Journalism on the front line
January 31, 2016 | Nick Taylor
Journalism on the front line – On 24th March 2016, BBC Middle East Editor and journalist, Jeremy Bowen will deliver a peace lecture in Warrington.
In the lead up to the event, Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Chief Executive, Nick Taylor, salutes journalism that often involves taking a risk on the front line of violent conflict to inform and report and remind us daily of the continued need to wage peace not war.
In March 2016, we will commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the IRA Warrington bombing. Later in the year in Manchester, we will remember 20 years since the Arndale Centre bombing. The contemporary news is dominated by the acts and consequences of violence. There isn’t a day goes by that we are not shown the futility of violent conflict. Our knowledge of such violence is often down to journalists, who, sometimes at great risk to themselves, bring the pictures and words to inform and further our knowledge about such events.
On 16 August 1819 at St Peters Fields, Manchester a mass meeting took place to advocate universal suffrage. 60,000 people gathered peacefully only to be attacked by local militia and national military. Eleven people died, 40 wounded and 140 cut with sabres. It became known as the Peterloo Massacre and showed that less than 200 years ago our Government, here in Manchester, England was prepared to turn state forces against its people. Violence, even in a so-called peaceful country like ours, is never far away.
A letter from a local magistrate was sent to the Home Secretary of the day recounting and justifying the actions of violence. In it, the magistrate Mr Hay sets out how he targeted a number of people. One of those was a man called Saxon, a writer for the Manchester Observer. His crime was to be reporting on the event and he was apprehended and taken before the magistrates. The Manchester Observer was set up by a group of ‘radicals’ with an intent to write for the increasingly literate working classes. The Government of the day constantly attacked the paper and brought a legal claim after a legal claim against its owners and the journalists, who spent long periods in jail. The threat that free speech brought to our Government was constantly attacked. And in the end, the mainly Tory conformist business advertisers and the constant prosecutions closed the paper down but it led to the formation of the Manchester Guardian, but that is another story.
Journalists are often much derided from portrayals as pork-pie hatted pigs in the satirical TV programme Spitting Image to more recent scandals including phone tapping. But, journalism, at its heart, is a profession that needs the virtues of peace, that is compassion, wisdom and courage – to succeed.
The Foundation is delighted that this year we are bringing Jeremy Bowen to the North West to share his experiences via a peace lecture. Jeremy started his career as a BBC news trainee. As a seasoned war correspondent, he has reported from more than 70 countries, covering conflicts in the Gulf, El Salvador, Lebanon, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Croatia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Somalia and Rwanda.
Jeremy became the Middle East correspondent in 1995 and won Best News Correspondent at the New York Television Festival. He repeated this success the following year when he won Best Breaking News report for his coverage of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination.
During the Kosovo crisis of 1999, he reported extensively from the region, often in dangerous conditions, which included being robbed at gunpoint by bandits whilst reporting from the Albanian border. This has not been the only incident he has been part of.
His work as a journalist and latterly as an editor has increased our understanding of the world and global violent conflict, something we need to do and is vital to our quest for peace – we are looking forward to welcoming him and listening to his lecture.
At the Foundation, we recognise that peace is hard fought, and in fact, that is why we use the pledge to encourage people to wage peace not war. The language of peace is no longer about flower power, but more like that of battle – a battle of minds, where we need to convince people that free speech, democracy, compassion, wisdom, courage and an ability to communicate and to undertake dialogue, even with those we disagree with, is at the heart of a healthy and thriving global society. Good, honest and brave journalism and writing is a major component in promoting peace and I do hope many of you will come to hear Jeremy.
The Jeremy Bowen Peace Lecture takes place at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Centre in Warrington on Thursday 24th March 2016 (19:00 for 19:30). Entry is by ticket only (a small donation is being asked for to cover costs) and you can reserve places by clicking here.