, Tumblr. Moderated by David Hayward, head of journalism programme, BBC College of Journalism.
At the shiny MSN HQ in London, near Victoria, here’s the intro from the News:Rewired site:
A one-day digital journalism conference focused on the latest tools, techniques and tips on how to produce the best journalism online and make it earn its keep, with innovative case studies from the industry.
Welcome address – Pete Clifton, executive producer, MSN
Keynote – Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news at the Washington Post
Keynote panel – Engaging the digital mindset
Digital journalism experts discuss digital-first strategy, how journalism processes and structures are being adapted with digital in mind and ways to encourage others to maximise the opportunities afforded by the digital environment, even when working in legacy print or broadcast media.
With: Joanna Geary, digital development editor, the Guardian; Raju Narisetti, managing editor, Wall Street Journal Digital Network; Martin Fewell, deputy editor, Channel4 News and Alex Gubbay, director, digital platforms, Johnston Press.
The Future of Newsgathering and the Changing Media Landscape
Whistling in the dark at #fng12
Storified by Brian_Condon · Sun, Jul 01 2012 15:27:06
Frontline Club – Events: THIRD PARTY EVENT: The future of newsgathering and the changing media landscape19.00 Keynote speaker: Gavin Sheppard, marketing director, Media Trust. 19.30 Panel discussion: The future of newsgathering and the changing media landscape Change in the media landscape is constant. Technology and new media has enabled both journalists and citizens on the street to actually break news themselves.
The panel is Paul Lewis (Guardian), Matthew Eltringham (BBC College of Journalism), Mark Evans (Sky News), Gavin Sheppard (Media Trust) and Ravin Sampat (Blottr) – moderated by Nikki Bedi (BBC)
#FNG12 has started. Intro with @nikkibedi pic.twitter.com/jBRxfyBkKaty Durrans
Nikki Bedi is reading out the panel’s Twitter profiles at #fng12 twitpic.com/a1k9uvBrian_Condon
Gavin says he feels like “a junior Minister on Newsnight” as he’s not an esteemed journalist or a newsgatherer. He notes the fundamental shift in the production and consumption of media. He says 91% of adults use a mobile phone – lots of them smartphones.
.@gavinmediatrust giving keynote speech at #FNG12 "communities no longer prepared to sit back" and merely absorb mainstream media
Somewhat odd there’s no blogger or community reporter on the panel #fng12 @johnpopham would’ve been good.
As the news environment gets noisier people will appreciate the comment and analysis from mainstream more and more. @GavinMediaTrust #FNG12
#fng12 Decent turnout despite the football! @mediatrust @blottr pic.twitter.com/BdDZRO80Katrine Carstens
Challenges are about needing to take a view much more quickly whether you are a journalist or a politician as a story can gather pace in hours or minutes. People have more technology in their pockets than news organisations had 10 years ago.
#FNG12 @GavinMediaTrust says communities are no longer willing to be bystanders they can circumnavigate media to get voices heard
Playing journobuzzword bingo at #fng12 MSM, UGC, validation, citizen journalism, it’s too easy!
Opportunity for community produced media needs to be treated as ‘a contribution’ and possibly paid for. There’s lots of it out there – and some of it is high quality and very good; well linked to communities and their concerns – he argues.
RT @Media_Trust: Local news for local communities is a valid and important contribution to the mainstream. @GavinMediaTrust #FNG12
Collaboration is what’s happening now. People are recording, sharing. That’s journalistic. @PaulLewis #FNG12
#FNG12 @PaulLewis poses question, what would happen if there were no paid journalists? In riots citizen journalists filled gaps in reporting
Nikki is asking Ravin if “journalism has moved beyond the stereotype” – mentions coffee swilling reporter typing frantically typing against a deadline. Ravin says we have a 24hr news cycle and news apps, with Twitter being a new source. Consumption is changing so production must – he argues. Technology and people have changed and the combination of these new ways of generating content and news has changed how broadcasters need to behave.
#FNG12 Ravin from @blottr is questioning what the difference is between a professional and citizen journalist
Paul observes that we do more than we could and we can certainly do better. What’s happening is the symbiotic relationship Gavin mentioned – and this opens up new avenues to explore and increased transparency. But it is difficult – where might we end up? Fewer being paid to do journalism but more people doing what might be described as journalism. The riots last year showed that. Between 1 and 4 am Sky and the BBC had to pull out of the area. But the was a constant feed of information online.
