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On the Police Infiltration of British Left Wing Groups. Back the Campaigns Against Spy Coppers.

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Police spies infiltrated UK leftwing groups for decades

 

Police deployed 24 undercover officers to infiltrate a small leftwing political party over a 37-year period, the Guardian can reveal.

The police spies infiltrated the Socialist Workers party (SWP) almost continuously between 1970 and 2007, often with more than one undercover officer embedded within the party.

Four of them deceived women into sexual relationships while using their fake identities. One spy met one of his wives during his deployment and had a child with her.

About one-third of the total number of undercover officers embedded in political organisations that have so far been publicly identified infiltrated the SWP, a Trotskyite party of a few thousand members that advocates the abolition of capitalism through revolutionary means.

Before going any further this is important to bear in mind.

The infiltration also involved nasty coppers who deceived people into having relationships with them, and wroke havoc with their lives.

It involved the notorious Bob Lambert, who became an expert on Islamism (advocating ‘dialogue’ and defended by ‘Islamophobia Watch’ Can those who smear Bob Lambert claim such anti-terrorist success? Posted on  by Bob Pitt )

Robert Lambert MBE is a British former academic and former undercover police officer. He served in the controversial Special Demonstration Squad and posed as a left-wing animal rights activist from 1983 to 1988, fathering a child with an activist during his deployment.[1] Until December 2015 Lambert was a lecturer in Terrorism Studies at the University of St Andrews and a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University‘s John Grieve Centre for Policing.

In the course of his police service, Lambert infiltrated activist groups (environmentalists, animal rights activists and anti-racists) using the alias Mark “Bob” Robinson. To gain credibility as an activist, he formed friendships with other movement members; he also embarked in long-term relationships with women as a means of establishing a cover story.

He fathered a child with one of the activists he was spying on[1] although he already had a wife and children in the suburbs.[8] After that relationship ended he embarked on another with a woman who was politically conscious, but was not herself an activist. His colleagues at Special Branch raided her home in order to bolster his image as a hardcore militant.[9][10]

Lambert was confronted about his past activities by members of London Greenpeace (which he had infiltrated in the 1980s) as he spoke at a conference in October 2011.[7] Lambert subsequently apologised to other activists and to the woman whom he had used as a “lover” (who said she felt “raped by the state” after learning about the deception).[11] Though he had earlier denied that reports in The Guardian newspaper were true, in July 2013 he acknowledged that he had conducted four such relationships under false pretences, saying that he “made serious mistakes that I should regret, and I always will do.”[12]

On 23 October 2014, the Metropolitan Police Service agreed to pay £425,000 to a woman called Jacqui whose child was fathered by Lambert; she did not know at the time of their relationship that he was an undercover police officer. The payment was part of an agreement for her to drop her legal action alleging assault, negligence, deceit and misconduct by senior officers. She was a 22-year-old activist at the time of her relationship with Lambert, who was using the pseudonym Bob Robinson, and she gave birth to their son in 1985. When the boy was two years old his father vanished, and she told BBC News she had received psychiatric care after learning the officer’s real identity.

The unprecedented payment resulted from a legal battle with women who said they were duped into relationships with officers who were spying on them. Scotland Yard said it “unreservedly apologises for any pain and suffering” but added that “the Metropolitan Police Service has never had a policy that officers can use sexual relations for the purposes of policing”. Scotland Yard had previously refused to either confirm or deny whether Bob Lambert was a Special Demonstration Squad operative, despite his own admissions to journalists. However, it was forced to change its position in August 2014 after a legal ruling. Lambert did not respond to BBC requests for comment on the settlement but had previously said that he wanted to apologise to women with whom he had relationships and that he had made some “serious mistakes.

Comrade Helen Steel was also a target of another ‘Sypcop’.

Helen Steel and John Dines: The spy who loved me

In the early 1990s, Helen Steel was a member of a British social justice group called London Greenpeace when she began a relationship with a man she knew as John Barker. They were together for more than two years and he told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Then one day he disappeared. A letter arrived for her a few days later. “If I manage to sort my head out, I will be back,” he wrote.

She was both devastated and concerned about her partner’s emotional state and would spend much of the next decade looking for him. That was before she made a series of shocking discoveries: his real name, John Dines, a record of his marriage, and the death certificate of a child, Philip John Barker, whose identity he had assumed. But it was not until 2010 that she got confirmation her lover had been an undercover police officer employed as part of a secret London Metropolitan Police project to infiltrate protest groups.

