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4 September 2008 Edition

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Media bias and the Lisbon debate

We’re against the occupation. But we support the occupiers. We are opposed to the slaughter of thousands. But we will back their murderers to the hilt. No, I don’t understand the Alliance Party either.
In Tuesday’s Belfast Newsletter Alliance’s Naomi Long seems to suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq would be okay if the US had strong-armed enough countries to back it.
Long was writing in the Newsletter to explain why she was backing a civic reception for British occupying forces. Sniffily, she referred to Council debates in other parts of the North as being sectarian because Sinn Féin and the SDLP (Most of the time) opposed such propaganda exercises, but unionist councillors backed it.
That’s not sectarianism Naomi. Sinn Féin and the SDLP opposed this latest venture in Anglo-American imperialism because they made a political decision to do so. You don’t have to be a Taig to think occupying Iraq was a bad idea.
Lest you think Naomi doesn’t care about the innocent victims of this little adventure, she manages, at the end of the second last paragraph of a 700-word piece ‘to remember all those affected by the conflicts, including many innocent Iraqis and Afghans who have suffered hugely from violence, both before and during both wars’.
Well, that’s alright then. Bless your sanctimonious, patronising, snobbish, liberal bleeding heart Naomi Long. Bless you.


Irish media coverage of the Lisbon Treaty referendum was biased. Hardly news. What did take me aback was to read in Tuesday’s Irish Times that it was biased in favour of the ‘No’ side.
“In a private briefing document circulated by the Commission in Brussels,” Mark Hennessey writes, “it warned that Ireland’s “changing media landscape” between 2002 and 2008 has implications for public opinion about the European Union.”
According to the report, which the Times graciously put up on its webpage at http://www.irishtimes.com/focus/2008/lisbondocument/index.pdf, the arrival of the Murdoch’s traditional Eurosceptic press contributed to rising dissatisfaction with Europe among Irish voters. In fairness to the Commission, there’s probably a grain of truth in this. Though I’m at a loss to understand how the political commentary in the Irish Sun would move too many voters. What’s more interesting about the report comes at the end.
“Mainstream indigenous Irish media has tended to be critical but overall pro-European. There is a shift away from the state news radio and TV stations. This means that the quality of debate has suffered. Commercial radio and local radio are increasingly important to reach - and their style is different from the old state broadcasters.”
The first bit is simply nonsense. The editorial line from the three main Irish dailes, the Times, Independent and Examiner was and is virulently pro-EU. The Times, was fanatical in its support and Fionnan Sheehan, the Indo’s Political Editor has long since crossed the line into hysteria on the issue. But it is interesting that the report points to the shift away from RTÉ as something to be worried about.
The EU Commission is simply acknowledging what was clearly visible through the Lisbon campaign - a strong pro-Lisbon line taken right through the news departments across radio and television.
One other little snippet, according to the Commission’s monitoring of the internet coverage of the campaign the least reported, discussed or debated theme was immigration. Yet this is the very issue some of the ‘Yes’ campaigners are saying was decisive in the Treaty’s rejection. Of course, who knows what went on in the minds of ‘No’ voters better than ‘Yes’ campaigners.


And on a sad note, Village magazine closed down last week after 140 issues. So tightly controlled is the Irish media by the state broadcaster on one side and Independent Newspapers on the other that the loss of a political commentary magazine is a cause for real disappointment.
Village wasn’t perfect. It was often tedious, self-obsessed and self-righteous. It may also have been the worst sub-edited professional publication in modern Irish print history.
But it was a publication that continued to stress the devastation wrought by the Iraq War and Ireland’s involvement in extraordinary rendition. It did raise issues of inequality, poverty and deprivation and abuse of power in modern Ireland but its arrogant claim to be the only voice with the courage to do so grated with activists, organisations and publications with far longer pedigrees in such work.
Still, it was an effort to provide an independent and socially aware voice in a media sector that is truly stultifying and Browne deserves acknowledgement for his personal courage and financial commitment to the project.

An Phoblacht Magazine

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