Talk about Newsnight

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Friday, 27 October, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 27 Oct 06, 07:10 PM

internet203100b.jpgFreedom of speech and the internet in China; the BBC's Head of News Peter Horrocks and Conservative and shadow Defence spokesman Dr Liam Fox discuss Newsnight's film in which David Loyn interviewed members of the Taleban; and the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams in China.

Comment on Friday's programme here.

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  • 1.
  • At 07:32 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Mgt Reid wrote:

Like to get the daily update/email info..
but can we PLEASE get the "JOKE FIT FOR A 10 YEAR OLD"

  • 2.
  • At 08:03 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Colin Shearman wrote:

One greengrocer's apostrophe in a website programme trailer from a senior BBC journalist (Kirsty Wark, 27th October) is careless; two is, well, a bit ignorant ...

  • 3.
  • At 08:05 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Loraine Grover wrote:

A brilliant piece of reporting and huge example of courage on the part of David Lyon. Impressive.

He's not "supporting" the Taliban, just interviewing them. We are not made any wiser or more informed by supressing facts and raw data.

Praises to the BBC!

  • 4.
  • At 08:17 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

I think the story of the internet and the interview of the taliban has a common factor. The more we know of the world the better it will become.
war and exploitation occur in the darkness created by a lack of information.

China seems a cruel place, strange how easily it switched from being a workers paradise to an employers paradise. People want their voice to be heard and will use the internet to do this if it is blocked elsewhere. standing against this is pure canutism.

We also need to know what drives people to fight -the enemy is not a card board cut out -we need to know what drives him in order to realise what can make him desist.

If broadcasting had existed as it had today before the second world war I dont think it would have happened, it would have shown Hitler for what he was.
politicians should not seek to stop stories such as the taliban interview or muzzle the media for short term gain because that lost will be far greater.

The more we know about everything through the internet and through the media it can express the commonality of ordinary people who just want to get on and live in peace with everyone else and just do ordinary things in our short lives, raise families and grow old-

It will further erode the power of those who wish to exploit people or turn them against each other for perceived worldly gain or because they want to inflict their own personal misery and nightmares and dysfucntional view of the world onto everyone else.

media outlets must stick together and the BBC should criticise the Government for its actions against ITN because they didn't like their broadcasts.

I'd rather a free broadcaster who might get it wrong sometimes (not in ITNs case with their war reporting) than one that by degree is only allowed to report what the Government ie a few indviduals want or are not frightened of. One intervention can also become many.

best wishes
Bob Goodall

  • 5.
  • At 08:38 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Mark wrote:

The film did not glamourize. It simply told the facts; namely that these people are not backward fanatics but are organised and have a specific goal...

Unlike "Bush'n'Blair The Lieing Pair"

Our gov't is probably annoyed because they thought these freedom fighters were still on horse back and seeing in the dark by burning tar on a stick.

Tony should be handing out a Victoria cross to the reporter for going into enemy territory and revealing the truth.
Newsnight keep up the good work.

  • 6.
  • At 09:31 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Richard Bradley wrote:

I have no problem with the reporting of the other side of the story. However you are silly if you think people will not interpret your sympathy as being on that side.
Perhaps you should stick to being factual or even go one step further,consider the needs of our country first.
Its all in the presentation.

  • 7.
  • At 10:03 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Brian J Dickenson wrote:

You did the right thing showing the Taleban. These are the same people who were once hailed as brave fighters when they were kicking out the Russians.
The same ones we helped arm and train.
Now they are the terrorists. It is is time we withdrew, before we get kicked out like the Russians.
The question that I have never seen explained with any degree of believability is why we are there in the first place.
Politicians mutter about opium fields etc. These are not a new thing, however, our politicians did not mention them when we supported the rebels.

  • 8.
  • At 10:47 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Riccardo wrote:

Taleban, Why do they reject the west ( American, british, NATO)? From the Film of Mr. Loyn and international media it would seem like they( Taleban) feel a strong urge to protect there way of life. Do not see them open to new evolved ways. It is like taking a horse to the river, but you cannot forse him to drink. The bottom line is Taleban views, ideologies, costums, and so forth have no medium to corolate with modern western ways. A canyon of missunderstanding, just seems to get larger.

  • 9.
  • At 10:53 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Fish wrote:

Kirsty should have asked Liam Fox: does he support the Chinese drive for internet censorship? He seems to be all for it for the BBC...

