Podcast: Thailand with journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall

 

Andrew MacGregor Marshall is an investigative journalist who specialises in Thailand. Marshall was the former Bureau Chief for Reuters in Bankok and previously was Middle East Managing Editor for the news agency. He currently teaches journalism at Edinburgh Napier University.

EN4News News Editor Ailean Beaton spoke to Marshall about the announcement that a member of the Thai royal family, Princess Ubolratana, is running for Prime Minister in upcoming elections.

Marshall was the first journalist to break the news. In this podcast, Marshall outlines the significance of the news, calling it “the biggest news to come out of Thailand in ten years”, and discusses what this could mean for the future of Thai democracy.

BREAKING: Scottish Tory MP referred to Discipline Panel denying sexual touching claims

A Scottish Conservative MP has issued a statement admitting that he has referred himself to his party’s discipline panel while denying that he had groped young men, saying the reports are “completely false”. 

Ross Thomson was removed from a House of Commons bar by police on Wednesday night after claims were made of “sexual touching”.

Thomson’s full statement reads: “A series of serious allegations have been made against me that have featured in the media. I would like to state that these allegations from anonymous sources are completely false. No complaint has been made to the Police, Parliament or the Conservative party. Never the less, in the interest of openness and transparency I am referring myself to the Conservative Party’s Disciplinary Panel of the Code of Conduct. This has been a deeply distressing time for me and my family but I intend to be back at work on Monday.”

The Conservative party rules state that complaints to the discipline panel will trigger an “investigation…conducted by someone with appropriate experience and no prior involvement in the complaint”.

EN4News Morning Brief

Today’s papers (Credit: Ailean Beaton)

Good morning from a rainy and wind-battered Edinburgh. Here’s the morning news brief. 

In the papers: Brexit, Instagram and the Edinburgh Tourist Tax 

The Scotsman and Times today are focussed on the announcement that the City of Edinburgh Council have backed plans to introduce a tourist tax. The £2-per-night charge isn’t certain to go ahead until next year at the earliest, but it’s been an item of contention for local businesses for a while. Check out some of our previous stories on the issue.

The Herald have a striking front page featuring pictures of EU nationals who have made their homes here in Scotland. “They said we’d have to wait until after Brexit is done”: immigrants discuss their uncertain futures with the paper as part of their “Brexit Voices” story.

Brexit also dominates in the national papers as Prime Minister Theresa May heads to Dublin to discuss the Irish Backstop.

Sturgeon in Canada

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon continues her jaunt across North America, discussing trade, Brexit, Independence as well as fine Scottish cuisine. Our reporter, Rory Hill, will have a round-up of Sturgeon’s US and Canada trip on the website later this morning.

Bezos’ private business

Amazon founder and richest man in the history of the world, Jeff Bezos, has published a rather scandalous post on Medium. Following news of the break-down of his marriage, Bezos has claimed that the National Inquirer magazine are holding him to ransom with some very sensitive images.

This seems to have been a weird theme on social media through February.

In Tech

A huge story for those following Facebook, as Germany orders the social media company to halt the process of combining user data from across their products. Germany has always had the lead on social media regulation, although the question of how to safeguard children from harmful content has been dominating in the UK this week.

That Friday Feeling (no longer)

Westminster, like Holyrood, doesn’t normally sit on Fridays. But with all the Brexit stuff taking up parliamentary time over these past few months, members will be sitting today to power through a long list of Private Members’ Bills. All this after our MPs have lost out on their February recess week too, aww.

And the Weather

Here in Edinburgh, the wind and rain are due to stick around through the day, with a wee bright spell around lunchtime. 10 degrees and wet into the weekend.

Thanks and make sure to visit en4news.com for all the latest news and culture.

 

Scotland in the global misinformation crisis

MisinfoConX took place in Stirling. (Photo credit: Buster Brown Graphic: Hacks/Hackers)

Under the freezing fog on Thursday morning, some of the leading Scottish experts on misinformation gathered in Stirling to discuss ways to bring back truth and clarity to our online discourse.

MisinfoConX Scotland was a day long “unconference” organised by Scottish media academics in conjunction with Hacks/Hackers, a loose-knit global collective of journalists and hackers aiming to bridge the gap between the two practices.  

Much like the TedX series of lectures, MisinfoCon events have taken place across the world, from D.C to Kiev. Discussion on the day placed Scotland and the UK firmly in the international milieu of Fake News, in part due to the divisive atmosphere surrounding Independence and Brexit. But the spirit of the gathering was good-humoured and constructive, with a focus on the latest technological and policy-based ideas for tackling the issue.

