13 Nov 2011

After the Riots

It’s been three months since rioters ruled the city of London. After four days of uncontrolled violence, rampant looting and buildings set on fire, order was finally restored. More than 3,000 people were arrested and over 200 sent to jail. As actions are put into place to avoid similar events in the future, the actual cause for the riots is still debated.
It started with a peaceful protest march on 6 August 2011 in response to the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan two days before, but soon riots broke out in Tottenham in northern London. The violence quickly spread through London and other English cities.

It's now estimated that in London alone 3,443 crimes were linked to the uprisings, five people died, at least 16 were injured and apartments and businesses were burned down. The property damage is said to have reached a staggering £200 million. 

Spending cuts, gang culture and marginalization
After the riots, the challenge of how to improve the British society has been one of the main political debates. 

Already before the August events, Prime Minister David Cameron was under huge pressure because of his economic reforms and the biggest cuts in public expenditures since the second world war.
But according to a poll by the YouGov agency, carried out for The Sun , only eight percent of the British people actually think the government spending cuts was the main reason behind the riots, and a mere five percent think unemployment was the key cause. 
Instead, as much as 42 percent blame pure criminal behavior, and one in five believes the rise in gang culture is the main problem behind these violent acts.
But the theories on what caused the riots are still as diverse as the criminals among the arrested - a daughter of a millionaire, a charity worker, a teaching assistant and an 11-year-old boy.
The government fighting back
Even though few people blame the government’s politics as the cause of the riots, there is stark criticism against how they dealt with the uprisings, and that it took so long to take back control.
But once the arrests began, the courts stayed open overnight, and there was no question that the government wanted to show they meant business. A young women admitting to stealing ten packs of chewing gum was sentenced to six months in jail.
The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced he had begun a war against gangs, and the average crown court sentence for individuals arrested for theft or handling stolen goods was 13.6 months, 18% more than the average 11.6 month sentence for similar crimes in 2010

Due to the sudden increase of jail sentences, English prisons are now struggling to deal with the high pressure. Some prisons are even said to be working at 150 per cent of their ideal capacity.

London 2012 measures
Some of the measures under way to avoid future riots include; more freedom to the army to stop violence, giving the police the power to use water cannon and plastic bullets, curfews in riot areas, and ways of controlling social media such as Twitter and Facebook.
With only eight months to go until the London 2012 Olympic games, the English government do their utmost to reassure us that what happened in August is not, as David Cameron said "in any way representative of our country - nor of our young people."

30 Oct 2011

Citizen journalism changes our media landscape forever

As the Arab uprisings have swept across North Africa and the Middle East, it has become clear that the dependency on citizen journalism for the latest scoop, is a trend that’s here to stay. But what are the risks involved when everyone with a mobile phone and Internet access can act as a reporter?

The Egypt uprising in February 2011 was referred to as “The Facebook Revolution” . With the recent exploding development of social media; blogging, tweets, YouTube and other video sharing sites, combined with increased connectivity, dictator governments can no longer hide behind censorship, nor rule by effective manipulation of the truth.

Citizens all over the world are increasingly inspired to speak up against human rights, and mainstream media now turns to ordinary people to cover stories they have limited access to. 

Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks , recently called social networking and Facebook “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented”, in an interview with Russia Today

But even if personal privacy and integrity seems to be a memory of the past, citizen journalists have taken social media to new levels where it seizes to evolve around narcissistic needs of expressing personal thoughts, and instead is about fighting grave political injustices.

Basic principles of journalism at risk

With almost every citizen now having the ability to report on ground breaking events, we are also faced with the risks of loosing the editorial quality and control provided by established media organisations.

·         The ethical dilemma:
How do we deal with the fact that being the first to break a news story, outrules ethical guidelines - especially in countries which lack a tradition of independent journalism. We all remember the mobile footage of Saddam Hussein’s execution, which circulated the Internet minutes after his hanging.

·         Getting it right:
In today’s competitive media market, the viewer’s credibility of the news they watch is crucial. With no newsroom, or editor to spot inaccuracies and false material, as in the normal procedure of broadcasting, news agencies always take a risk when trusting amateur reporters. This became very clear when filmed material shown by Reuters , Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya turned out to be old footage, wrongly claimed to have been filmed during the revolts in Syria and Yemen.

