Media treatment of Covington students ‘way worse’ than Kavanaugh coverage, critic says

Huckabee calls for ‘seven-figure judgment’ against stars who critics to slam Covington high school students

Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann and his classmates have been attacked by everyone from respected journalists to B-, C- and D-list celebrities to the point that a neutral observer might think they’re gunning for a spot on the Supreme Court.

Conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News that this is actually “way worse” than the way Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was treated.The shocking vitriol directed at the MAGA hat-wearing teens, before video evidence showed they were innocent of instigating the confrontation, has shown a disturbing willingness among some on the left to demonize even children, as long as they are seen as conservative.


“Not only was there a rush to judgment here, the initial story has been unquestionably debunked and yet some in the media and on the left still refuse to apologize for their initial attacks,” Barron said. “On top of everything else, we are talking about an attack on children. It’s so much worse than Kavanaugh and even more appalling.”

Many members of media and several Hollywood heavyweights rushed to judgment after a video clip emerged Saturday that gave some critics an inaccurate impression that the teens were harassing a Native American man, Nathan Phillips, following the pro-life demonstration. The outrage was swift and harsh — the Kentucky school is now closed due to safety concerns. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson called the situation a “celebration of outrage,” because nothing satisfies critics more than having their own biases confirmed.

Subsequent video footage released over the weekend revealed the students were accosted and yelled at before Phillips and other Native American activists approached them. Another group – the so-called Black Hebrew Israelites – were heard shouting abuse at the students for wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.


Once the second batch of video surfaced, several critics took back their initial remarks and apologized. CNN’s S.E. Cupp even wrote that she wished she had the fuller picture before weighing in. Hollywood producer Jack Morrissey apologized for joking about the “MAGA kids” going “screaming, hats first into the woodchipper,” according to TheWrap.

But not everyone who piled on the students owned up to it once additional information became available.

Some critics quietly deleted criticism from social media without offering an explanation or apology, while others attempted to prove the original narrative instead of simply admitting they overreached.


The New York Times published a story Monday that notes “more videos later emerged complicating the story” and that families said they were receiving death threats yet managed to dig up as much dirt on the community as possible.

The Times report mentioned a former Covington graduate who has been charged with rape, racism at a different Cincinnati-area school, Catholic students’ pro-life stance and a parent from a rival high school noting peer pressure exists. While none of these issues directly link to the incident that occurred over the weekend, they seem aimed at buttressing the narrative that Covington students are bad.

The situation is similar to what occurred when Kavanaugh was accused of sexual misconduct during his confirmation process. Media members looked for scandalous details surrounding anything that occurred at Kavanaugh’s high school at the time of the allegations, much like the Times published a list of wrongdoings in the Covington area.


The New York Daily News even published an unverified image of possible Covington students in “blackface” from several years ago.

“This won’t help Kentucky student Nick Sandmann’s case,” the Daily News wrote. “A photo said to be featuring Covington Catholic High School students clad in blackface during a 2015 basketball game made the rounds on Twitter Monday.”

It’s unclear why a photo from 2015 would hurt Sandmann’s “case” and the paper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Media Research Center has been monitoring the situation closely and accused “NBC Nightly News” of “refusing to retract” and doubling down on its original report. A study by the MRC’s NewsBusters indicated that CNN and MSNBC spent 53 minutes on the story over the weekend with 29 of the minutes coming before the additional footage surfaced.

“It would have been easy for any individual person on either network to admit on-air Sunday that they were wrong, but that’s of course not what happened,” managing editor Curtis Houck wrote.

BuzzFeed senior culture writer Anne Helen Petersen tweeted an attack on Sandmann, singling out the MAGA hat-wearing teen in a lengthy thread that compared his appearance to a young version of Kavanaugh. A freelance Vulture journalist was fired from his main job at digital company INE Entertainment after wishing death for multiple Covington students and their parents.


Kathy Griffin called for the students to have their identities revealed so that she and others can hold them accountable for their actions.

“I want NAMES. Shame them. If you think these f—–s wouldn’t dox you in a heartbeat, think again,” Griffin wrote.

Griffin then praised the BuzzFeed writer’s attack, calling it “yummy” and “delicious.”

