The role of the media in politics


Dr Marcus Papadopoulos spoke before Lobby for Cyprus on British media. 

quote-marks-open Tonight, I am going to discuss British media, by which I mean British mainstream media, such as BBC News, Sky News, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun.

Now, the existence of a free and independent media is crucial to the functioning of a democracy, and, indeed, Britain projects itself, at home and abroad, as having a free and independent media which conforms to the highest of standards. But just how true is that projection of British media?

Well, in the context of foreign affairs, which is the focus of my talk tonight, the projection of the UK as having a free and independent media is a façade. And the notion put forward by British politicians and journalists, alike, that news channels such as BBC and newspapers such as The Times are credible outlets is nothing but preposterous nonsense – absurdity at its most absurd.

People in the public eye in the UK who hold a dissenting opinion on, for example, Turkey, and people around the world who are victims of British Foreign Policy, such as Cypriots, Serbs and Syrians, know full well the true face of British media. Because the press in Britain is neither free nor independent, and its journalists are not genuine journalists but, instead, are ideologically-driven foot soldiers of the British establishment, who believe in American global hegemony – supported by the UK – and whose job is to help defend and maintain the West’s dominance of the international arena.

Now, before I turn to the thrust of my talk, I would like you all to think about the recent official visit to the UK by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Tell me, how did the British media cover his visit? Were there front page headlines and prime time news reports on how Erdogan is closely associated with the various Islamist terrorist groups fighting in Syria, including ISIS? No. How about spotlight coverage on the imprisoning by Erdogan of Turkish journalists and academics who oppose his rule? No. Then how about hard-hitting reports on how Erdogan is openly threatening the territorial integrity of Greece? No. Or how about leader columns focussing on Erdogan threatening war against the Republic of Cyprus because Nicosia is exploring oil and gas reserves in its exclusive economic zone? Once again, nothing at all. So tell me, why was that? Why did Britain’s “free and independent press” say not one major word about the malign influence of Erdogan, and Turkey in general, on the international stage? Is British media not aware of what Erdogan is doing at home and abroad? Is it merely a coincidence that every single UK mainstream media outlet happens to share the same view as the British Government in viewing Turkey in an extremely favourable way? No. That is not a coincidence. It is the case that British media did not run damning reports on Erdogan because British media is part of the British establishment – and a crucial one at that. Turkey is a dear friend to the UK Government therefore British media turns a blind eye to Turkey’s criminal, murderous and dangerous acts, and, instead, presents Turkey in a glowing way, portraying the country as crucial to regional security and stability, which is how the UK Government regards Turkey as being.

Also bear in mind that, currently, the British press is launching scathing attacks on Vladimir Putin simultaneously as the British Government is doing. Coincidence? Hardly. Furthermore, during the 1990s, when Russia was run by the pro-Western Boris Yeltsin, the British Government had, relatively speaking, a favourable stance on Russia… and so did British media. So I am sure that you can see a pattern emerging; if the British Government has a positive opinion on a country, then so, too, does British media.

If the British Government has a positive opinion on a country, then so, too, does British media

Even before delving into the manner by which British media operates, just being aware of who owns the news channels and newspapers in Britain straight away contradicts the idea that Britain has a free and independent media. BBC News is funded and owned by the British state; Sky News, The Times and The Sun are all owned by the right-wing businessman and proponent of American global hegemony, Rupert Murdoch; The Daily Telegraph is owned by David and Frederick Barclay, commonly known as the “Barclay Brothers”, who are extremely influential amongst the British political elite and whose ideology is more or less identical to Mr Murdoch; The Daily Mail is owned by the aristocratic Jonathan Harmsworth, the 4th Viscount of Rothermore; and The Guardian is owned by Scott Trust Limited, a private company with an immense net worth and whose board members have links to, for instance, banking, venture investment and insurance, which are some of the domains of the British establishment.

Alas, mainstream media in the UK does not look free or independent when one reflects on who owns it. The different outlets are owned by powerful and wealthy forces, all of which have firm ideological convictions and all of which have firm ties to the political elite in Britain.

Over the last 25 years, there have been major conflicts in the world, all of which have involved the US and the UK, either directly or indirectly. From the wars in the former Yugoslavia (Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo), to Iraq, to Libya, and to Syria. And throughout those wars, British media took the exact same position as the British Government. Coincidence? Again? I think not.

In Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, British media sympathised with the Croats, the Muslims and the Albanians, and demonised the Serbs, which reflected the stance of the British Government. In Iraq, British media sympathised with the reasoning of the British Government for invading the country. In Libya, British media portrayed anti-Government forces as freedom fighters and argued that Muammar Gaddafi was intent on exterminating the entire civilian population of Benghazi, which was a carbon copy of what the British Government was saying. And in Syria, British media is saying that President Bashar Al-Assad is waging a merciless and sectarian war against the Sunni population in the country and using chemical weapons against his own people, which is, once again, identical to what the British Government is saying about the conflict in Syria.

But the role of British media does not end there. The arguments of the British Government, concerning the aforementioned wars, are repeated over and over again by British media in order for them to become ingrained in the minds of the British public so that the ordinary Briton will regard British Foreign Policy as ethical and also to prepare their support for the next act of British intervention in the world. The projection put out by the British Government of itself as a beacon of democracy, freedom, human rights, civilisation and morality must be constantly relayed by British media to ordinary Britons so that they come to think of UK Foreign Policy as sacrosanct, either consciously or sub-consciously.

However, all is not well for British media today. Long gone are the days of the 1990s and the 2000s when, along with American media, the British press had the field to itself. Because today, as a result of alternative media and social media, the narrative of the British Government, which British media relentlessly peddles, is being subjected to rigorous and constant scrutiny, resulting in the exposure of British double standards and deceit. So British media is finally being held to account for its biased and untruthful reporting in the Balkans, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

These are some of the questions which I have raised on television regarding the conduct of British media over the last 25 years: Why did British media report that Dubrovnik Old Town, in Croatia, had been raised to the ground by the Serbs when it had not been?

Why did British media not report that Muslim forces in Sarajevo were mortaring their own people and then blaming it on the Serbs? Why did British media say that hundreds of thousands of Kosovan Albanians had been murdered by the Serbs when they had not been? Why did British media not accept the findings of Hans Blix which said Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction? Why does British media not discuss the catastrophe that has befallen Libya since Western military intervention there, namely that the country is now a failed state? And turning to Syria, why does British media not ask these questions: Who armed ISIS? Who trained ISIS? Who gave logistical support to ISIS? Who gave intelligence information to ISIS? And who financed ISIS? Now, what you should know is that all of my questions are ones that neither British media nor the British Government wants to discuss – they simply want to ignore them.

But with British media being subjected to intense scrutiny today, how is it responding? In a way compatible with freedom of speech and with respect shown to other opinions? No. British media is responding in an identical way and using identical language as that used by the British Government to counter those who challenge their narratives. British media is attempting to denigrate the views of people, like myself, and to try and ruin the reputations of people like me. We are referred to as being uneducated, mentally ill and extremist. Regarding myself, I am referred to as an “Assad apologist”, a “Putin apologist”, a “Russian propagandist” and a “genocide denier”. Furthermore, British media makes no mention whatsoever of my PhD in Russian history and how I have been researching and writing on Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia for a great many years now. And nor does British media make mention of the fact I am not paid a penny by Russian, Serbian or Syrian media outlets to say what I say on television, radio or in speeches; I say what I say about Russia and the Balkans because these are my two areas of expertise, and I say what I say about Syria because I have considerable knowledge of the country and was writing about the country long before the conflict broke out there. But the same cannot be said of British mainstream media journalists who are, overwhelming speaking, not experts on the areas I have just mentioned and who are all paid to say what they say on these areas – and, as it goes, paid extremely handsomely.

Now, “genocide denier” is a potentially potent term to level against someone, with the sole purpose to destroy their name and career. Because many people on hearing the accusation are inclined to think that the person concerned is a Holocaust denier. Well, if that is the case, then both myself and the Director of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Jerusalem, Dr Efraim Zuroff, are Holocaust deniers, which is, of course, utterly ludicrous. Let me explain: when British media refers to me as a “genocide denier”, it is solely because I believe that what happened at Srebrenica, in Bosnia, in the summer of 1995, did not fit the definition of genocide, and was, instead, a war crime. Now, I cite Dr Zuroff, who devotes his life to exposing and countering the scourge of Holocaust denial, because he, too, does not believe that what took place at Srebrenica was genocide. But note carefully how British media makes absolutely no mention of Dr Zuroff’s stance on Srebrenica because if they did this would undermine the West’s narrative on Srebrenica, weaken their case against me and, ultimately, undermine the very basis of the West’s concept of “humanitarian intervention”, which stems from Srebrenica.

