Monday, April 30, 2007

Journo union steps into hot water

Britain's National Union of Journalists, for whom I happen to be a member, has acted with a classic piece of foot-shooting this month.

During the usual rumpus and argument during their annual meeting, they somehow managed to vote in a boycott of Israeli goods. Not only is this pointless (in terms of effect), it damages the union, reflects poorly on us journalists trying to report both sides of an issues, and alienates those who disagree with the decision.

The whole affair reminds me of student politics, how poorly-attended meetings are hijacked by aparatchiks and minor militant movements, for their own zealous agendas.

I'm not arguing about Israel and the Palestinians here, to me that's a huge (and separate) issue: I'm arguing that this affair is pointless in result, and extremely damaging for the union. I predict harm will come from this, before at some point the resolution is quietly dropped.

Already the union has been ridiculed by its own members. Even a former NUJ president has added her weight to the argument. Although not exactly clean of muck itself, our government is none too pleased either...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Russian hockey fans

... are among some of the most vile in the world, apparently.

On April 11, Kazan’s Ak Bars ice hockey squad traveled to Magnitogorsk to play that city’s Metallurg team in a championship match. Russian fans held up banners with slogans like “Beat Up the Tatars!” “Don’t Shame the Memory of Ivan the Terrible!” and “Drown the Tatars—Save Russia!”

The federal Sports television channel carried the match, broadcasting pictures of these fans and their banners to a wide audience and provoking outrage among the authorities in Tatarstan, concern by Orthodox and Islamic leaders, and dismissive comments by some Russian politicians. Immediately after the match, Tatarstan President Mintimir Shaimiyev denounced the behavior of the Russian fans and said that such actions must not be allowed to go unpunished lest they exert an unhealthy influence on relations between Russians and Tatars. Tatarstan youth affairs minister Marat Bariyev dispatched telegrams of complaint to the Metallurg hockey team, to the Russian Hockey Federation and to the Russian Sports organization expressing Kazan’s outrage at the Russian fans’ “impermissible” actions.

The news agency took the lead in investigating the case and determining the reaction of political and religious leaders to it. In a summary of its findings, the agency said that these banners were the latest in a series of outrageous actions by fans in the Russian Federation. The news service said that “in recent times,” some Russian sports fans have carried flags “with Nazi symbols” on them and have changed “corresponding slogans.” And it noted that in such gatherings, activities of this kind can prove “difficult to control and have tragic consequences.”