·         Personal risks: 
Journalists reporting from conflict areas take huge personal risks, and when ordinary citizens set out to do their job, it can have devastating consequences. Many of the Chinese bloggers behind the scandal of inadequate building standards after the earthquake last year were later arrested, and instead of reaching their goal of opening up a closed society, more restrictions were instead put on Chinese social media.

Future demands
In the next decades we will see an undoubting decrease in TV ratings, while more and more people turn to the web, and demand to instantly be able to access the latest news on portable tools.  

Traditional news organisations may now depend on citizen journalism to satisfy the need for immediate and exclusive access to important events around the world, but it is also in their financial interest. The material is often free, or costs a fraction compared to sending a professional reporter to cover the same story.

Thus, international media outlets now face the challenge of creating well functioning business models based on an efficient and fruitful cooperation with citizen journalist, while trying to avoid the obvious risks involved. 

So far, CNN has proved to be the most successful with its popular iReport . This online tool allows anyone to upload and share a story, which if it meets the organisation’s standards, will be posted on their website and watched by thousands.

A trend here to stay
With the increased need of fast access to the latest news worldwide, accompanied by the technology to make it possible, there is no doubt that the involvement of citizen journalists will sky rocket in the years to come.

Mainstream media is faced with no choice but to keep developing safe tools and guidelines to take advantage of this growing, global trend that will completely change the media landscape as we’ve known it.


26 Sep 2011

Putin och Medvedev byter plats

Efter att president Medvedev på partistämman igår gav sitt fulla stöd till Putins presidentkandidatur i valet i mars 2012, står det nu klart att Putin kommer at bli Ryssland nästa president, enligt Steve Rosenberg (BBC News, Moskva). Medvedev kommer med största sannolikhet ersätta Putin på premiärministerposten.

Putin, som efter att ha styrt Ryssland i två mandatperioder mellan 2000-2008, hindrades av landets konstitution att ställa upp för ytterligare ett nyval 2008.

Genom att utse Medvedev till sin efterträdare har han dock som landets premiärminister lagt grunden för ytterligare två mandatperioder a sex år, och kan i princip komma att styra Ryssland fram till 2024. Därmed skulle han bli den längst sittande ledaren i landet sedan Stalin.

Många frågar sig nu vad Putins planer, i ledningen för sitt parti "Enade Ryssland", innebär för landets framtid . Ryska analytiker betonar bl.a. vikten av ekonomiska reformer.

Putin har givit befolkningen en föraning om var han står i denna fråga med uttalandet: "En regerings uppgift är inte endast att hälla honung i en kopp, utan även att erbjuda en bitter medicin".

Macho-image som går hem
Trots vad som kan tyckas vara en manipulerad och odemokratisk valprocess, är Putin den klart populäraste politikern i Ryssland.

Detta kan dels förklaras med en effektiv censur- och marknadsföringsapparat, men också med Putins macho-betonade framtoning som den starke och oövervinnelige ledaren, vilket tycks gå hem hos den ryska befolkningen.

Skeptisk omvärld
Den ryska oppositionen och omvärlden uttrycker dock stor oro, att med Putin vid rodret, riskerar Ryssland att ytterligare isolera sig och hamna i total stagnation.

Michail Gorbatjev skrev i motståndarsidans tidning "Novaya Gazeta" (Den nya tidningen), om Putin som Rysslands näste president: "Vi kan anta att det inte kommer att ske några framsteg om inte rejäla förändringar äger rum innebärande att hela det nuvarande politiska systemet byts ut."

21 Sep 2011

Troy Davis avrättas i natt

Med en spruta med giftinjektion planeras 41-årige Troy Davis avrättas i Jackson State Prison i Atlanta, kl. 1.00 i natt svensk tid. Davis blir då den 34:e männsikan som avrättas i USA i år.

1989 arresterades den då 19-årige Davis misstänkt för att ha skjutit polisen Mark MacPhail. Två år senare dömdes han till döden. Bevisen mot honom var dock mycket bristfälliga; något mordvapen återfanns aldrig och det fanns ingen bevisning i form av DNA.

Dessutom har sju av tio av de vittnen, vilkas vittnesmål ledde till den fällande domen, dragit tillbaka sina vittnesmål. De hävdar att de under rättegången tvingades av polis att peka ut Davis som den skyldige.