The National Review seemingly deleted an article that said the students “might as well have just spit on the cross.” New York Times star reporter Maggie Haberman suggested the students should be kicked out of school but eventually tweeted an article detailing the “fuller picture” of the situation.

CNN’s Bakari Sellers deleted a tweet that called the teenager “deplorable” and encouraged punching him in the face.

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Not everyone deleted their scolding hot takes and several other attacks on the teenagers remain on Twitter.

Fox News’ Greg Norman contributed to this report.

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Digital First Media plans to make offer to buy Gannett

Jan 13 – Newspaper chain MNG Enterprises Inc plans to make an offer to buy USA Today publisher Gannett Co Inc for $12 per share, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

The reported price represents a 23 percent premium to Gannett’s $9.75 close on Friday.

Better known as Digital First Media — MNG Enterprises — which is backed by a New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC, has already built a 7.5 percent stake in Gannett and plans to publicly push Gannett to sell itself, the report said citing people familiar with the matter.

Gannett, which owns newspapers and websites across the United States, has been doing its best to transition away from legacy newsprint to digital subscriptions.

Digital First, publisher of the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News, has approached Gannett about a deal several times in the past few years, but has been rebuffed, and it is unclear if Gannett will be interested this time, WSJ added.

Digital First and Gannett were not available for comments outside regular business hours.

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Russian media watchdog says BBC spreads ‘terrorist ideologies’

Russia’s media watchdog accuses BBC of spreading ‘terrorist ideologies’ in latest in a tit-for-tat row over impartiality

  • Roskomnadzor, the state media watchdog, said it would investigate the BBC 
  • Last month Britain’s monitor Ofcom said RT could face sanctions for impartiality
  • It led to a tit-for-tat exchange in which the names of BBC journalists were leaked

Russia’s media watchdog accused the BBC Thursday of spreading the ideologies of ‘terrorist groups’ via online publications of its Russian service, the latest in a tit-for-tat row over media impartiality.

Roskomnadzor, the state communications and media watchdog, said it would investigate whether the BBC was breaking the law.

This was the latest volley in a wave of rhetoric against the BBC, after Britain’s broadcasting regulator Ofcom last year said the Moscow-funded RT channel had broken broadcasting standards.

The names of 44 BBC journalists working in Russia were leaked on a Russian social media site this week

‘Currently we have discovered materials which transmit the ideologies of international terrorist groups (quotes of terrorist al-Baghdadi)’ on the BBC’s Russian language website, Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is the leader of the Islamic state jihadist group, also known as ISIS.

Russian law does not forbid quoting individuals considered ‘terrorists’, however any mention of such outlawed groups has to come with the disclaimer that the group is banned in Russia.

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The watchdog said it would probe whether material broadcast by the BBC ‘corresponds with Russian anti-extremism legislation’.

The BBC said in a statement sent to AFP that it ‘fully complies with the legislation and regulations of every country’ in which it operates.

The Russian statement did not cite any specific articles or dates.

Roskomnadzor also said it had requested documents from the BBC’s Russian services to investigate whether it was breaking a new law limiting foreign ownership of Russian media.

It comes a month after UK broadcasting watchdog Ofcom announced Russia’s state-run network RT could face sanctions over its reporting of the Salisbury spy attack

BBC’s Russian service is limited to the internet, but it has expanded in recent years and has many top reporters on the team dealing with often sensitive political subjects.

Britain’s Ofcom said in December it had found violations of impartiality rules in seven of RT’s shows broadcast after the Salisbury nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The ruling led Russia to announce it would launch an investigation into the BBC for breaching fairness standards under Russian media law for its reporting of the same incident. 

In an intensification of the feud, the Sunday Times published a list of names and photographs of eight reporters working for the Moscow-backed Sputnik’s UK bureau in Edinburgh. 

After the Sunday Times leak last month, a list of 44 BBC reporters working in Russia was then published online anyonymously. 

Moscow said at the time that any proceedings against the BBC were a ‘mirror measure’ for Britain’s ‘constant propaganda against RT’, a state-owned channel.

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Drake slammed on social media for 2010 video in which he kisses, fondles 17-year-old girl

As if the public weren’t angry enough already after “Surviving R. Kelly,” the Lifetime docu-series filled with disturbing allegations about the singer’s treatment of women, they got a new target for their anger: Drake.