#fng12 Check out Swedish Radio project Journalism 3.0 creating symbiosis between user generated content and traditional journalism
#FNG12 @nikkibedi "always the risk of disinformation" @PaulLewis "there has always been disinformation" but social media also regulates self
#FNG12 @GavinMediaTrust if community produced media is embraced by the mainstream media it will only ensure a wider diversity of reporting
Social media is viral media and it can be self-regulating argues Paul.
Matthew arguing that the verification of the content produced by local or citizen journalists is an important part of the BBC’s approach; such material needs to be forensically examined and verified.
#FNG12 @skymarkevans says citizen journalism isn’t new, he’s always used parish magazines etc as a news gathering source
Nikki asks Mark about Sky News’ policies and he agrees that they have changed – and Sky don’t reTweet any other news organisation’s tweets. Here’s the first google entry if you search for that! From the Guardian:
Sky News clamps down on Twitter useSky News has told its journalists not to repost information from any Twitter users who are not an employee of the broadcaster. An email to staff on Tuesday laid out new social media guidelines for Sky News employees, including a contentious ban on retweeting rival "journalists or people on Twitter".
Paul is arguing that news is also about trust – and the liveblog is an important new aspect. Some news organisations are not that trusted he argues. Mark says that analysis and brand recognition are still important. He thinks that the power of a brand combined with the value added by verification and analysis are sufficient to deliver sustainable business. @KatyBlotter notes:
#FNG12 @skymarkevans "not the keepers of information anymore…we have a role to play in terms of validation…analysis"
And @Stuartdhughes agrees:
. @skymarkevans quite right – verifying stories gathered via social media isn’t a new skill for journalists #fng12
#FNG12 @GavinMediaTrust citizen journalism and prof journalism don’t replace eachother, but they should work together to benefit public most
#FNG12 @PaulLewis "users/readers as good or better" at commenting on live football in this example
Matthew says a mixed model is where a lot of journalism is going and he says it’s challenging and interesting to the BBC.
Paul Lewis says “it’s not just trust” it’s also about the quality of writing and investigation. He mentions ‘grey news’ and the need for verification. And the propagation of material which needs to be checked. Matthew says that just the fact that the BBC and Sky are asking ‘is this true’ gives it credence.
Panel now focusing on the use of false stories to generate attention and drive traffic to websites; and the ethics of later “withdrawing” a story.
Question about the process for verifying sources of news on Twitter – “You never pay them do you?” Nikki asks Ravin. Ravin says “No. Never.”.
#FNG12 debating methods of checking socmed sources. Journos need to be quick if it’s already on socmed but doesn’t mean it’s true
Paul mentions the construction of false identities online – and agrees that “We have made mistakes”. In dealing with something new, and taking risks, mistakes are going to happen.
Ravin says “it’s the way we’re changing and we want it now” – Nikki agrees.
What about the future asks a participant [he didn’t give his name]; he’s concerned that the ‘trusted brands’ won’t be here in the future. Mark says we are talking about the ways in which we will help journalism survive. There may be new brands that can be trusted – and young people interact with the big brands differently.
Mark arguing that the mobile device is revolutionising newsgathering and this may mean that brands we have now may not exist. But there will be trusted brands.
#FNG12 @seancurtisward asks whats the financial model – when will citizen journos get paid for their contributions to media
Paul arguing there’s little money about – and there will be less. But there is abundance and chaos- and the difficulty for everyone is is working out how to access and find the news they need.
#FNG12 "all journalism is going online" newspapers and tv @PaulLewis @Blottr
The event finishes with Nikki thanks the sponsors, participants and panel members, conversations begin and the panelists stand and as they do, I hear the following and immediately Tweet:
"No community panel members" says @skymarkevans wryly. The panel laughs. #fng12.
As the room clears, I have a quick look at the Storify copy, republish, and make this Audio boo:
Immediate reflections on the Future of NewsgatheringAn Audioboo by brian_condon
You might also be interested in the ‘reach’ of the event; here’s a Tweetreach report:
Twitter Reach Report Results for #fng12Activity provides details about the tweets in this report, including the total number of tweets and unique contributors, the time period covered by the report, a graphical timeline showing tweet volume during the report period, and tweet type breakdown.
