As we approach the end of 2021, I’d like to give a big shout out and say a heartfelt thank you to the thousands of Canary readers and supporters across the UK and beyond. I’ll be doing that this weekend and next. And in doing so, I’d like to mention a few of the campaigns it was my honour to help amplify this year.
So this first article – because there’s far too much to fit into just one – is just a snapshot of some of the campaigns and stories I’ve had the privilege to write about over the last year. It also focuses on the very kind words that the people at the centre of these stories had to say about my work and that of The Canary. So, in no particular order…
Antisemitism smear campaign
The right wing of the Labour Party attempted to smear former Labour MP Chris Williamson in 2019. And when they did, very few media outlets published the truth about this scandal. So it was essential there was a media outlet like The Canary prepared to right that wrong.
That year, the Labour Party suspended Williamson twice. However, as we reported, the High Court found his second suspension to be “unlawful”, in Williamson’s words. We then continued to report extensively and factually on Williamson’s case. This saw us publish his rebuttal of the smears against him.
Following his resignation from the Labour Party, Williamson started a new grassroots movement called Resist in 2020. Representing The Canary, I attended its first ever politics festival in October this year. Since that festival, the membership has voted to register as a political party. When asked to explain what our coverage over the years meant, Williamson told me:
When the corporate media joined in the despicable smears being peddled about me by Labour Party Blairites and the Zionist lobby, the Canary accurately and fearlessly reported the truth about the bogus anti-Semitism allegations against me. I therefore can’t recommend the Canary highly enough. It is a beacon of journalistic integrity in sharp contrast to the corporate media that is defined by dishonest and immoral practices.
Moreover, he reflected on why The Canary stands out as a media outlet:
The Canary holds the powerful to account, while the corporate media operates as a mouthpiece for the neoliberal status quo. In these difficult times in which we are currently living, the Canary is more important than ever because it is a voice for the many, not the few, which is why it deserves our support to help it grow.
The conflict in Ireland
A subject especially and tragically close to my own heart is the 30-year conflict in Ireland. And while the guns and bombs fell silent in 1998, that conflict has still not fully ended. Because the families of the over 3,700 people dead and almost 50,000 injured are still fighting for truth and justice. That’s despite the best efforts of the Tory government to wish it all away.
Ciarán MacAirt, of victims advocacy group Paper Trail, is at the forefront of the campaign for justice for victims of British state violence and terrorism. MacAirt is also the grandson of two of the victims of the McGurk’s Bar bombing. That’s the Belfast bar British loyalists bombed just over 50 years ago. And it’s one of the many bombings of that conflict in which victims’ families allege British state collusion with loyalist terrorists.
MacAirt had this to say about our coverage:
In an age when billionaires and governments control the agenda of mainstream media, we need the investigative independence of the Canary all the more. The Canary and Peadar Ó Cearnaigh especially have given time and space for the stories of victims and survivors of the conflict in the north of Ireland. These have included uncomfortable conversations for many British citizens who have been fed half-truth and lies for decades. We just need to look across the mainstream British media today to see that this propaganda has only increased and not diminished. The Canary helped give many of our families a platform to tell our story at a time when the state is deploying all its might to bury its war crimes and block our access to the due process of the law.
The Canary has been relentless in highlighting the brutality of the Israeli apartheid regime. And 2021 was no different. This year I wrote about Israel’s attack on the environment and how its attempts at greenwashing were inflicting further damage on Palestinian communities.
In the lead up to COP26 in Glasgow, I spoke with Palestinian activists and environmental campaigners. But I could only speak to these activists via video link, despite being present at the conference myself. That was because the UK had effectively blocked them from coming to Glasgow. This was based on the UK’s nationality-based coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions. Soon after COP26, I learned of Israel’s attempts to demolish five Palestinian schools in the Jordan Valley. Campaign group Stop the Wall (STW) was fighting this demolition. STW had this to say:
The entire Palestinian civil society delegation could not show up to the COP26 last November due to the UK government’s discriminatory practices against Palestinians seen in the set COVID-19 and visa restrictions. While Israel was proud of sending 120 people to represent it, a settler colonial and apartheid structure, and speak loudly on its behalf, Palestinian voices from afar were disrupting attempts to make their colonizers’ voices louder than theirs through the different media platforms that amplified our voices; the Canary UK was one of these platforms- Thank you!
More than one article was published by the Canary UK during the conference to highlight and denounce making absent Palestinians who bear the brunt of the climate crisis due to Israeli apartheid regime. We see in our messages conveyed through the Canary UK a part of the counter-hegemonic discourse needed to challenge and deconstruct mainstream narratives that continue to marginalize and invisibilize us.