Over the weekend, an unearthed concert video from May 2010 made the rounds online. It shows Canadian rapper inviting a young fan onstage at his Denver show and begins slow-dancing with her.  After a twirl, he pulls her back toward him and smells her hair.

“I told you I like your hair, right? What is that? Is that Herbal Essence?” he asks as the audience laughs and screams. Next, he begins kissing the back of her neck and puts one arm across her chest, and then the other.

Drake then snaps out of his reverie, grabs a microphone off a nearby table and tells the crowd, “Y’all gonna have me get carried away again. I get in trouble for (expletive) like this!”

(Warning: The following video contains foul language.)

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Inmate takes unlikely path to freedom: Podcasting

In California, inmates typically are granted parole by doing good deeds or showing they have been rehabilitated by becoming pastors, drug counselors or youth advocates. For Walter “Earlonne” Woods, the path to freedom was podcasting.

Woods, 47, was recently released from San Quentin State Prison after California Gov. Jerry Brown commuted his 31-years-to-life sentence for attempted armed robbery. Brown cited Woods’ leadership in helping other inmates and his work at “Ear Hustle,” a podcast he co-hosts and co-produces that documents everyday life inside the prison.

Woods has since been hired as a full-time producer for the often funny and at times heart-wrenching podcast, which has been a smashing success since its launch in 2017. The show’s roughly 30 episodes have been downloaded 20 million times by fans all over the world.

Listeners have praised “Ear Hustle” online as “eye-opening” and “incredibly humanizing.” But for Woods, one of the most meaningful reviews came from the governor’s office when they called with the good news.

“The one thing that the lady said, you know, she told me, ‘We love the podcast in this office,'” Woods told The Associated Press of the commutation call from Brown’s office. “I don’t know if the governor listens, but people in his office listen. People really like what we do.”

During their podcast, Woods and fellow creator and outside co-host, prison volunteer Nigel Poor, give listeners a peek into the hardships and small joys of men incarcerated at the medium-security facility.

In interviews with the hosts, inmates discuss struggles such as finding a compatible cellmate to share a 5- by 10-foot (1.5- by 3-meter) cell, share why they take care of frogs or black widow spiders as if they were pets, or describe the impact of solitary confinement or being on death row.

Woods, an affable man with a quick smile and a sharp sense of humor, helps listeners understand prison life, while Poor brings an outsider’s perspective, asking insightful questions that at times push inmates to reflect on what put them behind bars.

The podcast offers listeners an intimate look into lives society doesn’t spend much time thinking about, said Woods, who spent 21 years behind bars.

“People get to see the car chases. They get to see the trial. But they don’t know what happens after you get to prison,” Woods said. “We’ve been able to really humanize people, and people realize that those in prison are just people who made dumb decisions.”

Brown agreed, and in his commutation letter, issued the day before Thanksgiving, the governor said Woods “has clearly shown that he is no longer the man he was when he committed this crime.”

“He has set a positive example for his peers and, through his podcast, has shared meaningful stories from those inside prison,” Brown wrote.

The podcast project started after Poor, a San Francisco Bay Area artist who has volunteered at San Quentin since 2011, approached Woods.

In 2016, Poor saw Public Radio Exchange’s Radiotopia network was sponsoring a podcast talent contest, and she asked Lt. Sam Robinson, San Quentin’s spokesman, for permission to enter. Another co-creator, Antwan Williams, who is serving 15 years for armed robbery, came on board to do its sound design.

Their pitch beat more than 1,500 contestants from 53 countries, and they received the backing of a group of radio professionals, Poor said.

“Everyone was shocked when we won, especially the prison. Lt. Robinson told me he let us enter because he never thought we would win,” she said, laughing.

“Ear Hustle,” — eavesdropping, in prison slang — has found international success, with fans sending cards and letters from as far as New Zealand, Qatar in the Middle East, and Mauritius in East Africa. The free show also can be accessed in prisons throughout California and the United Kingdom. New episodes are posted every couple of weeks.

Julie Shapiro, Radiotopia executive producer, describes the podcast as a “roller coaster of emotions” that challenges what people understand about life in prison.

“People don’t expect to have something in common with those telling their stories from prison, but the details of their lives resonate with listeners because they hear these men encounter daily life in some of the same ways that we do,” Shapiro said.

