Campaigning in 2021: the year in review – justice, equality and fighting for our planet

Protester with a flower standing in front of a police officer
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A few weeks ago I started my big shout out and heartfelt thank you to the thousands of Canary readers and supporters across the UK and beyond. Part two of that continues today. This article is dedicated to some of the other campaigns it was my honour to help amplify this year and the campaigners I spoke with.

As I said on 12 December, this is a mere snapshot. But it includes the kind words the people at the centre of these stories had to say about my work and that of The Canary. So, once again, in no particular order…

Justice and prisons

Whether it’s the serious and high profile case of Julian Assange or less well-known but important justice campaigns, The Canary covered these campaigns again in 2021. We highlighted miscarriages of justice and abuse of people inside prisons thereby doing what we could, as all journalists should, to advocate for justice.

One case I’ve been writing about for a number of years is the shocking miscarriage of justice case known as the Craigavon Two. This is a story of two men, Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton, from the Craigavon area in the north of Ireland. They’ve been in prison since 2009 for the killing of police officer Stephen Carroll. And they remain inside despite the evidence used to convict them being farcical.

In July this year I wrote about Wootton’s request to move out of Maghaberry prison. However, prison authorities have denied this request. Wootton and his supporters have labelled this, as well as the prison denying Wootton the opportunities afforded to others inside, as “discrimination”. They say he fits the criteria to warrant a transfer.

Like McConville, Wootton protests his innocence. Their campaign for justice continues and is currently with the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC). Campaigners hope the CCRC will send this case back to the Court of Appeal. Siobhán McConville, wife of Brendan McConville, said this about our coverage:

The Canary is one of very few current affair outlets that took the step of covering my husband’s case, Brendan McConville one of the two men, known as the Craigavon two. Journalist Peadar O’Cearnaigh from the Canary, independently gave his time to extensively research the case and has since given professional, unbiased reporting of case facts. This case is not only a sensitive but also historic case and while mainstream media for many years chose to ignore it, a small selection of Journalists have covered it. I run Brendan’s campaign and The Canary has helped the campaign by its articles for me to highlight and to further raise awareness of this current Miscarriage of Justice, which was once Chaired by the late Gerry Conlon and is supported by Paddy Hill, Michael O’Brien (Cardiff 3) Patrick Maguire (Maguire 7) Éamon O’Cuív, Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Maureen O’Sullivan, Francis Timmons many other TD’s and Councillor’s, Jengba (Joint Enterprise) Union’s and Council’s. Our campaign would like to thank Peadar O’Cearnaigh and The Canary for their continued accurate reporting of this case. Justice for the Craigavon two

Read on...

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We also wrote about those imprisoned under the joint enterprise doctrine. This doctrine means you could be convicted of a crime you didn’t commit, but the court believes you had something to do with it. One such example is the case of Osime Brown as highlighted by The Canary‘s Sophia Purdy-Moore. Grassroots campaign group Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA) believes the doctrine is “discriminatory towards working class and BAME communities”. JENGbA said this about our coverage:

The Canary is a great alternative to the main stream media, covering topics and news that might otherwise be ignored. The Canary has featured JENGbA (Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association) campaign updates and news when the MSM have said they are unable to due to as they term, “there being no balance”. As a campaign about racism and injustice in the British Justice System there rarely is a balanced side. How can there be a balanced story of injustice? It is of vital importance that our stories are published, so to be featured in The Canary allows them to be shared widely on social media where we tag MPs and legal professionals into them. JENGbA is a campaign that isn’t going away so The Canary features have had a great impact in gathering further support for the campaign.

Women’s rights

Selma James, author of Our Time Is Now: Sex, Race, Class, and Caring for People and Planet and the Global Women’s Strike (GWS), sat down with The Canary in November to discuss her life of activism. It would be almost impossible to list the many campaigns she’s been involved in throughout her life, but she’s possibly best known for the campaign for the “unwaged” work women do “on the land, in the home, and in the community”. In any case, she describes herself as “an anti-capitalist organiser beginning with women”. In assessing The Canary‘s coverage, James said:

We thank The Canary for its articulate non-jargon independent news which never covers for the crimes of the establishment – a rarity when so much of the media is embedded with government and their allies. In The Canary we find out about the vicious campaign to extradite journalist Julian Assange for his Wikileaks disclosures, the Royal College of Psychiatrists giving ‘Enabling Environment’ awards to prisons that torture prisoners with solitary confinement, the ethnic-cleansing of Palestinians under Israeli apartheid, and so much more. Also rare and much needed was The Canary’s determined reporting on the manufactured charges of antisemitism used by the right-wing to destroy Jeremy Corbyn and the mass movement he led. The Canary’s editorial team was targeted for their principled antiracist anti-imperialist stance and deserve all our support.

The Women of Colour GWS added:

News sites “biased in favour of social justice” are rare and more needed than ever. That’s why we follow The Canary — it covers issues close to our hearts, in fresh, every-day language. The article on Osime Brown’s campaign for justice is just one among many – this kind of journalism can be life-saving.  Not many media outlets take a consistent position with Palestine, a key anti-racist and human rights issue of our time. It has weathered a storm for holding onto principles. For us and many others, The Canary not only sings – it flies high.

