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British media accused of justifying conflict at debate

 Peter Oborne, Michelle Stanistreet, Victoria Brittain and Seumas Milne. Pic: Stuart Platt

Journalists have “just swallowed lies by the Whitehall machine which justified an illegal conflict” according to Peter Oborne, chief political commentator for the Daily Telegraph at Goldsmiths on Saturday.

He said journalists have “misreported” the War on Terror ever since 9/11, citing the example of the September Dossier which was used by the Blair government in 2002 to justify its reason for going to war with Iraq.

Oborne was among speakers at the day-long Media and War conference which included Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, John Pilger, Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist and Victoria Brittain, author and former associate foreign editor of the Guardian.

Seumas Milne, columnist and associate editor at the Guardian, said that if one went back in time to the “toxic, parallel universe [of 9/11] the disinformation that was recycled through the media and published as fact was appalling.”

Perspectives on future solutions differed. Stanistreet argued for an independently regulated media, Brittain championed the cause of an “alternative press” and Pilger pushed for journalists to address the “world as it is.”

Des Freedman, editor of Media and Terrorism: Global Perspectives and a Reader in Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, said in conclusion: “The vast majority of journalists do not set out to be propagandists or stenographers for government and the military.

“We need both to make sure that journalists can report independently of pressure from government and their own proprietors but also to try and shift the terms of the debate as a whole. That requires us both to challenge reporting when it’s inaccurate and lacking context as well as to exert pressure from outside which will mean, for example, the building of peace and solidarity campaigns to challenge the all too frequent drive to war.”

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