The outpouring of love and appreciation for the show has grown since Woods announced on a Nov. 24 episode that Brown commuted his sentence.

The first thing Woods did after walking through the prison gates on Nov. 30 was take in the view of the San Francisco Bay and of the ocean “as far as the eye can see.” An episode featured his first moments as a free man.

Since then, he’s been noticing new styles, like women everywhere in yoga pants, and people walking through the streets with their heads bowed. He quickly realized they were looking at their smartphones, which didn’t exist when he started his sentence in 1997.

Woods has also spent time people-watching at a high-end department store, visited Disneyland and recently made eggs for the first time in two decades.

The fourth season of “Ear Hustle,” which will be released this summer, will feature stories of his re-entry to society and interviews with other inmates released after long sentences. He and Poor also plan to visit maximum-security prisons and tell the stories of prisoners there.

“There’s a lot of people that’s in there that should be out,” Woods said. “I created a podcast, but I’m not the exception.”

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Israeli government calls early elections for April

Israel to hold early elections in April as polls predict another Netanyahu victory

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has agreed to hold early elections on April 9
  • Coalition ‘unanimously’ agreed to disband government and hold a new election
  • Latest polls appear to predict another solid victory for long-serving Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has agreed to hold early elections on April 9.

The move comes after the ruling coalition appeared to come up short on votes needed to pass a contentious piece of court-ordered legislation.

Mr Netanyahu said his coalition ‘unanimously’ agreed to disband the government and hold a new election.

At a meeting of his Likud faction, he listed his accomplishments in office and said he hoped his current religious, nationalistic coalition would be the ‘core’ of the next one as well.

FILE – In this Nov. 18, 2018 file photo, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in Tel Aviv, Israel. Israeli media is reporting Monday, Dec. 24, 2018, that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition government has agreed to call an early election for April 9. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

The latest polls appear to predict another solid victory for Mr Netanyahu, though an indictment over mounting corruption charges could still trip him up.

Mr Netanyahu’s coalition has been rocked by internal divisions for months.

Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defence minister last month to protest against what he perceived to be the government’s weak response to rocket attacks from Hamas-ruled Gaza.

But a new law extending the military draft to ultra-Orthodox men appears to have triggered the government’s downfall.

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Mr Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox partners are demanding the legislation be weakened and his razor-thin parliamentary majority seems to be making such a compromise impossible.

Ultra-Orthodox parties consider conscription a taboo, fearing that military service will lead to immersion in secularism.

But years of exemptions have generated widespread resentment among the rest of Jewish Israelis.

Earlier, Yair Lapid of the opposition Yesh Atid party announced he was rescinding his support for the bill, calling the coalition’s hoped-for compromise a payoff to draft dodgers.

As a result, Mr Netanyahu convened his fellow coalition faction leaders and the decision was made to dissolve parliament and go to elections.

Another victory for Mr Netanyahu would assure his place in history as Israel’s longest-serving leader and allow him to solidify his close alliance with US President Donald Trump.

Another term would also allow Mr Netanyahu to push forward with his nationalistic agenda and worldwide campaign to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

With the opposition parties currently splintered, the only thing that seems to stand in his way is potential criminal charges over corruption allegations.

Police have recommended he be indicted on bribery and breach of trust charges in three different cases.

The country has long been eagerly awaiting the attorney general’s decision on whether to press charges.

The justice ministry announced on Wednesday that deliberations were continuing and were ‘not dependent on political events’.

Mr Netanyahu has angrily dismissed the accusations against him, characterising them as part of a media-driven witch hunt that is obsessed with removing him from office.

Elections were previously scheduled for November 2019.

But since Mr Lieberman’s resignation the coalition has been relying on the slimmest of parliamentary majorities, just 61 out of its 120 members, and has found governing difficult.

The last time a government served its full term was in 1988.

Since then, elections have almost always been moved up because of a coalition crisis or as a strategic move by the prime minister to maximise his chance of re-election.

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Accountant gets prison for embezzling $3.4M from famed literary agency

“Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk was financially coldcocked by a crooked accountant who embezzled millions from his Manhattan agent.