“Today’s not just about talking shop on the problems in Scotland” said Dr Jennifer Jones, one of the organisers of the event. “It’s actually about getting together and talking about ways we can come up with solutions”.

Over the course of a few hours, attendees watched presentations from cyber security experts, fact-checkers and citizen journalists and took part in a diverse series of “breakout sessions” that reflected the breadth of the issue at hand.

MisinfoConX saw media and cyber security experts gather with students and journalists in Stirling’s Codebase. (Photo credit: Ailean Beaton)

Defining the problem

The term “Fake News” was discarded early on in the day in favour of terms like misinformation, disinformation and “Information Disorder”. A wide range of sources were identified including partisan bloggers, unscrupulous politicians and state-sponsored propaganda.

Dr Jones used part of her opening remarks to address some of the coverage surrounding the conference itself, which had been very much in keeping with the theme of the day.

“This conference has been funded with $200 for the Post-it Notes and the coffee, thanks to Mozilla. We’ve also had lunch bought for us by Secarma” she said.

The announcement of the conference had provoked an angry and mocking response from a Russian state-funded media outlet, which described the event as a gathering of the “Western deep-state”. The small grant from Mozilla, designers of the Firefox internet browser, was cited in the story in an attempt to cast doubt over the independence of the event as was encouragement from MPs like Stewart McDonald.

These types of accusations are familiar to Jones, who has in the past faced trolling and abuse for articles she has authored. Often her approach is to troll right back.

But the tendency for fake news to spill over into the real world, where journalists can face threats and intimidation makes the problem harder to laugh off, according to Jones.

“What do you do when this happens?” she asks. “There are no clear guidelines.”

Organisers of MisinfoCon Bissie Anderson and Dr Jennifer Jones. (Photo credit: Ailean Beaton)

Unconference like

The first seminar came from Paul Mason of the cyber security firm Secarma. Mason described himself as an ethical hacker, using the same techniques as rogue or hostile actors to break into the databases of clients in order to identify weaknesses in their system.

The most surefire way to breach an online database, according to Mason, is by engaging with “the human bit between the keyboard and the chair”. The ability to mislead or impersonate an employee of the target business is an increasingly common approach taken by hackers, highlighting that disinformation is a security issue as well as a social and political one.

Mason rounded off his presentation by having members of the audience create their own automated Twitter bot–  a process he said can take just “five minutes and three keyboard commands”.

Following on from this, a chunk of the conference was dedicated to self-organised “breakout sessions” where audience members participated in group exercises dealing with issues volunteered by fellow attendees. Issues such as the “manufacturing of doubt” by agenda-driven outlets and “both-sideism” within traditional, balance seeking media were addressed. One particularly innovative session involved using role-playing to explore disagreements within a family or relationship environment.

The final presentation scrutinised fact-checking and content labelling with Scottish new media outlet The Ferret and source-rating project Newsguard.

Scotland’s leading Fact-Checker Alistair Brian of The Ferret Fact Service. (Photo credit: Rachel Hamada)

The methodology of the Ferret Fact Service was discussed and its pros and cons weighed by Alistair Brian, who has been fact-checking politicians and Scottish internet tropes for two years after receiving funding from Google’s News Initiative.

Along with Brian was a representative from Newsguard, whose product recently received attention for advising users of Microsoft’s new Edge browser that the Mail Online was not a trusted news source. The content “nutrition label” approach stirred attention but its true efficacy remained in question as the browser plug-in does not yet come pre-installed and so tends to be selected by people “who probably don’t need it”.

Imperfect solutions

The main solutions put forth during the MisinfoCon event are built around a list of recommendations put forward by a European Commission report on disinformation, published last year.

In the long-term it was generally agreed that Scottish policy makers should focus on developing media literacy in schools. Adults, too, could benefit from educational projects, perhaps modelled on the News Club project trialled in Brixton late last year.

In the more immediate term it seems like a combination of existing projects, like fact-checking, may be the best way forward while the future of well-funded investigative journalism continues to look bleak.

Some contributors encouraged a public health approach to the issue of misinformation and disinformation, drawing analogies between the changing social attitudes towards smoking.

The problems posed by misinformation and disinformation is a global one, but it now seems like Scotland could be a small part of the solution.