  • 10.
  • At 11:04 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Jono wrote:

So we had Ingram incoherently attacking the BBC, now we have Liam Fox from the other side also attacking them.

Question: did either of them actually watch the report (which for the record was done by a professional with more guts than the whole House of Commons combined)?

The overriding view I took from listening to the "enemy" was how extreme the views were. Listening to their world view made me understand why our troops are unable to leave at present. Of course if the government had started with a plan rather than going in blind we wouldn't have to be having this discussion because Afghanistan would be a reconstructed state.

  • 11.
  • At 11:13 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Hamid S Aziz wrote:

It is amazing that some prominent people do not see the hypocrisy involved in one sided propaganda and want to suppress the views of the other side. How can there be Democracy or any intelligent control over human affairs, or any peace if only the interest or opinions of one side is allowed expression. That is what totalitarian regimes do.
It is not the Taliban that has invaded Britain, but Western troops have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and are killing Afghans and Iraqis. Can one blame anyone who kills invaders? Would the British allow themselves to be invaded without retaliation?

  • 12.
  • At 11:57 PM on 27 Oct 2006,
  • Bob Goodall wrote:

Dear Newsnight

This is really important
It is easy to look back in hindsight but there was a hypothetical question asked tonight about the war specifically whether the BBC would have interviewed the SS? and these are my thoughts relating to this hypothetical question. I’m not suggesting that it is necessarily fair to look back in this way as we look back at a situation with 21st century eyes with attitudes based on a much wider Knowledge of the world, informed and influenced by a high degree of education, compared to the previous generation who knew very much less. So perhaps we have to be very careful indeed.

And if we were the same people back them, in a way that the question puts the BBC back then, perhaps we would do the same, or perhaps far worse than our forebears?

Re the question tonight about whether the BBC would have interviewed the SS? I think they would have been right to do so and had they done this, it would have deepened our resolve to defeat them ,made us realise that there was absolutely no option but to succeed, and highlighted their true depths of their depravity and perhaps allowed us to find out about the gas chambers. Our country claims that we did not know about these things for a time (one day I would like this verified to see if this is true) and journalism is about telling us what is happening in the world and sometimes exposing great evil.

But I would argue with the extent of broadcasting we have today –(is the ‘SS’ question supposing today’s level of reporting transplanted back 60 years?) the rise of someone like Hitler would be far less likely. People if informed would be less likely to allow it.

Such an interview might have also put pressure on the politicians to stop our Bombers being ordered to incinerate German women and Children in their cities –particularly if other BBC reports had shown the ghastly aftermath of such events –people would have demanded it cease –significantly those most against bombing German cities in this country lived in cities that had being bombed. They knew what it meant for the people under it.

If we know the truth, what is happenning it influences our views, that is perhaps why some Governments and politicians fear the media, because it empowers ordinary people with knowledge and allows them an informed choice to decide what they want.

The people might have demanded that the bombers destroy the railway lines to the death camps instead. Why was this never done, and who knew what when, one day this will be known. Maybe the truth has being told but if it hasn’t I would like it known now while some of those who made the decisions are still alive and can be asked, why?

Journalism is about finding out such stuff, often the sort the stories Politicians and Government would prefer did not come out or be buried to protect their own position or sometimes reputations. There is only the truth and why would anyone be worried by the truth being told?

Had the BBC and ITN being around during the second world war, firstly perhaps it might never have happened and secondly events might have played out differently. Perhaps.

Obviously the same problem would apply then as now that the media outlet has to get close to the truth and weed out the lies as much as it can.

And I think it is ludicrous for Politicians to think they should be allowed to suggest if a story should appear. As the Suez story suggests they will not have an impartial view on this and their narrow view of things based on self interest or a skewed view on life will take precedent over the bigger picture.

Once politicians start censuring the media, it is no longer free.

That said I wonder if Cheney really did close down his black operation for putting bogus stories about the Middle East into the media as he told Congress. I somehow doubt it. I have seen some dubious stories around.

Re the MOD decision to stop ITN embedding its news crews with our forces, doesn’t this put them at greater risk?

Great to see the Church growing in China, if anyone thinks it is opium for the masses they do not realise what a sword it is that can transform this world and peoples lives and put our lives into true perspective.

I greatly admire the Archbishop, anyone remember Lord Runcie refusing to tow Mrs Thatcher line when he prayed for the Argentinian dead as well.