Two words not mentioned at #FNG12 "blogger" and "#leveson"Brian_Condon
Since the event, there’s been some further comment on Twitter:
#FNG12 been thinking: Sometimes my job feels like media for community development, sometimes it feels like community for media developmentKim Townsend
future of Newsgathering? The likes of @_sampat and @Blottr staying one step ahead of the wires with credible grassroots journalism #fng12Stuart Hughes
With: David Banks, former editor of the Daily Mirror and editorial director of Mirror Group Newspapers. Worked in London, New York and Sydney over a thirteen-year career with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp during which he edited two papers in Australia. Now a columnist and regular broadcaster.
Jane Martinson, women’s editor of the Guardian and former media editor;
Martin Moore, director of the Media Standards Trust, an independent charity that looks for ways to foster high standards in news and a founder of the Hacked Off campaign;
Toby Young, freelance journalist and associate editor of The Spectator, where he writes a weekly column. He also blogs for the Daily Telegraph and is the author of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and The Sound of No Hands Clapping.”
It’s clear that the internet and social media have played a part in recent events in Egypt and in Bahrain.
Most of the coverage I’ve seen on mainstream media uses content from protesters and others as source material, subsequently reinterpreted by journalists. In other words, the content being generated in the social media sphere is an ‘output’ and results from what is happening. The question is whether such content is also being an ‘input’; and is being used by protestors and other observers (for example you or me) watching the #egypt or #bahrain hashtags on Twitter to follow, communicate and perhaps shape events.
Three observations, and then some discussion:
The dispersed nature of the leadership of the protests in Egypt made it very difficult for the centralised leadership of Mubarak to respond and control events;
The visibility of events in Egypt to the wider world (often unmediated by mainstream media) and the use of the internet and mobile devices in realtime to communicate and, presumably, organise made a big impact. Compare the cases of Egypt and Bahrain with the terrible events in Libya over the past 24 hours; and,
It is probably not going to be possible to distinguish between the extent to which we are seeing the impact of ‘influence’ versus ‘homophily’ (sometimes called ‘flocking’) in network behaviour. Remember this when you hear the term ‘Facebook Revolution’.
“Tweetin’ bout a Revolution”
Have a look at this:
It shows an analysis of trends on Twitter of certain recent country names over the past 90 days. That’s all. But the implications are worth considering.
During the event (which I livetweeted alongside the tweets of the indefatigable Julie Tomlin), Alan Patrick tweeted a link to his post “Talkin ’bout a Revolution” where he has begun to analyse what he describes as the “Revolutionary Media Ecosystem” together with some of the implications. Yesterday and today, largely because my sister is in Bahrain (she’s a teacher), I’ve been glued to the #Bahrain hashtag on Twitter and looking at Sky News and the Al Jazeera English service. Most of the media coverage is way behind what I can find out in realtime for myself. So I thought, could I use some of the social media analysis tools I know about to investigate and try to see the potential for links between what is happening in Egypt and what might happen in Bahrain?
Now look into the detail of period since 24 January, showing trend analysis for Egypt, Bahrain and Libya:
Examine the features of the Egypt trend timeline and think about the dates and what the various peaks relate to. You can clearly see the ‘false alarm’ on February 10th when Mubarak agreed to ‘step down’ (but not until September) and the subsequent peak when he actually did. Worth looking at the early part of the period too – especially where the trendline really begins to move on 28th January. Now look at the Bahrain timeline (updated to 1000hrs UTC today).
Of course, it’s too early to draw conclusions on this – but collecting the data in realtime is something new.
Thanks to Trendistic for their trend tracking tool.
Particular thanks to the Frontline Club (of which I am a member). Their First Wednesday series, directed by Julie Tomlin and brilliantly chaired by Paddy O’Connell always provides insight – particularly so last week. You can see the video of the meeting here:
From the Frontline Club/ On the Media event site which describes the event and speakers:
“For the first On the Media discussion of the year we are going to be putting the spotlight on the media and asking what the WikiLeaks operation and the media coverage of it tells us about the press.
How have journalists responded to this new kid on the block? The future will no doubt see the emergence of similar organisations, but what impact will this have on the culture of journalism? How will the media adapt and how will this currently uncomfortable relationship develop?
Chaired by Richard Gizbert, presenter of The Listening Post on Al Jazeera English.
David Aaronovitch, writer, broadcaster, commentator and regular columnist for The Times;
Mark Stephens, media lawyer with Finers Stephens Innocent and Julian Assange’s solicitor;
Ian Katz, deputy editor of the Guardian;
Gavin MacFayden, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism.
In association with the BBC College of Journalism.”