Bookkeeper Darin Webb was sentenced to two years in federal prison last week for ripping off the best-selling writer along with other literary luminaries, including the estates of “Godfather” author Mario Puzo, Peter Matthiessen and Studs Terkel.

“This chain of events leaves me close to broke,” Palahniuk said, according to court papers. “Since the crime was uncovered, people have offered their children’s college funds. They’ve offered to mortgage their houses to keep me afloat. They’ve come forward with legal advice and stop-gap, hands-on help.”

Palahniuk was bilked of more than $1.4 million in royalties and advances after Webb fleeced more than $3.4 million from his agency, Donadio & Olson, which was forced to file for bankruptcy last month.

“Webb’s actions have irrevocably ruined our company’s reputation and left us insolvent,” wrote Edward Hibbert, one of the firm’s principals, in an impact statement to federal Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Heirs to Puzo’s estate were bilked of more than $757,000 in royalties, court records show. Survivors of “Catch 22” author Joseph Heller were cheated out of $35,665 — and the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust lost nearly $60,000, according to bankruptcy filings.

“At the point the theft was uncovered, the agency’s bank accounts were virtually empty,” agency principal Neil Olson told the court. “The cost of aggressively pursuing the thief was enormous … He has destroyed our business, a prestigious agency that endured for decades.”

Olson, who managed the firm for 32 years, worked with the company’s founder, Candida Donadio, a former secretary from Brooklyn who shot to fame in the late 1950s after she sold Philip Roth’s
“Goodbye, Columbus” and Heller’s “Catch 22” to publishers.

Webb, 48, managed the firm’s books for nearly 20 years, but the theft occurred over the last seven years, court papers say. Executives grew suspicious earlier this year when an author, since identified in court papers as Palahniuk, repeatedly called the agency when he did not receive a $200,000 payment he was owed from his publisher.

“Mr. Palahniuk did not receive the payment because Webb had converted the funds to his own use,” court papers say.

Webb confessed to the theft in a videotaped interview with company execs and their attorneys at the agency’s Chelsea office in March, saying he filed monthly financial reports that “contained false and fraudulent representations in order to accomplish the theft and evade detection,” court papers say.

Lawyers for Webb said he used most of the stolen cash to cover expenses at his own accounting firm, SUM Innovation.

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We can't blame the media for the bigotry of football fans — we need to take responsibility for our own actions

The real horror is that the battle may have been won — but the war goes on.

Racism on the terraces feels exactly like that to me.

Every time you think that the aliens have been vanquished they burst out of some poor innocent’s chest ready to wreak havoc again.

We saw it reappear in the hate-filled faces of so-called fans of Chelsea, the club I’ve supported for over half a century.

It made me feel sicker than any number of parrots after a 6-0 defeat.

There can be no excuse for the abuse hurled at Raheem Sterling, or the kind of racist chanting we’ve heard about Man United’s Romelu Lukaku or Everton’s Yerry Mina.

Even the influence of the media, blamed by Sterling himself, needs to be viewed with caution.

Football fans — most of us anyway — are not morons. We have minds of our own, and we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

The reappearance of naked prejudice on the terraces can’t be blamed on anyone other than the racists themselves — and the other fans who stay silent instead of calling out the racists.

These people should be named and shamed. Social media could be put to good use by posting a rogues’ gallery on every platform and the faces of the bigots should be prominent, so that their wives, mothers and children can see what they’ve done. Roll on #stampoutracism.

But the mystery is why there is an upsurge in such incidents right now.

I, for one, thought that with the determined efforts of the clubs, led by the Kick It Out campaign, such scenes would cease. But I should have known better. Back in the early Seventies I lived ten minutes from Stamford Bridge — but I never went to home games.

When it became fashionable to throw darts at our own fans, a black face standing in the Shed was nothing less than a walking bullseye.

By the mid-Nineties I hoped it would be OK to bring my seven-year-old daughter and her pals to a game.

Surely, there could be no danger in seats below the directors’ boxes, away from the common herd?

It took 20 minutes for me to learn the truth as two men in front of us leapt up to abuse the Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Carlton Palmer, screaming “You lanky-legged black ****”.

I tapped one on the shoulder. He looked around, saw my face, and immediately apologised profusely. But the damage was done.

Three weeks later, I attended a dinner at the City of London’s most glittering venue, the Guildhall.