Sydney Morning Herald.

This is the site which the Guardian bases its report on:

Spycop Targets: a Who’s Who

Who's WhoEveline Lubbers,

From 1968 to 2011, undercover police officers spied up on more than 1,000 political groups. However, no definitive list of these groups has ever been made public. That is changing now. Working with The Guardian, we present a Who’s Who of Spycop Targets, listing what is known to date from official sources, whistle-blowers and our own investigations

The list gives an idea of the breadth of groups that have been targeted through the years and reveals some patterns, such as the focus on particular groups, and lack of attention given to others. Many of the groups will question why they were infiltrated or reported on.

To help you find out more, you can search for names of groups, on certain periods of time, for specific political categories and by cover name of spycops. You will also find links to profiles of the undercovers published by the Undercover Research Group, to The Guardian or to the SpecialBranchFiles.uk project for a greater insight into the groups and how they were targeted.

Additionally, we also present an interactive timeline of all SDS spycops known to date, and their deployments over the years.

A work in progress

We started from the minimal list provided by the Undercover Policing Inquiry, adding groups that we know were infiltrated from our own research, work done by Rob Evans (and Paul Lewis), and from whistle-blower Peter Francis. We only included groups that were targeted by officers from the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit – the two Special Branch units which carried out the vast majority of such activities.

The Who’s Who project is very much a work in progress, and will be updated as soon as more information emerges. If we have missed any out, please let us know. Likewise, if you have suggestions to improve the descriptions or if you are aware of website we can link to that will help others learn more, do get in touch. Even if you didn’t encounter the undercovers, broadening out our knowledge of the groups is always helpful.

Undercover Research Group, 15 October 2018.

This story has just come out:

 I was 15 years old when I was spied on by the British state.

It’s been well documented that undercover police officers have stolen dead children’s names, had secret families, and spied on activists. I was one of those activists. I met Marco Jacobs in 2007 at No Borders meetings in a time when Cardiff was experiencing a renaissance of political activism as the war in Iraq mobilised the country.

No Borders is a loose network of groups worldwide working to resist and dismantle borders and immigration controls. Marco was funny, charismatic, and outgoing. He was around 5”9, white with a broad northern accent. Marco said that he worked driving trucks, which explained the long periods of time away from Cardiff. He liked heavy metal, cracking jokes and drinking lager. He built our relationship knowingly and slowly with a charismatic personality and a wicked sense of humour. It’s easy to bond with people on things like demonstrations, as we frequently had visible pickets outside the UK Border Agency (now UK Visas and Immigration) in Cardiff, protesting the racist border regime.

Then, he would show up to the same punk gigs I was at, and give us all lifts home afterwards. I always felt extremely safe with him. I had his mobile phone number and he was one of my friends on Myspace. On one occasion, I had acute anxiety at a punk gig where I received repeated unwanted advances from a man nearly 10 years older me, and Marco stepped in and stayed at my side throughout the night. He knew where I lived and what school I went to. I was especially comforted by our conversations where he offered me emotional support when a mutual friend was deported. I was devastated. Now, I wonder if that was genuine concern or part of a wider plan to get me to lower my defences around him.

The Guardian confirmed that Marco Jacobs was an undercover officer sent to infiltrate radical activist spaces, soon after Mark Kennedy – an undercover London Metropolitan police officer who infiltrated activist groups – was outed by climate change activists in 2011. We began to suspect Marco might also be an undercover police officer, and one friend once asked him straight. He deferred the question with  nervous laughter. Within a few months, Marco had left to be a gardener in Cyprus and we never heard from him again.

Many activists and trade union branches support the campaign against Spycops!

(Twitter)

We all should.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Roshan Salih, Press TV and the Enfield Labour Vote of No-Confidence in Joan Ryan.

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Is it true that Salih is a member of the Labour Party?

I am not a member of Enfield Labour Party and am in no position to comment in depth on the events.

But it does appear that there was a broad coalition behind the vote of no-confidence in MP Joan Ryan.

In these conditions it is highly misleading to talk of “Trotksyists” “Communists” and “Stalinists” behind last night’s decision.

I hope that the result can be linked to her wider – right of the Labour Party – politics and not to the issue of ‘Zionism’.

Not to mention local concerns about her performance as an MP.