Best wishes

Bob Goodall

  • 13.
  • At 12:05 AM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • Paul D wrote:

OK Chaps - time to stop talking and do something. I have yet to work out the details but, if we can develop a system whereby people who cannot post to blogs without personal risk can email their postings to someone who can, this would be progress. The problem is that setting up a website to make this credible would be quickly traceable via IP addresses. However, if those of you who enjoy blogging feel able to 'adopt' bloggers at risk, it may be possible to create such a complicated trace-back situation that it would be virtually impossible to track the original source. These are early thoughts but is anyone interested?

  • 14.
  • At 12:39 AM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

Fox News seems to be the only example of a broadcase news service that would appeal to Dr Liam Fox whose every utterace tonight served as a warning of the kind of censorship that the Torys would like to see relating to bad news stories from Iraq. He failed to answer the question about his own parties past engagements with Gerry Adams and others. However much we might disagree with the other side of this war, it is the duty of the BBC to try and explain why we are there in the first place, and to provide perspective. Yes, the UK public has the right to hear views of Afghans opposed to the war, and also the rationale for attacks on western troops. The bravery of the BBC news team in Afghanistan is nothing short of the bravery of the troops.

  • 15.
  • At 02:01 AM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • Manjit wrote:

Dr Liam Fox is a disgrace in my view it seems to me that his main point was that the BBC's sole duty when reporting conflict's should be the morale of British troops. British troops are doing a fantastic job, thou sometimes I get the impression one is forbidden from criticising the Army in any shape or form.

The BBC were correct to show the interviews with the Taleban and it should continue to carry out brave journalism. Dr Liam Fox is simply trying court favour from within the Army and among newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Telegraph. It has backfired on him and he looked very silly on tonights show.

  • 16.
  • At 10:28 AM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • bernard powell wrote:

The two dangers of the Taliban interview are that
1.It risks legitimising them as 'freedom fighters'.They are not.The last thing they are fighting for is freedom-especially for women.They are murderous thugs with no regard for human rights-the comparison with the SS is apt and the BBC news editor's reply on this point was pathetic.
2.The impression given-probably deliberately-was that this represents the position in the whole of Afghanistan.Adam Ingrams maintains it does not.If the BBC retains any interest in balance it should pursue this point.

  • 17.
  • At 11:37 AM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • Cloe Fribourg wrote:

RE Taliban interview vs Dr Liam Fox

I thought it was a good report, and I am at a loss as to why some think that it shows the Taliban in a positive light. It depicts in at times frightening clarity how violent and utterly hypocritical the movement is. The report underlines the necessity for NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan until they have secured the country for the civilian population; they must not give in to such groups as the Taliban.

British personnel deployed in Afghanistan and their families may have been upset about the pictures of bombed supply trucks and patrol vehicles. While that is humanly understandable these pictures are also, unfortunately, a reality of war which every soldier knows and, to an extent, their families and the wider public should know too.

Thank goodness we no longer live in times where censorship and war propaganda are the norm (RE WWII-interview-with-SS question). Censorship of 'the enemy' would equal lowering ourselves to his/their standards which we are fighting so hard to eradicate. Freedom of expression and freedom of press MUST prevail.

A few questions just out of curiosity:

1. Did Dr Fox and his supporters express similarly 'obscene' views about the BBC's The Insurgency[1]?
2. He claims to have spoken to troops who were upset about this report: Why were they upset?
3. Given recent opinions of the General Sir Richard Dannatt about the lack of understanding from the public about reasons for deployment to and conditions faced in Afghanistan, is the public not allowed to know what the soldiers are faced with?
4. Are there MoD/British Forces press releases or comments concerning the impact of this documentary (I have looked for and not found any)? If so what do they say?

I think it would be worth to hear these statements from the horse's mouth.



George Bush has just recognized the links between Iraq and Vietnam. What he and Liam Fox have not recognized was the role played in the latter by the media coverage. It was the first televised war, and the horrific pictures sent back by the media did a great deal to persuade the US public of the need to stop the war.

Since then the military have learned the lesson. They make it difficult for journalists and photographers to get anywhere near where the action is – of course to protect the safety of the sensitive war correspondents! - so those horrific photographs never trouble them back home.