Suddenly, I found myself confronted by a familiar face — one of the same two men who had sat in the stand in front of us.

A true racist, yet here he was, suave, suited and booted, at the heart of the British establishment. So much for the idea that all racists are ignorant, lower-class idiots.

So what’s happened?

It seems bizarre that the Premier League, dominated by foreign players, many of them black, should still suffer from prejudice.

And with top teams regularly playing in Europe, plus a successful England team nearly half of whose members are black or mixed race it’s hard to see why fans should start throwing bananas on the pitch again.

But the truth is that many of the factors that drove racism on the terraces have never gone away, and have never been challenged effectively. Yes, recent political arguments about the EU and about immigration have allowed some of the scumbags who the game thought it had chased away to resurface with renewed bravado.

It’s also possible that the increase in the number of fans from Eastern Europe, where attitudes to diversity are decidedly less tolerant, may have had an effect.

Perhaps some of the brilliant players from Europe who now grace the English game might put themselves in the front line of their re-education.

But if the game wants to stamp out racism for good it needs to take a long, hard look at itself.

In the Premier League, around one in five players are black.

The number of black owners and coaches is negligible. This is sending out the worst message imaginable.

I welcome the advent of great players like N’Golo Kante, Romelu Lukaku, and Dele Alli. But this is a sport owned and run almost exclusively by white men, who buy and sell black men at will.

Yes, of  course, the heaviest weight that the players have to lift is their own multimillion-pound pay packets, so I don’t seek sympathy for them.

But basically, football looks like the 18th-century plantation economy of the American South.

It’s time for the game to start taking steps to make sure that its owners, their boards of directors and their executive and coaching staff look more like modern Britain.

SUNSPORT is committed to stamping out discriminatory behaviour in football grounds across the country.

Here are the numbers that football fans can use to report any racist or homophobic abuse for today’s games. Include block and stand details with call/text.

Arsenal v Burnley
Emirates Stadium: Text 67777

AFC Bournemouth v Brighton
& Hove Albion
Vitality Stadium: Call 0344 576 1910

Chelsea v Leicester City
Stamford Bridge: Call 0371 811 1955

Huddersfield Town v Southampton
John Smith’s Stadium: Call/text 07741 528949

Manchester City v Crystal Palace
Etihad Stadium: Call 0161 444 1894 (Option 1, then 3)

Newcastle United v Fulham
St. James’ Park: Text HELP followed by stand, row and seat of the offending supporter and nature of offending behaviour to 60070

West Ham United v Watford
London Stadium: Call 0208 522 6001

Cardiff City v Manchester United
Cardiff City Stadium: Call 033 33 11 1927

If the people at the top of the game seem to think that it’s OK to treat black people like field slaves, why would they expect the fans to treat the players with respect?

I saw my first game — Arsenal vs Leicester City — at the old Highbury ground.

My dad wanted me to see his hero, the great inside-left George Eastham, in action.

He realised that I was too small to see over the parapet, so we took the biggest book we had in the house for me to stand on. I watched Eastham while standing on Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the bestselling anti-slavery novel that had touched off the American Civil War.

Maybe every owner needs to be sent a copy of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s book to remind our contemporary plantation bosses that it’s time for them too to confront the bigotry written into the game’s soul.

Football’s racism hasn’t gone away, and it never will until we all look at its evil full in the face.

  • Trevor Phillips is a former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Chelsea fan admits to being one of the fans who swore at Raheem Sterling – but says he didn't make any racial slurs

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Being a journalist in South Sudan

    Ray Okech, 33, has gotten into trouble many times for doing his job as a journalist in South Sudan.

    Not one to shy away from covering political, human rights or corruption stories, Okech has been arrested more than four times while on duty.

    “I was also threatened by security officials and beaten up, just because they don’t understand how media operates,” said Okech.

    Like many other journalists in the country, Okech did not plan to work in the media.

    Unable to get a place on the agriculture business programme at the university in Juba, Okech sought alternatives and came across a year-long course in broadcast journalism offered by an American NGO.

    Excelling at the course landed him a full-time position at Eye Radio station in Juba in 2011, the year South Sudan declared independence from Sudan and just two years before the world’s youngest country became embroiled in a civil war.