But this raises wider issues:

Press TV footage apparently filmed inside CLP vote of no confidence in MP Joan Ryan

Labour activists are calling for an inquiry after an Iranian state-backed TV station which is banned in the UK carried footage of a local party meeting passing a vote of no confidence in the Enfield North MP, Joan Ryan.

The Press TV footage, which appeared to have been filmed inside the meeting, was carried on the station’s Twitter feed and referred to Ryan, who is the chair of Labour Friends of Israel, as a “pro-Israel MP”. It included the hashtag #WeAreEnfieldNorth.

Press TV had its licence to broadcast in the UK revoked by the media regulator, Ofcom, in 2012, over claims that editorial decisions were being made in Tehran.

The chair of the Enfield North constituency Labour party (CLP) tweeted that he had informed Labour party headquarters about Press TV’s apparent access to the meeting, and an investigation would take place.

Press TV’s licence was taken after, amongst other things, for this (Independent 2010).

in an interview with Channel 4 News, to be broadcast tonight, Mr Bahari explains that Press TV betrayed those promises, by sending a journalist to cover his forced confession in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

‘I was somewhat surprised because I thought Press TV would at least pretend to have some credibility and wouldn’t come and interview a prisoner in an interrogation room when I was under duress.’

Mr Bahari says he was tortured and then forced to make his confession on television, under threat of execution. He describes how he sat inside a room in the prison, before three cameras, and responded to questions suggested by a government interrogator, who stood behind a red curtain. He says he kept his blindfold on his knee, in full view, so it should have been clear that he was under duress.

Press TV then broadcast the confession, as though it was a legitimate interview, and Mr Bahari a willing guest; the presenter even suggested Mr Bahari might have participated in the protests.

Is Salih a member of the Labour Party?

The Tweet on ‘Zionist Infiltration’ was preceded  by this:

Today this is one comment he retweeted:

This is his own reaction after his coverage appeared on Press TV

This was another of his scoops – earlier this year (January)

Ken Livingstone appeared on Iranian state television on Holocaust Memorial Day on a programme that asked whether the Shoa has “been exploited to oppress others.”

The former Mayor of London – currently suspended from the Labour Party over antisemitism claims – appeared on Press TV on Saturday with host Roshan Muhammed Salih.

Several callers phoned into the show – which suggested ‘Zionists’ had exploited the Holocaust – and repeated openly antisemitic tropes.

At one point the presenter says: “I don’t know whether 6 million, or 4 million died or 2 million died.”

One caller to the programme, Ali, said: ”If it wasn’t for Hitler there would be no Israel. So this idea that Hitler was a bad guy – he wasn’t so bad for Israel.”

Mr Livingstone disagreed saying the remarks were “deeply offensive” to Jewish communities around the world.

But later Mr Livingstone attempted to justify his own past comments on Hitler and Zionism.

He said: ”I mean Hitler wanted to eliminate every Jew who was living inside Germany and that’s what he did in the 1930s. He worked with the Zionist movement to move …to get 60000 to go. But it was about half a million and then he changed his policy and went for genocide. “

Host Mr Salih at one stage spoke of the “industry” that has built up around the Holocaust.

Salih is the Editor the pro-Iranian Islamist site, 5 Pillars.

Editor – Roshan Muhammed Salih

These are some of his views:

The two-state solution means Palestine’s destruction, so why does Jeremy Corbyn support it?

If Jeremy Corbyn really cares about Palestine why does he keep talking about a two-state solution, asks Roshan Muhammed Salih.

The article ends with a call for support for action, military if need be, against Israel.

With the advent of a multi-polar world and rising Muslim powers, will Palestinians finally get the financial, military and political backing they deserve?

None of us know the answers to these questions but I do know that time is against Israel and an argument can be made that they need a deal more than the Palestinians do.

But non-Palestinians should not tell Palestinians what to do; our role is to simply support them. Whatever the Palestinian consensuses is I’m fine with that. If the consensus is to fight Israel with arms I support that because an occupied people has the right to resist an occupation militarily. If they want to struggle by peaceful means through cultural boycotts or politics then I also support that. And if they want to do a combination of both then that’s great too.

But like the majority of Palestinians I do not support a two-state solution. And neither should Jeremy Corbyn.

Then there’s this:

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Note: Harry’s Place asserts this: Press TV’s Roshan Salih films no confidence vote against Joan Ryan

But

Update: There is some haziness over the precise circumstances around the filming, but it seems clear that it was in no way condoned by the CLP’s chair, Siddo Dwyer.”