Sedan 2007 har avrättningen skjutits upp fyra gånger, och vid ett av tillfällena endast två timmar innan den utsatta tiden för giftinjektionen. Davis har hela tiden hävdat att han är oskyldigt dömd, men nekades igår ansöka om nåd samt möjligheten att genomföra ett lögndetektortest.

Omvärlden protesterar

Protesterna mot avrättningen har varit enorma världen över, och tusentals personer samlades för en protestmarsch i Atlanta idag. Över 600.000 namnunderskrifter har samlats in. Amnesty Internationals USA-сhef Larry Cox, sa i ett uttalande idag att beslutet att gå vidare med avrättningen var "samvetslöst".
Mordoffrets mor, Aneliese MacPhail, sa i en intervju med CNN idag att hon ville få det hela överstökat, och att hon aldrig kommer att komma över sorgen över sin sons död, men att hon kommer att erfara en känsla av frid när Davis slutligen avrättats

37 av USA:s 50 delstater tillämpar dödsstraff, och stödet för avrättningar av morddömda fortsätter att vara starkt. 2010 visade en Gallup-undersökning att 64% av amerikanska befolkningen stöder denna strafform, som i övriga västvärlden anses tillhöra det förgångna.

Öga för öga, tand för tand

Det ser alltså ut som den amerikanska staten, under en lång tid framöver kommer att fortsätta att bjuda in mordoffers anhöriga till att bevittna avrättningar i form av giftinjektioner, elektricitet eller arkebusering. Avrättningar som i efterhand inte sällan visat sig vara oskyldiga.

Anhörigas längtan efter återupprättelse är fullkomligt förståelig, men man kan tycka att staten borde stå över känslomässiga krav på hämnd. Endast risken att i ett enskilt fall avrätta en oskyldigt dödsdömd fånge borde vara tillräckligt för att ersätta dödsstraff med livstids fängelse.  

Troy Davis lär ha avböjt erbjudandet att beställa en sista måltid. Han kommer strax innan han avrättas istället serveras vad som står på fängelsets ordinarie meny: Grillad ostburgare, ugnsbakad potatis, bruna bönor, surkål, en kaka och ett glas juice.

1 Aug 2011

Now we're 64

Our country's population is ageing, and as much as 20% of us are now over 65. But how are we utilizing the experience and knowledge of those men and women who helped build our society?

It was recently announced that one in four of our children aged 16 and under will live to become a 100 years old, according to the Department for Work and Pension. Demographic experts warn that this means we completely have to re-structure everything from pension and healthcare to work balance. 

But instead of being a burden, and liability to our future economy, there is plenty of elderly in our country, who are providing charities with invaluable experience and time.

In Maria Jackson's documentary "Now we're 64" we meet passionate volunteers from charities such as Age UK, CSV, Citizens UK, The Prostate Cancer Society and St. Francis Hospice, sharing their experiences on what staying active and still play a part in our communities mean to them; from 85 year old Lotti, who marked by starvation in second world war's Germany is dedicated to limit food waste, to 65 year old Geoff who just battle aggressive prostate cancer and recently received the ThirdSector’s excellence award for successful fundraising for prostate cancer research.

On this journey we also meet charity spokespeople, many of which are critical against our society's lack of appreciation of our older generation and what it has to offer.

Listen to the radio documentary "Now we're 64"

2 Mar 2011

The fall of Pharaoh

He was called “The Egyptian Pharaoh” and had been on the throne for more than 30 years.

The revolution that made Hosni Mubarak step down came as a surprise, not only to many Egyptians but to top intellectuals and experts on the area alike. First Tunisia, then Egypt and now Libya - the Arab world is going through enormous changes.

But what was Egypt under Mubarak really like, why did the revolution happen now, and where is the country heading without their former leader?  

21 Jan 2011

Somewhere safe and warm

Around 5000 families in London might be forced out of their homes, a recent City Hall report says. Homelessness, or rough sleeping as it’s also referred to, has been increasing in the UK over the last years.

It’s estimated that even before the debated financial cuts were announced, approximately 1,200 people were sleeping rough in the streets. But the figure might be even higher.

There’s a large unknown number of people, the so called hidden homeless, who don’t appear in statistics.

Below is a radio report on what some charities and private individuals do to help breaking the negative trend.