Monday, February 02, 2009

'Always good to get [and completely ignore] feedback'

Sent: Monday, 2 February 2009 3:15 p.m.
To: Simon Bradwell
Subject: TVNZ coverage of the conflict in Sri Lanka

Dear Simon,

I am writing to you about the piece which aired on the six o'clock TVNZ news last Thursday about the conflict in Sri Lanka. I felt that the wording of your news item was lacking in the objectivity your organisation claims to want to bring to journalism.

Your item claimed that 'many' of the 70,000 people killed in the conflict in Sri Lanka over the past three decades died at the hands of the Tamil Tigers. 'Many' is a conveniently vague word - it may suggest 'some', or it may suggest 'most', or it may suggest 'half'. I think you ought to have been more precise.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of both civilian and military deaths during the current round of fighting are being caused by the Sri Lankan army, which is using firepower that the Tamil Tigers cannot hope to match. To refer to the fact that 'many' people have been killed by the Tigers over the course of the whole conflict during a report on the current violence is to give the false impression of recent events. Journalists have not failed to note the one-sidedness of the recent fighting in Gaza; should they not also note that the fighting in Sri Lanka has a similar quality?

Your news item stated that the Tamil Tigers are 'condemned around the world as terrorists'. This formulation does not specify which people or organisations consider the Tigers 'terrorist'. The fact is that, under pressure from the US government in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, many nations have placed the Tigers on lists of terrorist organisations. Individual governments did not necessarily 'condemn' the Tigers when they did this; normally they simply added the group's name to a list of names, without any internal discussion or public comment.

The Tigers do not necessarily have the characteristics of a terrorist organisation just because the US calls them terrorists. It is important to remember that governments often classify and reclassify groups as 'terrorist' and 'legitimate' depending on political exigencies. The African National Congress was considered a terrorist group by many Western governments; so, of course, was Sinn Fein. There are a number of important governments - the government of South Africa , for instance - which do not consider the Tigers terrorists, and there are large Tamil communities around the world which consider the Sri Lankan goverment, and not the Tigers, as a terrorist organisation.

By choosing to accept the US government's characterisation of the Tamils as 'terrorists' over the different characterisations employed by (say) the South African government and the Tamil diaspora, you are mixing up political commentary with news coverage and betraying your stated aim of covering events objectively. If you choose to acknowledge that some governments and people consider the Tamil Tigers terrorists, why not also acknowledge that others do not? Why the false suggestion of unanimity?

Perhaps, though, it would be better to avoid such a politicised label as 'terrorist' altogether, and try to use more objective and informative language when discussing the complex and tragic situation in Sri Lanka ?

Scott Hamilton

From: Simon Bradwell


Thanks for your email.

According to my research, 32 countries have labelled the Tamil Tigers a “terrorist” organisation. That justifies the line in the story.

It is impossible to specify how many of the 70,000 deaths are directly attributable to the Tigers. Hence the use of the word “many”.

I appreciate your time to email, but I’m entirely happy with the story, and its objectivity, and so is everyone at TVNZ that I’ve spoken to.

Best wishes


From: Scott Hamilton
Sent: Monday, 2 February 2009 3:49 p.m.
To: Simon Bradwell
Subject: RE: TVNZ coverage of the conflict in Sri Lanka

Dear Simon,

you apply the same logic to the question of whether the Tigers are a terrorist group and the question of whether your news item was biased. Because a certain number of states say the Tigers are terrorists, you feel entitled to call them terrorists; because a certain number of your colleagues think your piece was unbiased, then it must be unbiased.

Surely questions of truth can't be resolved by poll? If they can, which poll should we choose? If thirty-two countries consider the Tigers terrorists, then around one hundred and fifty don't. Your colleagues may have thought your piece unbiased, but many other people - I've talked to some of them - considered it flawed.

Surely it is necessary to enquire as to whether a label is justified, before attaching it?


From: "Simon Bradwell"

Thanks again. I’ve said all I intend to about the story.

Thanks for your interest though, always good to get feedback.

Kind regards



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon must be incompetent to compose news stories, if he can twist a story to this extend.