 

George Galloway Predicts Armageddon as Russia Today (RT) Ban Looms.

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“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”

Channel could lose licence if Russia found to be responsible for Sergei Skripal poisoning

RT, the Kremlin-controlled news channel, faces being forced off air in the UK if the poisoning of Sergei Skripal is found to be an “unlawful use of force” by Russia against Britain.

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom, which has the power to close a TV channel if it decides it is not a “fit and proper” holder of a licence in the UK, said it had written to RT warning that a Russian act against the UK would trigger a fast-track investigation to potentially revoke its licence.

“We have today written to ANO TV Novosti, holder of RT’s UK broadcast licences, which is financed from the budget of the Russian Federation,” Ofcom said. “This letter explained that, should the UK investigating authorities determine that there was an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK, we would consider this relevant to our ongoing duty to be satisfied that RT is fit and proper.”

“Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that all broadcast licensees are fit and proper to hold a licence,” said the spokesman.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Atheists face prison in Egypt as Non-Belief may be made illegal.

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Charged in 2012 with “defamation of Islam and Christianity, insulting the divine and satirizing religious rituals and sanctities and the prophets under articles 98, 160 and 161 of the Egyptian Penal Code”

There are many countries where Atheism is a crime.

Atheists, and those accused of defection from the official religion, may be subject to discrimination and persecution in many Islamic countries. According to the International Humanist and Ethical Union, compared to other nations, “unbelievers… in Islamic countries face the most severe – sometimes brutal – treatment” Wikipedia.

Last year the Independent reported,

In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith

1.    Afghanistan

2.    Iran

3.    Malaysia

4.    Maldives

5.    Mauritania

6.    Nigeria

7.    Pakistan

8.    Qatar

9.    Saudi Arabia

10.    Somalia

11.    Sudan

12.    United Arab Emirates

13.    Yemen.

These regimes have laws that put people to death for ” blasphemy or apostasy”.

In Egypt, a state where the Sharia is one of the ‘sources’ of legislation, there has long been intolerance and the criminalisation of non-belief.

In January 2015 this happened:

A student has been sentenced to three years in prison for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist and thereby “insulting Islam”. Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, aged 21, was arrested in November 2014 with a group of other people at a cafe in Cairo.

Police then closed down the so-called “atheists cafe” in what is being viewed as a coordinated government crackdown on atheists. A local administrator told a news website that the coffee shop was “known as a place for satan worship, rituals and dances”.

Egyptian police shutdown ‘atheist cafe’ accused of harbouring ‘Satan worship’

#EgyptTurmoil

The café, on Falaky Street in the downtown neighbourhood of Abdeen, was “destroyed” after local residents reported customers as spreading “wrong thoughts regarding religions”, Arabic-language daily Sada al-Baladreported.

“We have destroyed the café of the devil worshippers in Falaki Street for being illegal and for having a number of atheists spreading their thoughts,” local police chief Gamal Mohi told the daily.

However, when speaking to independent outlet Mada Masr, Mohi denied the café had been demolished and said it was actually shutdown in November “following noise complaints from local residents”.

“There was no demolition involved, only confiscation of the coffee shop’s property,” he said. “This was all done in accordance with the law and legal procedures.”

The café owner was the only person arrested in the raid, according to Mohi, who said he was being held “as his coffee shop was unauthorised, unlicensed, and also because drugs were found inside”.

“There was no sign reading ‘atheists’ café’ outside, as nobody would put up such a public announcement. However, it was popularly known as a place for Satan worship, rituals and dances. There were also Satanic drawings at the entrance,” the police chief said.

No publicly available evidence has been produced to verify the police chief’s allegations of Satan worship at the café and he did not explain why atheists – who reject the existence of both God and Satan – would be engaging in such practices.

Egyptian rights activists denounced the café closure as being “the wrong and criminal action”, providing the business was operating legally.

“No one has the right to arrest someone for his thoughts,” Ali Atef, from the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post. “And to be fair and honest, usually these incidents happen for arresting atheists, and later they explain that the café papers were illegal, which is usually wrong.”