When we talk about the Armenian Genocide, the politically-motivated and biased nature of British media comes into full view.

But let me stay just a little longer on the charge of “genocide denier”. I could use that unintelligent, illogical and politically-motivated expression against British media themselves because they do not recognise the Armenian Genocide as genocide, owing to them not wanting to offend Turkey, a country whom they value immensely and who, as we all know, is one of the British Government’s closest friends and allies in the world. So when we talk about the Armenian Genocide, the politically-motivated and biased nature of British media comes into full view: according to British media, you are not a “genocide denier” if you do not recognise the Armenian Genocide as genocide; but you are a “genocide denier” if you do not recognise Srebrenica as genocide. In that, British media, once again, reflects the British Government’s position, as London does not recognise the Armenian Genocide as genocide but recognises Srebrenica as genocide. And London has very close ties with Ankara and Sarajevo. That is another example of how British media is neither free nor independent and is, in fact, a part of the British establishment.

Before I draw my talk to a close, I would like to draw your attention to another major example of how the press in Britain is neither credible nor free or independent – and this example is Israel. Israel is a key friend and ally to Britain, and it follows, therefore, that the British Government will not entertain any attempt, either at home or at the United Nations, to put Israel under scrutiny over its treatment of the Palestinians, or how Israel behaves towards Lebanon or Syria. And what is British media’s stance on Israel? In short, British media acts as an impenetrable shield for Israel. Allow me to refer you to how the Israeli military never attacks ISIS or Al-Qaeda in the Golan, or how the Israeli authorities allow wounded ISIS and Al-Qaeda fighters to be treated in Israeli hospitals and then sends them back into Syria to fight against the Syrian Army, which is something that Israel admits to doing. Now, if the UK had a free and independent media, there would be front page headlines and prime time news reports on Israel’s relationship with both ISIS and Al-Qaeda. But, alas, just as the British Government says nothing about Israel’s ties to ISIS and Al-Qaeda, British media also says nothing, because by doing so, ordinary Britons would begin to question the UK’s relationship with Israel.

When it comes to Cyprus, the job of British media is to help to maintain the division of the island, which is the unofficial policy of the British Government, and to shield Turkey from criticism over its illegal presence in Cyprus…

There is a great deal more which I could say about mainstream media in the UK but, as ever, time is limited. All of you here tonight work tirelessly and selflessly to bring about the reunification of Cyprus, which was invaded and partitioned, raped and plundered, and desecrated and subjected to plantation by a fervent friend and ally to the British Government, Turkey. You all seek to reach out to British media about the illegal occupation by Turkey of more than a third of Cyprus’ territory… but to no avail. But that failure, if I can use this word, is not a reflection on the argument you so powerfully and persuasively make because, after all, you are in the right, politically, legally and morally; but, rather, you do not succeed with British media because British media is not free or independent but, instead, is a part of the British establishment. You are not contacting genuine journalists but, instead, ideologically-driven foot soldiers whose job is to defend British (and American) Foreign Policy and to gather support for Western global hegemony. You are not contacting people who care about justice or the truth; you are contacting people whose mindset is the opposite to yours. And you are not contacting people who are prepared to sincerely discuss matters of justice; you are contacting people who will employ their immense power and influence to destroy the names and careers of anyone in the public eye who challenges British Foreign Policy. When it comes to Cyprus, the job of British media is to help to maintain the division of the island, which is the unofficial policy of the British Government, and to shield Turkey from criticism over its illegal presence in Cyprus, which is also the unofficial policy of the British Government.

Cyprus is a victim of the British Government and British media, both, of which, are at one with each other – as they comprise the British establishment. That, my friends, is the reality of British media.

Thank you very much. quote-marks-close

Marcus Papadopoulos is publisher/editor of Politics First and commentator on British politics and Syria. He was guest speaker at the Lobby for Cyprus General Council Meeting of July 2018, where he was invited to speak on a subject of his choice.