Syria:

Chris Ray writes: Re. “No end in sight for Syria’s agony” (yesterday, item 12). Charles Richardson’s analysis of “the possibilities of intervention” in Syria ignores the obvious fact that “Western intervention” is already well under way. The goal appears to be regime change via encouragement of civil war rather than foreign invasion.

Four weeks into Kofi Annan’s attempted ceasefire, The Washington Post reported:

“Syrian rebels battling the regime of President Bashar al-Assad have begun receiving significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, an effort paid for by Persian Gulf nations and coordinated in part by the United States, according to opposition activists and US and foreign officials.”

Richardson’s assessment that the collapse of UN peace efforts “puts Assad more firmly and publicly in the wrong, opening up possibilities for further pressure” is doubtless what the rebels intended when they rejected outright Annan’s calls for dialogue with the government.

The Independent‘s Patrick Cockburn is one of the few Western correspondents to report the UN monitoring team’s observation that during the ceasefire “the level of offensive military operations by the government significantly decreased” while there has been “an increase in militant attacks and targeted killings”.

The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Press Council:

Alan Corbett writes: Re. “Journos union asks Press Council to take on complaints dept” (yesterday, item 3). I refer to the article by Andrew Crook in yesterday’s Crikey.

1) Section 8 of the MEAA’s rules registered with Fair Work Australia, states that the correct name of the committee that initially hears complaints against union journalists for an alleged breach of the MEAA’s code of ethics, is called the “complaint’s panel”  not the judiciary committee or the disciplinary committee. Why do journalists always refer to it as the disciplinary or judiciary committee?

2) As for the penalties available to the complaint’s panel it is worth noting that last year at the Independent Media Inquiry, the MEAA federal secretary Chris Warren, confirmed that no journalists had been fined for an ethical breach of the union’s code over the past decade, only one person had been expelled close to 40 years ago and that he thought three journalists had been censured or rebuked for an ethical breach in the past decade.

Not exactly a  penalty regime that would have errant journalists quaking in their boots, is it!

3) An important distinction between the MEAA’s  and the APC’s complaint process is that the APC treats a complaint against a journalist as a complaint against the publisher. It leaves any disciplinary action in the publisher’s hands. The APC will have to change its modus operandi if things are to change.

Unemployment figures:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Unemployment: more good news from Wayne’s World” (yesterday, item 9). Simply put: when are Bernard Keane and other Crikey regulars going to put in a bit of leg work and look behind a ministerial press release on unemployment figures and look at reality?

But then it took hundreds of years for journalists to look behind the old “flat Earth” society press releases so I guess I won’t be holding my breath.

Meanwhile, I enjoyed reading Noel Turnbull’s article on my brother, Richard, and say well done. (“Come in Spinner: media relations — impossible to so, so easy“, yesterday, item 14).

In the comments section of Crikey I have done well in having alternative views published on the dodgy monthly unemployment figures, which are of course based on a political definition of unemployment, not an actuarial one but Crikey still falls down in allowing such “group think” views on the monthly unemployment figures such as those expressed by regular Crikey columnists.

Peter Fray

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