In August 2017 there was this,

Egyptian TV presenter El-Beheiry was sentenced to five years in prison after being found guilty of blasphemy—a charge filed against him by Al-Azhar, Egypt’s highest Sunni authority. El-Beheiry’s show had tackled controversial issues on Islam such as punishments for apostasy, early marriage, and different interpretations of the Hadith—the sayings and teachings of Mohamed.

According to article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, those found guilty of insulting the monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) could face a fine or up to five years in prison. But the blasphemy law works mostly in favour of Muslims because they are the ones who bring this charge against people the most.

As can be seen, ‘insulting’ religion is punishable by law, but atheism is not as such, yet, a crime.

But now the Egyptian authorities are considering extending this persecution to make atheism itself a crime.

Lawmakers in Egypt are seriously considering passing a law that would make atheism illegal.

Blasphemy is already illegal in Egypt, and people are frequently arrested for insulting or defaming religion under the country’s strict laws. The newly proposed rule would make it illegal for people not to believe in God, even if they don’t talk about it.

“The phenomenon [of atheism] is being promoted in society as freedom of belief, when this is totally wrong,” Amro Hamroush, head of Egypt’s Parliament’s committee on religion, said when he introduced the bill in late December.

“[Atheism] must be criminalized and categorized as contempt of religion because atheists have no doctrine and try to insult the Abrahamic religions,” he wrote in the local daily paper Al-Shorouq.

As France Info points out in a new broadcast, you are obliged to declare your beliefs to the authorities., which will then appear on your identity card.

Already Christians and non-Muslims are second-class citizens.

Now, if the legislation is passed, you will not be a citizen at all, and a resident of a prison cell.

Égypte : les athées seront-ils bientôt mis en prison ?

Background:

Egypt’s war on atheism

There have been waves of panic about atheism in the predominantly conservative Islamic country for some years, largely driven from the top-down by government officials, religious leaders, and some media. The ‘crackdown’ on atheism has included a campaign to ‘inoculate’ or ‘educate’ young people away from atheism. Some highly questionable regional polling data in 2014 determined that there were precisely 866 atheists in the country. The figure was used as a justification for the ‘war on atheists’, though ironically the figure (which would represent just 0.001% of the population) is undoubtedly a huge underestimate and was dismissed by atheists locally as “highly unrealistic”.

The former Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, in September 2014, put the level of atheism at 12.5 percent of young people (which is more realistic but the origin of the figure is unclear). Figures from the Family Court state that 6,500 women filed for a divorce in 2015 due to their husbands’ atheism. (Under the Personal Status Law, Muslim women can apply for divorce if their husbands denounce religion.)

The Sisi government has been pushing a line that has been described as “militantly mainstream“, targeting some conservatives and extremist interpretations of Islam as well as atheists and liberals.

Police have raided internet cafes that were alleged to be meeting places for atheists, and while atheism has become a hot topic in the country’s media, those invited to advocate atheism in televised debates have faced death threats and harassment.

Last month, a 29-year-old computer science graduate Ibrahim Khalil was detained on the accusation of ‘contempt of religion’. He was accused of running a Facebook page called ‘Atheism’ on which he allegedly published “distortions of the Quran” and advocated atheism.

Another student, 21-year-old Karim Ashraf Mohamed al-Banna, was sentenced to three years in November 2014 for announcing on Facebook that he was an atheist.

The media, religious leaders and politicians sometimes link atheism to homosexuality, which is similarly reviled, and promote the idea that atheism and homosexuality are mutually reinforcing “psychological imbalances”.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2018 at 5:25 pm

Morning Star and Galloway Back Tony (Owen Jones a”Janus Faced Whore” and all) Greenstein

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The Newshounds at Shiraz have a scoop.

Morning Star and Galloway back Greenstein – so victory is assured!

Greenstein posts with this, “The Morning Star 20.2.18. Editorial.”

This is not all.

Even former foes sent messages of solidarity.

For those with strong stomachs , used that is to Greenstein’s language, they can read Labour’s Constitutional Committee report into Monster Raving’s “abusive conduct”.

These include his use of terms such as “Racist whore” “Janus faced whore’” (Owen Jones) “Zio scum” ‘gay zionists want to make me puke” are perhaps no surprise to anybody who’s had dealings with Monster Raving, though the causal sexism of his verbal assault on the ‘girl’ Ms Rose, ‘monkeys’ and…well the list on item 105 is strong stuff indeed..

You can read the full account from the Labour Party here (something Greenstein is proud enough to post a link to).