New Zealand has not banned LTTE as a terrorist organisation, he is talking about other countries banning, why doesn't he talk about the country that he lives in first and where the news report is going to be telecasted instead of giving statistical figure's!

It’s a shame to have journalist like him in New Zealand! I hope TVNZ does justice to this story.

5:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So he interviewed bereaved people who wanted to speak out about what the Sri Lankan army was doing to them - then he made a TV spot which suggested the Sri lankan army were the good guys? Nice work, TVNZ.

6:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Whose this Bradwell? A relly of the cricketer? These journalists are scared to go away from what they are told by "officials" and they give very superficial accounts of political events. Like Holmes - he is a pathetic example of weak journalism - amusing and cute yes - but weak. Our own (or once ours -) journalist Peter Arnett lives now in the US - he got a Pulitzer - his politics was open but he had the guts to stay in Iraq in both Gulf wars and stand his ground on facts - he had integrity which is why he got a Pulitzer..then there are such as Pilger and others who actually read books and go to where there are wars - send Bradwell to Sri Lanka to live with the Tamil Tigers for a while.

These guys get paid too much - so the news is distorted.

If they (the Tamils) are terrorists - good - we need more of them.

11:33 pm  
Blogger Skyler said...

Socialist Aotearoa editor Joe Carolan talks to Nirupa George, the Media Liaison officer for the Tamil Youth Organisation New Zealand:

9:52 am  
Blogger Richard said...

This business of "terrorism" is fraught - before the US invaded Iraq I saw a discussion between various journos and one (I think he as from India) said: "How can you wage war against an abstract noun?"

In some ways the US deserved 9/11 if they didn't do it themselves - with their attacks (covert and open) on hundreds of countries since the 2nd WW the US is probably the major terrorist nation in the world.

Look on my Blog - link on here and you will see some lovely pictures of what they did in Vietnam - but they have attacked just about everywhere - many places in Africa (Angola, Libya, Somalia are only some), they attacked Korea and Vietnam (where they targeted civilians - make no mistake - these guys ALWAYS target civilians - that goes back to WW2 in fact all wars civilians are the main casualties); they basically backed the murder of a million (possibly more) "communists" in Indonesia; the US has been active in killing hundreds of thousands in South America they attacked Iraq twice and killed Iraqis who had surrendered - they dropped napalm on them - they have raped and murdered civilians in Iraq (e.g. Basra) using napalm there also; in Afghanistan they use methods such as the obliteration of whole villages and so on - the US-Military-Industrial Complex NEEDS terrorists because they are terrorists.

So they cant tell me (through Gogh and now this character on TV) who terrorists are or where they are - terrorism is sometimes a valid military method. It is a last choice mostly (depending how one defines it.) The Irish used it against the British, the British against the Boers, - the allies used it against the Germans (Dresden, Hamburg etc etc) and the Japanese...

Obama wont help - he is just another stooge for Capitalism.

The US back Israel who are genociding the Palestinians and this "terrorism" nonsense gets taken up everywhere including NZ where we have used the anti - Terrorist Laws imported form the US and Britain to pick up Maori.

Most of the News media (in NZ and everywhere else) are incompetent or just scared to speak out (for fear of losing that $200,000 or so they get per week) or they are actively right wing and actively distorting the news.
They often don't even seem to understand the realities of what war is - it is terrorism. The question is - is it good terrorism or bad terrorism? And other questions are - what are the best methods to win the war? What is the history of these these wars, and should we support them. We should support all wars of peoples' liberation against fascist or bourgeois-Imperialist governments - or in cases where a strongly armed power is forcefully depriving another group of their rights and their land, and not or refusing to negotiate a peaceful solution.

The Tamils are showing people's power - like the Palestinians they are fighting a desperate and courageous fight (ongoing for years now) for their cultural and psychological, political, and "spiritual" survival and even human - I support them.

10:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of Journalists and Foreign Diplomats, who said the Truth, are Named as Terrorists or Terrorist Lovers by the Sri Lankan Government. Some of the Local Journalists have been murdered by the Govt order.

Simon is wise and brave to be on the safe side. I wish him well.

3:32 pm  

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