A brief survey of the response of a ‘liberal’ Melbourne institution to the public protests in London which accompanied the April G20 Summit.
To begin with, ‘Man died of heart attack in G20 protest’ reads the article of April 4 (produced by AFP).
The article places Ian Tomlinson’s death in the context of the “epicentre” of “violent protests” which lead to 86 arrests, repeats police claims that Ian died of a heart attack, and notes that “Scotland Yard had previously said that police medics had bottles thrown at them by protesters as they tried to save Tomlinson”.
All lies, as it happens.
On April 3, The Age (re-)published another AFP report, ‘UK police detain dozens over G20 riots’ by Prashant Rao. It describes what has become standard police practice before/during/after major anti-summit protests: raids, arrests, sometimes jailings and sometimes beatings, of individuals in ‘convergence’ spaces. (Perhaps the worst example of this took place during the G8 summit in Genoa in 2001.)* It also repeats police claims regarding the circumstances surrounding Ian’s death. Thus: “One resident died during Wednesday night’s violence after suffering a heart attack, with the authorities saying they came under attack while they tried to help him… The police said demonstrators rained a hail of missiles on officers trying to revive a dying man who collapsed at the protest site on Wednesday.”
- *The Diaz school was the place of residence for the Genoa Social Forum, which had coordinated the demonstrations. After midnight the school was raided by 150 heavily armed and disguised police officers, who proceeded to systematically assault the hundreds of sleeping youth. They were beaten for hours by clubs, with many later requiring hospital treatment. The group’s computers were destroyed, hard disks confiscated and many arrests were made. The actions of the police at the school have long since been confirmed by testimonies from a number of sources. ~ State violence at 2001 G8 summit in Genoa goes unpunished, Marianne Arens, wsws.org, July 25, 2008
On April 9, The Age (re-)published an article from The Guardian and AFP by Paul Lewis: ‘London man who died at G20 protest attacked by police, video shows‘. The production of video footage of a police assault upon Ian minutes before his death marks the beginning at which the police version of events began to unravel.
The chief Europe correspondent for The Age (and the Fairfax corporation as a whole) is Paola Totaro. Paola authored a dozen or so articles prior to and during the summit — most of which concentrate upon the plans world leaders have to deal with the financial ‘crisis’ — but only returned to the subject of G20 — and Ian’s death — several weeks after the event.
Of the protest at which Ian died, Paola writes: “The great majority of the police, seemingly ever-patient and self-controlled, stood for hours as kids baited and yelled, shoved and provoked. A handful of officers used well-placed elbows while batons were raised only in response to the vandalism” (G20 protesters strike at London’s heart, Paola Totaro, April 2, 2009).
News Corporation blogger Tim Blair took note of Paola’s report, and especial, and sadistic, delight in reports that police had given protesters ‘A Bit of Stick’. In addition to police bashings, Tim also seizes upon another aspect of Paola’s reportage, which is that some protesters urinated in public:
[Paola] Unfortunately, the walls of the banks and every available corner were also used as urinals.
[Tim] Typically, these carbon-hating clean-earth types trashed the place:
[Paola] Protesters were still in the square burning effigies as night fell. The cesspool they would leave behind, however, was probably the worst damage of the protest.
[Tim] That cesspool says more than a million essays.
As previously noted, Paola’s reportage on G20 is seriously flawed, demonstrating an acceptance of police claims as fact, ignorance of police procedure (and law), and the infantilisation of protesters. It raises questions of perspective, bias, and selectivity. But it is in many ways unexceptional, and serves to illustrate the more general functioning of the mass media as a source of corporate/state propaganda. Reliance upon the pronouncements of authority, for example, is standard, and a systematic feature of the production of ‘news’:
Robert McChesney, a professor of communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, points out that ‘Professional journalism relies heavily on official sources. Reporters have to talk to the PM’s official spokesperson, the White House press secretary, the business association, the army general. What those people say is news. Their perspectives are automatically legitimate.’ Whereas, according to McChesney, ‘if you talk to prisoners, strikers, the homeless, or protesters, you have to paint their perspectives as unreliable, or else you’ve become an advocate and are no longer a “neutral” professional journalist.’ Such reliance on official sources gives the news an inherently conservative cast and gives those in power tremendous influence over defining what is or isn’t ‘news’. McChesney, author of Rich Media, Poor Democracy, warns: ‘This is precisely the opposite of what a functioning democracy needs, which is a ruthless accounting of the powers that be.’
In both of these articles, Paola fails to mention that, while the existence of ‘independent’ video footage has been crucial to uncovering the truth of the circumstances surrounding Ian’s death, in February the UK Government introduced legislation which makes it a criminal offence to document police action. (She also fails to note that the first police post mortem was conducted by a pathologist with a record of (unofficial) police service: Pathologist in Ian Tomlinson G20 death case was reprimanded over conduct, Paul Lewis, The Guardian, April 11, 2009.)
Is it a crime to take pictures?
February 16, 2009
From today, anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence.
That is because of a new law – Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act – which has come into force.
It permits the arrest of anyone found “eliciting, publishing or communicating information” relating to members of the armed forces, intelligence services and police officers, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.
That means anyone taking a picture of one of those people could face a fine or a prison sentence of up to 10 years, if a link to terrorism is proved.
The law has angered photographers, both professional and amateur, who fear it could exacerbate the harassment they already sometimes face…
See also : Printing Police Lies, George Monbiot, Dissident Voice, April 22, 2009.