There is a good case for questioning the sanity of Brighton Momentum who apparently responded to this pariah as follows, “..packed Brighton & Hove Momentum meeting at which Chris Williamson MP spoke – I was given a rapturous reception by those present”.

The Brighton Argus reports, “Despite being expelled from the Labour Party, Mr Greenstein remains a member of Brighton and Hove Momentum – the hard left grassroots side of the party.”

Momentum membership is conditional on being in the Labour Party.

More loony bins stuff from Grrr- Greenstein:  Reflections on my Expulsion from the Labour Party

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2018 at 1:19 pm

More Fake News from Fake Left Skwawkbox.

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Image result for skwawkbox

BBC NEWS CHANNEL – NO MENTION OF MAY’S DOWNING ST MEETING WITH ‘RUSSIAN SPY’?

206Shares
 The BBC News channel, like most of the mainstream media, has given extensive coverage this morning to comments by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson about cyber-threats to the UK from Russia.

It seems not, however, to have mentioned revelations that Theresa May conducted a meeting in Downing Street with her Ukrainian counterpart in the presence of a man who has just been arrested in Ukraine as a Russian spy.

Sky News is giving the matter prominence – but the nation’s state broadcaster, so far, appears conspicuously silent about it.

Steven Walker, Skwawky himself, tweeted on this rubbish.

As in here:

BBC 21st of December.

Ukraine accuses government interpreter of spying for Russia

Ukraine’s main security agency has arrested a senior government translator and accused him of being a Russian spy.

Stanislav Yezhov, who accompanied the country’s prime minister on numerous trips, was detained in Kiev on Wednesday.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said Mr Yezhov had gathered information about government activities.

In July, he was part of a delegation that visited UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Downing Street.

Bob Pitt recently wrote another attack on the fake-news site that claims to be on the left,

Corbyn and the peace prize: Skwawkbox embarrasses the Left again

In this article comrade Pitt suggests that “Steve Walker has clearly lost all sense of proportion.”

The way Skwawky is going now we would say he has lost his marbles.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2017 at 5:24 pm

Skwawkbox – ‘left’ Fake News Site – Loses Appeal to Independent Press Standards Organisation over…..its own Fake News.

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Image result for skwawkbox fake news

A Byword for Fake News.

Skwawkbox is notorious, not just in the MSM but on the left, for spreading misleading stories.

One that stuck in the craw was this claim, in July this year,  “DISABLED CLAIMANTS TOLD: 2 YRS TO GET JOB OR BE SANCTIONED FOR A YEAR.” Another , in August, was that Venezuela was a horn of plenty,  UNDERCOVER VIDEO SHOWS FULL SHELVES IN #VENEZUELA SUPERMARKETS.

The Blog site with big pretensions did score a scoop not too long ago with an interview with Dennis Skinner….defending his House of Commons vote  with the Tories for a the government Brexit. Skinner defended his action in these words, “With all the treaties, Maastricht and the others, I don’t decide who’s in the lobby – some rag tag and bobtail of Tories plus a few unionists.”

But it was there lies over Grenfell Tower that really hit a nerve.

Former Ken Livingstone employee Bob Pitt and wrote this,

On 16 June, in an article headed “Video: Govt puts ‘D-notice’ gag on real #Grenfell death toll #nationalsecurity”, Skwawkbox took up the claim made by grime MC Saskilla on the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme that the number of victims in the Grenfell Tower fire was far greater than had yet been officially admitted, with as many as 200 people having died.

Skwawkbox used this claim to give credence to rumours that the government was engaged in an attempt to prevent the media reporting the true extent of the disaster: “At the same time, multiple sources told the SKWAWKBOX that the government has placed a ‘D-notice’ (sometimes called a ‘DA Notice’) on the real number of deaths in the blaze.”

By contrast, BuzzFeed News took the trouble to contact the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee — which, as a quick google would reveal, is the actual body responsible for issuing D-Notices, not the Home Office. BuzzFeed was able to report that it had “confirmed with the DSMA secretariat that there are no advisories issued about the fire at Grenfell Tower, that notices would not be sent in relation to civilian disasters such as this one, and that so far as the DSMA secretariat is aware there is no national security element whatsoever to the tragedy”.

Faced with the collapse of its story, Skwawkbox was forced to back off and post a grudging retraction: “EDIT: the SKWAWKBOX is now satisfied that no D-notice was issued. No plain answer to this blog’s question of otherrestrictions on information about lives lost at Grenfell has yet been provided, but a ‘D-notice’ (or DSMA-notice as they are now termed) was not.”