    “When the war started, things got very difficult,” recalled Okech. “The security situation deteriorated quickly. It became dangerous to travel around the country.”

    The murder of South Sudanese reporter Peter Moi in 2015 was another blow to journalists in the country. Ray used to work with him and cover stories together.

    “I saw him just 15 minutes before he was shot dead. He told me he was afraid, he said he was being threatened while doing a story. He told me he didn’t want to cover politics any more.”

    Moi’s murder came just days after South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir verbally threatened journalists who reported “against the country”.

    Slight improvement

    According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 10 journalists have been killed in the country since 2011. 

    South Sudan is ranked 144th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index. It is a one-place improvement from last year.

    “We have seen some changes. According to our media partners, there has been a lot less harassment of journalists at the hands of security authorities,” said Laura Bain, team leader for Journalists for Human Rights in South Sudan.

    “The editor-in-chief at the Juba Monitor (an independent English language daily), Anna Nimiriano, recently said that in the last year she could only think of two incidents of censorship at the newspaper.”

    Misconceptions about journalism in the country extend beyond the authorities.

    “When you use your camera, they consider this as a weapon and journalists as enemies,” said Maura Ajak, a 29-year-old reporter at Catholic Radio Network.

    “People are still traumatised from what happened during the war. They fear answering even the most simple questions because they are afraid to get into politics and, subsequently, get arrested.”

    Ajak did not plan to become a journalist either. She had to stop her dentistry studies at university due to financial issues. Because of her language skills, Maura decided to try her luck in journalism.

    “I’ve learned how to live through hardship and find good stories even when everything seems bad,” said Ajak, who reports on child soldiers, refugees, and rape survivors. 

    Maura Ajak, reporter

    “It takes time and is exhausting. But it’s important to be close to them, see the reality and tell people the truth instead of rumours.”

    In addition to all the other challenges, journalism in the country is not a well-paid profession. Majority of the journalists barely make enough to look after themselves and their families. In addition, there are travel costs for reporting and also buying equipment.

    Ajak usually earns around $120 a month, unless she gets additional funds from her work with foreign media. She also has to provide for her six-year-old daughter, who lives abroad with her grandmother.

    Ajak has not seen her daughter for more than two years. 

    “It’s the best decision for now,” she said.

    Sending children and families out of the country, especially to neighbouring Sudan and Uganda, is common due to a lack of quality education and security in South Sudan.

    Okecha sent his wife and two children abroad in 2016 due to the security situation. This October, he decided to leave his job at the radio station and join his family for some time, as his recent story made him worried for his safety again.

    Ajak does not plan to leave South Sudan anytime soon and considers conferences and training abroad as her short breaks outside the country.

    “My future is here,” she said. “I feel it’s my role to do something positive for my country that will be a legacy for next generations. I hope each day something good can happen.”

    “We Shall Have Peace” is a documentary produced by Contrast VR, Al Jazeera’s immersive media studio, that explores South Sudan through the lens of trauma and healing. 

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    CBS CEO says leak of Les Moonves probe ‘troubling’

    CBS’ top brass is trying to steady the ship after a report leaked to the press revealed new salacious details of Leslie Moonves’ sexual misconduct at the company.

    Calling the leak “troubling,” interim Chief Executive Officer Joe Ianniello expressed frustration that the report was published before the investigation into the claims had been closed.

    “It’s frustrating that confidential information from the ongoing investigation made its way to the public before management and the board knew about it — and importantly, before we could communicate with all of you,” he said via a memo to staff Thursday. “And while we still don’t yet know the actual results, I do understand that the investigation is nearing an end.”

    In September, after Moonves resigned as chairman and CEO, the CBS board hired law firm Debevoise & Plimpton to investigate the allegations. The results of the report will help determine whether Moonves should receive a $120 million severance package that CBS has waiting for him.

    The leaked draft of the report, published by The New York Times earlier this week, revealed that Moonves had a network employee “on call” for oral sex, as well as evidence that the mogul concealed evidence of sexual misconduct. The report also revealed that employees, as well as some members of CBS’ board, knew about Moonves’ conduct and they helped to conceal it at the time.

    Ianniello did not address those claims, however; instead, he offered: “We in management, as well as our board members, understand that these stories are very disconcerting … I know we are all anxious to put this chapter behind us.”

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