Even better, also in the guise of protecting them, they ‘embed’ the media in the fighting units. This is not so that the correspondents can get near the action; far from it since it allows the military to physically control their access. But, above all, in a variation on the Stockholm syndrome, it ensures the media build such close relationships with the troops that they simply don’t want to expose any of the horror.

Now the army want even to remove the ‘privilege’ of this embedding from ITN. This is, I suspect, and own goal; in that ITN may now actually escape the control of the military.

In the midst of all of this, even while the Blair government made suitable sounds about press freedom, on behalf of the Conservatives Liam Fox tried his own form of censorship by calling the well-balanced news item on Newsnight ‘obscene’ and stating that the BBC was disloyal.

Poppycock! If any political or military action cannot stand up to scrutiny we should ask why not; and make up our own minds when we come to vote!

  • 19.
  • At 02:32 PM on 28 Oct 2006,
  • J White wrote:

We can all compare notes, learn from historical warfare, and bring them up to date in a modern context. Germany was weakened because it's leader chose to fight a war on two fronts. That I would say is far more relevant to Britain right now, than a shadow foreign secretary being bogged down in emotive language over a BBC documentary. It is war and its reality , that is obscene.

  • 20.
  • At 09:33 AM on 29 Oct 2006,
  • Flyingbolt wrote:

The question of what effect interviewing the Taleban may have on the morale of the British armed services in Afghanistan is really part of a broader question facing any modern army of a democratic country - that concerning the relation between political legitimacy and public support.

The criminal invasion of Iraq has badly eroded confidence in the ability of government (and Parliament, for that matter) to determine with any degree of rationality or integrity who our enemies might be. Unless this situation can be rectified, British troops will have to get used to going without the level of civilian backing their work should command.

I believe there needs to be a radical change in our procedures for the use of military force. In future, circumstances allowing, there should be no significant deployment of British troops without a referendum producing a majority in favour of at least two-thirds. Unless we place responsibility where it properly belongs, with ourselves as voting citizens, our service men and women will continue to risk their lives for illegitimate and divisive causes. It's time we released our armed forces from the clutches of self-deluding messiahs, political wideboys and brown-nosed lobby fodder.

  • 21.
  • At 11:07 PM on 29 Oct 2006,
  • Frank Hudson wrote:

It would be interesting to read what the 'Fox'hunters have to say in response to the question posed by the Fox.....What exactly did the the film reveal about the Taliban that wasn't already in the public domain?

  • 22.
  • At 04:42 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Paul D wrote: "OK Chaps - time to stop talking and do something. I have yet to work out the details but, if we can develop a system whereby people who cannot post to blogs without personal risk can email their postings to someone who can, this would be progress. The problem is that setting up a website to make this credible would be quickly traceable via IP addresses. However, if those of you who enjoy blogging feel able to 'adopt' bloggers at risk, it may be possible to create such a complicated trace-back situation that it would be virtually impossible to track the original source. These are early thoughts but is anyone interested?"

No need to "reinvent the wheel", there is an effective system of anonymous proxy servers for just that purpose. Although there are some obsessively anti-privacy hackers doing their best to destroy them. Not just Chinese government employees either. The wish to intrude into, and affect (or control) other people's lives is an all too common human mental pathology. I keep wondering why it isn't listed as an mental illness.

  • 23.
  • At 04:57 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

For me the problem with the Taliban interview was simply that the questioning, and the whole report, was not tough enough on them. If the reporter was skating the edge of losing his life then could he not have added material once back to safety? Or is he, or other BBC colleagues, still in a place where the Taliban might take revenge? If so then Newsnight should add that information as a warning to viewers.

Some of the critics, including the minister in the studio after the airing, were also saying it wasn't tough enough. Which is not the same as saying it should not have been done or shown at all. Those saying that are just opportunists promoting censorship and press jingoism, which they are too used to having elsewhere.

Which brings me to the piece on christianity and China, in which there was not a single trace of journalistic toughness. Christianity is very far from being a blessing in any context. Despite some good people being adherents, as a faith, and as a set of practises, it tends to oppress many, destroy cultures, rewrite history, and lie. Unfortunately Newsnight's piece on the growth of christianity in China seemed like it could have been done (if they have the resources) by Lambeth Palace's press office.

So that is two big overseas pieces in two days that were not tough enough.

A cat in gloves catches no mice... Elizeus

As sure as eggs is eggs... Stephen

As sure as eggs is eggs... Stephen

The darkest place is under the candlestick... Drugo

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