Did Skwawkbox apologise for getting the story wrong and offer assurances that there would be no repetition of this stupid and provocative reporting? You must be joking. Instead, Skwawkbox’s proprietor was stung by the well-deserved criticism of his article into posting an indignant defence of his shoddy journalistic methods. In a quite astonishing display of chutzpah, he declared that he himself had been the victim of “fake news”!

Skwawkbox — an embarrassment to the Left

We learn now that not only has Skwawky no regrets about its story but that its owner, a certain Steve Walker (cited below), had the cheek to take the Mail to the  Independent Press Standards Organisation because the right-wing rag dared to call his public  pissoir a conduit for fake news.

After examining this case, and another, in which the site alleged that the PM was under investigation for conflicts of interest over Brexit,  he has just been sent away with his long tail between his legs.

The judgement says:

  • The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”.
  • The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point.

This is how he responded to the judgement:

ATTACKS ON SKWAWKBOX INTENSIFYING AND DESPERATE. WONDER WHY..

Now the story brokejust before last week, and they have not replied beyond insulting the people they made an appeal to.

Hence we republish it for people to make their own minds up about the judgement.

But clearly Skwawkbox is unrepentant and feels free to continue spreading his version of reality on the Web.

Decision of the Complaints Committee 16690-17 Walker v Mail Online

Summary of complaint

  1. Steve Walker complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that Mail Online breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) and Clause 2 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “Revealed: Far left blogger behind ‘fake news’ story that government is gagging media over true scale of Grenfell deaths is corporate boss who sells services to the NHS” published on 30 June 2017.
  2. The article reported that an “anonymous, left wing blogger” who published the “fake news story” that the government had gagged the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, was a “corporate CEO who sells private services to the NHS”. It said that the story that the government had issued a D-notice, an official request to editors not to publish sensitive information, had gone viral, but no such government D-notice had been issued. The article also said that the blog had falsely reported that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit. The article named the complainant as the blogger and included photographs of him. It said that his company had made money from the NHS by selling it a mailing system.
  3. The complainant said that the article had inaccurately reported that his company sold services to the NHS, and that it benefited from the privatisation of the NHS, implying that the articles published on his blog were hypocritical. He said that the company provided a free service: clients were given access to the mailing system for free, and the company made money from the traffic generated, at no cost to the client.
  4. The complainant also disputed that his blog had spread “fake news”. He said that his blog, which stated that Theresa May was being investigated by the Cabinet Office for a conflict of interest on Brexit, made clear that this was a claim being made elsewhere in the media. Similarly, the blog reporting on the D-notice made clear that these were claims being made by sources, and that the claims were unconfirmed. Contrary to the article, he had not published “false claims”; the report of the claims was true; and when the claims were proven to be unfounded, the blog was amended.
  5. The complainant said that the article had included images taken from his Facebook profile without consent, including an image of him posing with his family.  The complainant also raised concern that his interview with the journalist had been recorded, without his explicit consent.
  6. The publication said that the article was accurate. It said that the complainant had spoken on the record to the reporter, and the reporter had a recording of the conversation to ensure that the subsequent article was accurate. The reporter had interviewed the complainant and had asked him whether he made a profit out of his business, and the complainant had said that as a business, it had to make a profit. It noted that the complainant’s job title was Sales Director, and the company website included testimonials using phrases such as “excellent value for money”.
  7. The publication said that it was not inaccurate to report that the complainant’s blog had been accused of spreading “fake news”. Irrespective of whether the blog had made clear that it was reporting claims, the information it had distributed had been false.
  8. With regards to the D-notice story, the publication said that the complainant’s blog was the first outlet to publish it, and the complainant had since accepted that it was inaccurate. It said that the blog had been widely criticised for spreading “fake news” following this story, and it considered that it should have been immediately obvious to the complainant that the allegations were false as D-notices were only used for matters of national security. It also argued that the blog had asserted that the claims were likely to be true: it had stated “if it is true that the government has issued a D-notice – and every instinct is screaming that it is” and went on to state that if it were the case “then the government has placed a national security gag on mainstream news editors to prevent them from disclosing what’s already known about the number of lives lost at Grenfell Tower.”
  9. The publication also noted that its article had stated that the complainant’s blog had reported “claims” that Theresa May was under investigation by the Cabinet Office. It said that there was no evidence in this blog that the author had made any attempt to verify the claims.
  10. The publication accepted that the complainant’s company distributed mailing software to clients for free, but it said that the company charged its clients for the letters sent using the software. It did not consider it significantly misleading for it have asserted that the “system” was sold to the NHS, as it was a fact that the “service” was sold to it. The publication said that the article had not accused the complainant of hypocrisy; rather, it had juxtaposed his business activities against the views he had expressed on NHS privatisation.  Regardless, it offered to amend the assertion that the complainant’s company sold the mailing system to the NHS, to make clear that it “provided” the system to the NHS. During IPSO’s investigation, it made further amendments to the article to make clear that the blog had reported claims, and it offered to append the following footnote, with a similar wording to be published as a standalone correction:

