Dead Cat - the work of Matthew Gaffen


Safeguarding Democracy - student protests part 2

I was going to post some stuff pertinent to my Birthday celebrations, as it was yesterday I turned 23. However, this message has been being sent to various parties and I believe it to be quite important.

I try not to get too political on this blog, but I believe that something truly bad is happening with the portrayal of the recent protests, please take the time to read this, I believe it to be pretty important:

"If you think it interesting, informative or important, please consider forwarding it on to others.

As you are undoubtedly aware thanks to the large amount of press coverage of last Wednesday’s events, students from across the UK are currently protesting against a planned increase in tuition fees and cuts to the education budget. Without embarking on any argument either for or against the coalition’s proposals, without applauding or criticising the actions of the Metropolitan Police and without mindlessly repeating the party-oriented vitriol currently to be found clogging up internet forums and comment boards, I would like to offer you a further point to consider in the wake of the protests.

UK media has, since Wednesday, produced reams of copy and hundreds of video reports on the student protests. Unfortunately, on the whole, the mass media has demonstrated that it is unwilling to portray the protests accurately, or if not unwilling then incapable, with many instances of bias to be found in print and online articles and in televised reports- witness the number of times the term ‘riot’ has been used in place of ‘demonstration’ or ‘protest’. Of course, certain newspapers and news programs are always subjective (and unashamedly so), but when we choose to receive information through these channels, we usually do so with our eyes open, because it suits our own political leanings. Since the events of last Wednesday, however, a lack of impartiality has been glaringly apparent amongst those sections of the media, which the general public most commonly recognises as objective and, therefore, more reliable when it comes to reporting on controversial issues.

The BBC, in particular, has failed to live up to the standards set out in its own 2007 report, which dictate that “impartiality...should remain the hallmark of the BBC”. For evidence of this lack of impartiality, we need only look at the treatment of claims of a police horse charge during the protests. On Thursday a video was posted on ‘youtube’ ( appearing to show mounted police moving into a crowd of protesters, however, the Met Commissioner, when questioned, denied that a ‘charge’ had occurred. A number of eyewitnesses came forward on Friday to confirm that the horse charge had taken place and a Guardian Online article was posted on the subject. On Saturday, the story made the front page of the Guardian newspaper. The BBC, however, did not report on the discrepancy between the Met’s version of events and that presented by eyewitnesses until later on Saturday, a particularly shocking omission since one of their own journalists, Greg Wood, wrote on Wednesday (the day of the protests) that he had seen “horseback charges by the police at the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall" ( It is clear that the BBC, if it wished to remain impartial, should have examined claims that a mounted police charge had taken place much earlier in the week, perhaps starting by interviewing its own reporter! At the very least it might have been expected to air the ‘youtube’ video, so that its viewers could judge for themselves whether a horse charge had occurred or not.

So, a final thought.... Freedom of the Press (and other media forms) is essential to a functioning democracy, in part because of its unique ability to act as a ‘check’ on government and government bodies. However, for the media to fulfil this function effectively, those sections of it claiming to be bastions of impartiality must provide accurate and objective reporting, which allows people not directly involved to make well-informed judgements about events, particularly in cases like this where the overwhelming majority of people can only base their understanding of events on media portrayals. Over the past few days, this level of impartiality and objectivity has been absent from the media and the general public has not been kept accurately informed. So, please, when you watch reports and read articles about future protests, including those set to take place next Tuesday, please consider the bias which has thus far characterised media reporting on the student protests and, where possible, look for alternative sources of information -photographs and videos posted online may tell their own story- before drawing your own conclusions. Then, you can ensure democracy by acting as the vital ‘check’ that the media seems reluctant to be."

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