Ebola follow up – what does the ‘fight’ look like?

West Africa’s Ebola outbreak is getting scarier and scarier. Not least because the death count is staggering – now over 4,000 – and the disease is looking less “contained” in West Africa by the day. But what can be done? What is being done?

A couple of weeks ago I interviewed Dr Adam Kamradt-Scott for The Wire. An expert in bio security, Dr Kamradt-Scott lamented Australia’s lack of involvement in West Africa, especially juxtaposed with our guns blazing attitude in the Middle East. In the weeks since our interview, hundreds of millions of dollars have been committed, and thousands of troops and medical personnel have been pledged, by countries ranging from Cuba to the United States. But what does it look like when helicopters, hospitals and thousands of personnel roll into Ebola ridden areas? What are all these people doing? I called Dr Kamradt-Scott again, to ask what the fight looks like:



(Image: NIAID/Flickr)

Can’t see the audio player? You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


Another perspective on Hijabs

Over the past weeks, Australian Muslims have received more than their fair share of scrutiny and vitriol. On television, on radio and in the newspapers, the entire community is under the microscope. Reporters have been sent out to do hit pieces and scare stories, columnists demand the “moderates” condemn the extremists for the umpteenth time, and Mosques were vandalised. The othering has been cranked up to eleven.

It became a bit more official last week, as some Australian Parliamentarians debated banning the Burqa, demanded proponents of Sharia leave the country, and generally did their best to ostracise the Muslim community. The media piled on, quick to tie these debates to new “Anti-terror” laws, the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and raids around the country.

But there is one voice we very rarely hear. Lost amid the crossfire of Male Muslims, Shock Jocks, Politicians, and Non Muslims, where are the Women who actually wear the Burqa, the Niqab or the Hijab? In an extended piece I made for The Wire this week, I spoke to three Women (including my Aunty) about why Muslim Women choose to wear the Hijab:

(Image: Nur Amirah/Flickr)

Can’t see the audio player? You can take a listen at Soundcloud.

On the Hong Kong protest cover-up

While the Western World are bombarded with the images of democracy protests in Hong Kong, many Chinese have no idea anything is afoot. And this is not just the fault of a cowed domestic media. Even international publications, who are trusted by the Chinese audience to be impartial, and are gleefully reaping the ratings bonanza in their home markets, aren’t passing on the news to their Chinese consumers.

Of course, we have known for a long time that companies like Bing and Bloomberg have been censoring their content. But it was all made a bit more obvious in an article by the Chinese dissident group Great Fire. In side by side comparisons of the Wall Street Journal and Reuters websites, Great Fire pointed out the complete absence of any coverage of the Hong Kong protests in the Chinese editions. They claim the sole reason is business – that these companies are placing Chinese revenue over their journalistic values. In a piece for The Wire this week I talked to Great Fire contributor who goes by the pseudonym of Percy Alpha. Here is an extended cut:



Can’t see the audio player? You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


Weekly Exchange #14 – News or Propaganda?


So, this week the British Parliament finally provided the world with the ISIS debate we needed to have. Meanwhile, the US Congress has decided to shirk their responsibility and stick to heckling from the sidelines and the Australian Opposition have decided to forgo doing even that (satirical). But while our leaders prove so dismal in this debate, where are our trusty journalists? On the cusp of another ill-defined war in the middle east, what about our eyes and ears?


As the risks have risen in Syria and Iraq, news organisations have slowly withdrawn their personnel. Initially, that worked was outsourced, but as the situation has deteriorated further, even freelancers are being discouraged.  This is from the Agence France Presse Correspondent blog (emphasis added):


“In Syria we are currently the only international news agency with a bureau in Damascus, manned by a team of Syrian journalists. We still regularly send reporters from Beirut into areas controlled by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. We also continue to cover the rebel side of the conflict thanks to local stringers, who live in the area and who supply us with accounts, photos and videos of what is happening there…

Since August 2013, we have stopped sending any journalists into rebel-held parts of Syria…

…Journalists are no longer welcome in rebel-held Syria, as independent witnesses to the suffering of local populations. They have become targets, or commodities to be traded for ransom….

That is also why we no longer accept work from freelance journalists who travel to places where we ourselves would not venture. It is a strong decision, and one that may not have been made clear enough, so I will repeat it here: if someone travels to Syria and offers us images or information when they return, we will not use it. Freelancers have paid a high price in the Syrian conflict. High enough. We will not encourage people to take that kind of risk.”


But what about those beautiful images and videos you have been seeing? What about all the updates on strikes and missions? Well, the gap in “real reporting” has largely been filled by the Governments involved, particularly their military wings. Take a look at the next few videos and tell me if you recognise anything:






All of these videos are from the US Central Command Youtube channel. You might recognise them from the rolling news coverage on many news channels. Where the news orgs fail to tread, and where freelancers are being disallowed, the army has stepped in. And if you want to know where the number and locations of bombings are coming from, it’s press releases like this one from the US Department of Defence:


“U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Friday and today, using fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes. Separately, U.S. military forces used attack aircraft to conduct three airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.”

Further, and in a departure from recent wars, the Obama administration is not allowing journalists to “embed” with the military. Sally Buzbee, the Associated Press’ Washington Bureau Chief, recently came up with a list of eight ways Obama is blocking information. And guess what was number one:


“As the United States ramps up its fight against Islamic militants, the public can’t see any of it. News organisations can’t shoot photos or video of bombers as they take off — there are no embeds. In fact, the administration won’t even say what country the S. bombers fly from.”


Whether you agree with the campaign against ISIS or not; if you are skeptical of how it is being handled or as uncritical as Graham Richardson, the lack of debate is worrying. And as visible as they are, it is not only our politicians to blame. The media have taken the appropriate action by withdrawing their personnel. But they have not taken the next step, admitting where all this information is coming from. Much of it is coming from those in power, the very people our journalists are meant to be keeping an eye on. So the next time you see another clip of a perfect bombing on TV, ask yourself, is this news or is this propaganda?


The Weekly Exchange was first published on Joshnicholas.com. Sign up to receive the Weekly Exchange.

A bit more on #HeForShe

If you are even an occasional user of the interwebs, you probably came across the UN’s new HeForShe campaign this week. Launched by the likes of Emma Watson, the goal is to get one billion males to agree that gender equality is a Human Rights issue, not just a a Women’s issue.

In an extended interview for The Wire this week, I spoke with Janelle Weissman, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women Australia, to find out more about the campaign:



As before, I am unable to embed audio in the email blast. You can take a listen at Soundcloud.


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