A previous version of this article said that Foojit made money from the NHS “by selling its mailing system to the Levenshulme Health Clinic in Manchester”. Mr Walker has contacted us to point out that in fact Foojit’s mailing system software was provided to the Clinic for free. What the Health Clinic pays for is any letters it sends using Foojit’s services. In addition the article has been amended to say that the Skwawkbox blog posts published by Mr Walker reported on claims made by other sources. We are happy to make this clear.

  1. The publication said that the photographs were sourced from the complainant’s open Facebook site and could also be found on his wife’s Facebook site. They merely showed the complainant, his wife and adult child; the child’s face had been blurred at the complainant’s request. The remaining images were sourced from publicly available resources, such as social media postings relating to the complainant’s business. The publication did not consider that any private information had been disclosed by publishing any of the images.

Relevant Code provisions

  1. Clause 1 (Accuracy)
  2. i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.
  3. ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

  1. iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Clause 2 (Privacy)

  1. i) Everyone is entitled to respect for his or her private and family life, home, health and correspondence, including digital communications.
  2. ii) Editors will be expected to justify intrusions into any individual’s private life without consent. Account will be taken of the complainant’s own public disclosures of information.

iii) It is unacceptable to photograph individuals, without their consent, in public or private places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Findings of the Committee

  1. The complainant’s business provided mailing software to its clients for free, and the business had charged the NHS for mail sent using the system. As such, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have described this model as the complainant selling a “mailing system”, “mailing solutions” and “private services” to the NHS, and to claim that his company benefited from the privatisation of the NHS. There was no failure to take care over the accuracy of the article on this point. While this point did not raise a breach of the Code, the Committee welcomed the publication’s offer to publish a clarification to address it.
  2. The Committee noted the complainant’s concern that the publication had accused him of spreading the “fake news” story that the government had “gagged” the media over the Grenfell fire disaster, when his blog had made clear that he was reporting claims that a D-notice had been issued.
  3. The complainant’s blog had reported claims made by third parties that a D-notice had been issued in relation to the Grenfell fire disaster. As these claims had proven to be untrue, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “spread” “fake news”. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  4. The article under complaint had not made clear that the complainant’s blog had repeated claims made by third parties about the D-notice: it had said that he was “behind the ‘fake news’ story”, and that he had “reported that officials had placed a D-notice”. However, the Committee also noted that the complainant had given significant weight to this claim in his blog. Indeed, the blog had strongly suggested that it was true: it had said “every instinct is screaming that [the claims are true]”. Given that the complainant had endorsed the credibility of the claims and had effectively adopted them, it was not significantly misleading for the publication to have said that the complainant had “reported” that the government had issued a D-notice. There was no breach of the Code on this point.
  5. The Committee also noted that the complainant denied the report that he had published “false allegations” that Theresa May was under investigation for potential conflicts of interest relating to Brexit, as he had merely repeated claims that had been made about Mrs May. However, the article had made clear that the blog had “repeated claims” that the Propriety and Ethics Team had launched an investigation into Mrs May. As such, the article was not significantly misleading on this point. There was no breach of Clause 1.
  6. The publication had published images that had been taken from the complainant’s Facebook profile and from social media sites relating to the complainant’s business. The images showed the complainant’s face and did not disclose information about which the complainant had a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  7. Where the complainant was aware that he was speaking to a journalist, the journalist was not required to obtain his permission to record the conversation for note-taking purposes. There was no breach of Clause 2.

Conclusions: The complaint was not upheld.

20.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2017 at 5:37 pm