 

 

“They are willingly putting me out of business” – Leith Recording Company closes its doors today

Watch: Alan Moffat of Leith Recording Company on why he’s packing up the studio

The Leith Recording Company has closed down its music recording studio today due to the uncertain future of its premises.

Business owner and recording engineer Alan Moffat said:

“Emotionally, it was really tough. We built this place up over two years and in two hours it’s all been decommissioned”.

The Leith Recording Company is the latest business to be effected by the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the now famous building on Stead’s Place on lower Leith Walk.

The building has been at the centre of the Save Leith Walk campaign, a community protest movement that has petitioned the City of Edinburgh Council to block the demolition plans.

Drum Property Group, the property development company that owns the building and the land behind it, have submitted an application to knock down the building in order to make way for a block of student flats, a small hotel, shops and restaurants as well as some affordable homes.

Edinburgh university are known to be the preferred clients of the student accommodation block

Leith Recording Company was set up in 2016. As well as recording musicians from around the Edinburgh area, the studio space was also used by the Leith School of Music. Moffat was also involved in running a youth development programme, where primary school aged children would get a chance to record music for the first time.

Moffat says that he asked Drum Property for a rolling, month-to-month contract so he could continue to work until a planning decision had been reached by the council, but that the developers refused such a deal.

Moffat said: “The frustration is that Drum Property don’t have planning permission to do anything at all with this building just now.

“However they’ve refused to give me a month-to-month contract. They are willingly putting me out of business.

“Frankly, I think it’s disgusting.”

Paper Review 02/10/2018

 

Today’s papers with Ailean Beaton, David Paul and Luke Barry.

EN4 Morning News Brief

Good morning. This is the EN4 news brief for Tuesday the second of October.

Here are this morning’s top stories.

  • The Scottish Tories plan to beat back Boris
    The Conservative Party Conference enters its third day today and the big news is likely to be Boris Johnson’s speech to the conference fringe. The former Foreign Secretary has made it rather plain that he plans to target Prime Minister Theresa May and her Brexit strategy with his speech (which was trailed with this picture of him running through a field of wheat). The Herald reports that Scottish Conservative ministers plan to rally around their leader Ruth Davidson, who is seen as perhaps the only challenger to a Johnson leadership bid.Also speaking at the conference today will be Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Justice Secretary David Gauke.
  • A date has been set for Alex Salmond’s legal challenge
    The former First Minister’s lawsuit against the Scottish Government for the handling of the sexual misconduct investigation against him has been given a date: the 15th of January 2019. The four-day hearing will take place in the Court of Sessions in Edinburgh. Read more on the BBC.
  • House of Fraser new owner sacks senior staff
    Mike Ashley, the businessman who recently acquired House of Fraser for £58million has abruptly sacked the director and the senior management staff of the department store chain. This is the latest development in the ongoing issues surrounding the company, which has included the planned closure of 31 shops, including the one on Edinburgh’s West End, due to close in November.
  • Nicola Sturgeon announces a nation-wide consultation on the tourist tax
    The First Minister used her speech this morning at the Scottish Tourism Alliance autumn conference to show a compromise to the local councils around the country who have been pushing for the power to introduce a ‘tourist tax’, Holyrood Magazine reports.

In Tech: 

Facebook’s Hack story still unfolding…
It’s come to light that the massive hack that affected over 50 million Facebook users may also have lead to data being taken from third-party websites- perhaps anywhere else that users have logged in to using their Facebook accounts. There’s talk of a class-action lawsuit in the US and a GDPR fine in Europe, and we don’t even know the full extent of the hack yet.

 

Meanwhile in Edinburgh

What’s happening in the council today?

Edinburgh Council are discussing the Tourist Tax issue today as well. The council has been especially keen on the idea, despite not technically having the power to introduce such a tax, mainly as part of their push to make up a budget for the upcoming year. Keep an eye out for our local government reporter Liam MacKay’s coverage of the council’s budget woes this afternoon.

What’s happening in Holyrood?

Holyrood is hosting some events throughout the day today to highlight issues relating to old people. In there morning there’s an event sponsored by Miles Briggs MSP to mark Hospice Care week, and in the evening there’s an event to mark 75 years of Age UK.

This afternoon, our Holyrood correspondent Emer Harrison will be asking MSPs what challenges old people face and what the government can do to help.

Full calendar of Holyrood events.

The Weather

The Met Office are predicting 12°C and sunny for most of the day.


Thanks and make sure to visit en4news.com for all the latest news and culture.

 

Have a great day!

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