Saturday 19 July 2008

Media Power and Responsibility

This originally appeared in my Reuters AlertNet blog on 19 July 2008.


Gideon Rachman had a great piece in the FT on Monday. In "American journalism, still a model", he contrasts US and UK media, finding that although American newspaper journalism seems "self-reverential, long-winded, over-edited and stuffy", it does have an advantage over its British counterpart in that the Americans "take the idea of journalism as a civic duty much more seriously".

With a foot on each side of the pond, I don't really want to get into the cross-Atlantic contrast exactly. The cited Reuters Foundation report on "The Power of the Commentariat", showing that UK commentators don't regard themselves as powerful is more interesting, as it touches on something that goes beyond commentators to editors and others who decide what becomes a story and what doesn't.

Many media gatekeepers I talk to also seem to ignore the reality of the power they hold, or, if they accept they do indeed have some, will then not make the connection between power and responsibility.

Friday 18 July 2008

The Ghost of Sanctions (Not Quite) Past

This article originally appeared in the European Voice on 18 July 2008. The EU's policy toward Uzbekistan had once been hailed; it then became an example of unprincipled policy-making at its worst.


Attempting to ignore its own policy on Uzbekistan is becoming a favourite pastime for the EU. The latest in the sorry saga of EU sanctions against Tashkent is the decision not to include the Central Asian country on the formal agenda for next week’s meeting of EU foreign ministers.

This ‘oversight’ is somewhat surprising given that in April, the ministers’ monthly meeting – known as GAERC, for the General Affairs and External Relations Council – agreed to review the progress made by the Uzbek authorities after three months. Of course, nothing is particularly clear when it comes to the EU’s position on Uzbekistan: ‘after three months’ could mean any time, and sticklers might say ‘review’ doesn’t actually mean ‘discuss’.

This fits a fairly predictable pattern of late. If the EU has a way to avoid Uzbekistan, it will take it.

Tuesday 8 July 2008

Medellín: Revival and Risk

This article originally appeared in openDemocracy on 8 July 2008. It looks at the work of civil-society and human-rights groups in helping a Colombian city reach beyond conflict and notoriety.


"This city used to be the murder capital of the world, but now look around Medellín", Mauricio Mosquera tells me with a smile. The director of the community TV TeleMedellín has a point: there are so many visible improvements here, it is impossible to deny things are looking up for Colombia's second city.

You can see it all around as you travel in the cable car that takes you up the mountain to the neighbourhood of Santo Domingo Savio. The high-wire ride is not a tourist attraction; it is a part of the public-transport system that moves people from the metro train at the river up to what was once one of the most violent parts of the country. The bustling neighbourhood is still poor, but it is safe to wander around, and it exudes an unmistakable pride: there is almost no litter anywhere, and none of the cable-car stations, not even the posts supporting the line up and down the mountain, have the tiniest tag of graffiti.

This system, built in 2004, is just one symbol of Medellín's renaissance.

Friday 4 July 2008

Colombia: Tocadas pero no hundidas

El Mundo (Spain) ran this piece by my then colleague Juan Munévar and me on 4 July 2008.


El emotivo comunicado sobre el rescate de Ingrid Betancourt y de otros 14 rehenes secuestrados por las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) ha sido una noticia bien recibida por todas aquellas personas y sus familias que han vivido una terrible experiencia, muchos de ellos durante casi diez años. El frenesí mediático es tan predecible como merecido. Sin embargo, sugerir que dicha noticia supone el fin de las FARC, tal y como dicen algunos comentaristas, es una exageración.