The Canary UK has also made our campaigning against Israeli oppression more effective by shedding light on the five Palestinian schools that face imminent Israeli demolition in the Jordan Valley. This act of making our struggle on the ground more visible strengthens the steadfastness of Palestinians who grapple daily with Israel’s apparatuses of violence and oppression. When Stop the Wall Campaign shared with Ja’far Fuqaha, the head teacher of Al-Maleh School, one of the threatened schools by Israeli demolition, the Canary UK article, he commented, “this act of solidarity means a lot to our struggle; it fuels us with hope and more energy to continue the fight to protect our schools and fulfill our human right to education.
The group went on to express hope for The Canary to continue in its mission:
We trust that the Canary UK will continue to create more spaces for Palestinians to deepen the cracks in Israel’s visible and invisible walls of oppression, injustice, exclusion and discrimination until we completely dismantle them. We hope you continue amplifying our campaigns against Israeli home demolition, water apartheid, denial of education, systemic state and settlers violence, land seizure, and international complicity with apartheid Israel.
Mining is another topic The Canary has covered extensively over the years. And COP26 was the ideal time to highlight the plight of indigenous communities in the Americas fighting back against the destruction mining has brought to their communities. It was particularly pertinent to highlight their fight because they feel their rights are being trampled on by companies mining for minerals – such as gold and copper – that have been earmarked as minerals to help the transition to a more environmentally friendly economy. Well, it doesn’t feel all that environmentally friendly to these communities.
Campaign manager at community and environmental campaign group Earthworks Jan Morrill said about our coverage:
I appreciate the Canary’s coverage of the social, environmental and cultural harms caused by dangerous mining practices across the globe. Peadar O’Cearnaigh’s “Large corporations can’t mine their way out of the climate crisis” was one of the few stories surrounding the COP26 that highlighted the risks of rushing forward with the transition to greener technologies without addressing the detrimental effects of mineral extraction. By centering Indigenous and frontline community voices in his article, O’Cearnaigh showed the very real threats risky mining projects pose on the ground and the changes those most affected by mining projects demand. I look forward to future coverage in the Canary of these and other important issues.
Closer to home, The Canary has given extensive coverage to the proposed goldmine site in Greencastle County Tyrone. Since Dalradian Gold Limited submitted its application to mine in 2017, there have been almost 38,000 objections and The Canary discovered that some of Dalradian’s carbon neutral claims just didn’t add up. As the campaign against this mine intensifies, campaigners believe they are also fighting the police as well as the goldmining company. In September this year, they alleged the police were harassing campaigners.
Martin Tracey (Anti-Goldmine campaigner Greencastle, Co. Tyrone) said this:
The Canary, a shining light in the darkness!!
When we don’t have a voice of our own or the powers that be are in control of the mainstream propaganda machines…
Taking a look from the eyes of the people that are living and breathing a campaign, what ever it may be toxic gold mining, fracking or environmental issues does not now or will not ever fit the agenda of main stream media outlets.
So it is so important that we have such strong independent journalism/media in the form of The Canary. From our first contact with Peadar at The Canary we found that if there was a story of interest he was prepared to do the hard work of investigating, nothing was ever a problem and in many cases was able to bring out a much larger story than we even believed it to be when we first looked at it, that is such an energizing feel to see our concerns actually out in the public either.
Tracey went on to add what support from The Canary meant for their campaign:
we have a standing joke that we after 5 years are running on fumes!! Well things like an issue being highlighted by the Canary is like getting the tank filled or our batteries fully charged and helps drive us on and keeps us going.
This is why supporting and helping fund such platforms The Canary is so vitally important and the life blood getting the truth out to those had have decided that knowledge is the real power, rather than being force fed through main stream media with the agenda’s of big business, multinational corporations or politicians at the fore.
Impossible without support
The mainstream media is utterly failing in its responsibility to hold big business and government to account. So it has fallen on small independent outlets such as The Canary to take up this fight. We do what we can to amplify the voices of campaign groups and others fighting for justice. If we weren’t responsible with how we handle these campaigns and stories, nobody would trust us to write about them again and again. And if people didn’t come back to us again and again, we wouldn’t have survived and thrived for as long as we have.
So, in addition to revisiting some of these important campaigns, I want to say a massive “Thank You” to everybody I worked with this year and before then. It is an honour to be trusted to write about these campaigns and to do whatever I can to assist in the collective struggle. Thank you for sticking with us, and I look forward to working with you again. And of course, more on this next week.
Featured image via Flickr – Seattle Parks and Recreation
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