Amma Birth Companions

Since 2020, The Canary has increased its coverage of Wales and Scotland. In June this year, we highlighted the cramped conditions asylum seeker women and their babies were enduring in Glasgow. Campaigners from the Roof Coalition called on the Home Office to close this accommodation and to “ensure that every baby and child in Glasgow has access to safe, suitable housing—including those in the asylum process”. Amma Birth Companions, one of the groups involved in the Roof Coalition, gave its assessment of our coverage:

Amma Birth Companions and the other organisations involved with The Roof Coalition were grateful to receive coverage of our #FreedomToCrawl campaign in The Canary earlier this year. This exposure helped to strengthen our efforts in campaigning to take action to ensure that every baby and child in Glasgow has access to safe, suitable housing—including those in the asylum process. By amplifying the voices of marginalised groups in the public realm, we can ensure that the people we support are heard in the important issues that affect their lives. We are still working to pressure Mears and the Home Office to close the Mother & Baby Unit in Glasgow and to move mothers and their infants to more suitable accommodation within the city.

Racial equality in Wales

In March 2021, during the lead up to the Senedd (Welsh parliament) elections, we highlighted the amazing work of YesCymruBAME and the Race Alliance Wales (RAW). They fight against and research racism and its effects in Wales. RAW has called for societal changes to make people in racialised communities feel more comfortable in British culture.

YesCymruBAME highlighted the disgusting treatment of Black and minority communities at the hands of the police in Wales. In our articles, we also highlighted this racism and discrimination as well as inequality against minority communities in education and public life. Leila Usmani of RAW said:

The Canary, as an independent media outlet, is invaluable to our work for change in Wales and impacting the political agenda. Being able to have The Canary highlight our research on public and political representation in Wales gave our campaign a platform that many other mainstream media outlets do not pick up on [due to] their centrality of English news and focus. The Canary amplifies the voice of organisations in devolved nations through a credible platform, raising our agenda, not being afraid to call things as they are.

Welsh independence

As we approached the lead-up to the Brexit withdrawal negotiations at the end of 2020, our coverage highlighted that Boris Johnson had failed to deliver on his 2019 election promises. What a surprise! The situation further highlighted the need for Welsh independence.

Our coverage also brought to the fore a universal theme – the housing crisis. In Wales, not only has this meant housing has become unaffordable for many, but it’s also resulted in an attack on Welsh communities and the Welsh language. This has come about following the implementation of neoliberal policies by successive Welsh and UK governments. Socialist, republican independence campaign group UNDOD said:

In giving us a platform early on in our campaigns The Canary has been instrumental in enabling our voice to be heard and in legitimising our experiences. When raising issues with the Canary we can be confident in the portrayal of that issue.

In its reporting of the Housing Crisis in Wales The Canary was one of the first to bring various aspects and symptoms of the crisis together.  In so doing we were able to talk about issues that were affecting our working class communities and the very real impact it was having on community life and the people of Wales.

Undod is a very young campaign group relatively speaking to others actively campaigning on housing in Wales over the last 2 to 3 years. Groups such as Cymdeithas yr Iaith have been campaigning on the detrimental impact of holiday and second home ownership on our communities and on the Welsh Language for around 60 years. It was important for us to establish our campaign and its purpose, and to differentiate our approach from that of other campaign groups. We needed to be able to speak authentically from Undod’s perspective, The Canary allowed for that to happen.

In its way of supporting, platforming and giving exposure The Canary has been a part of the recent wave in campaigning by the people of Wales for the people of Wales. This campaigning has been a contributor to our growing confidence as a nation and people, a confidence that can be felt in all aspects of our expression – from sports to culture, right through to our politicians. This can only be a good thing as we look forward to a future where we know, if we insist that things can be better, they might just be.

The Welsh language

Related to the neoliberal housing crisis is the fight to preserve the Welsh language. Language campaigners believe the two are linked because “young people [from Welsh speaking communities] are forced to move because such a large proportion of the houses are bought at inflated prices by richer people”. They say these rich people don’t have connections to the community and use these houses as holiday or second homes. Because of this, campaigners believe “the future of the Welsh language looks bleak”.

Mabli Siriol Jones, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith (the Welsh Language Society) says:

The Canary does great work in bringing attention to the issues facing communities in Wales and the Welsh language, that are often ignored by the mainstream media or treated in a tokenistic way. Diolch yn fawr / thank you to Peadar and the rest of the Canary team for giving a platform to these stories, and the communities and campaigners who are fighting for a more just future for everyone. Nadolig llawen!

The climate crisis

And last but certainly not least, the environment. Or rather, the attack on our environment by the forces of capitalism. The Canary’s Tracy Keeling has written extensively on the damage to nature. Myself and Tracy both attended the climate conference COP26 in Glasgow this year to add to The Canary‘s extensive coverage of the climate crisis.

As a media outlet, we’ve also been reporting for a number of years on the campaign against the environmental damage done and financial waste created by the HS2 high-speed rail project. That includes the abusive behaviour towards protesters by HS2 security staff, police, and bailiffs.

Again in 2021, The Canary covered this anti-HS2 campaign when protesters took on the companies financing it and went to court to protect the nature suffering from it. The campaign group HS2 Rebellion had this to say about our coverage:

The Canary has always shown clear headedness with their reporting, and have reported facts cleanly and without bias. The Canary has brought our campaign to a wider audience. Their articles have integrity and impact.

This fight continues…

While that completes my personal round up on these campaigns, it’s only a very small taste of what we covered throughout 2021. You’ll be able to catch up on the many of the other Year in Review articles here.

So once again, thank you all for supporting independent media outlets such as The Canary. You’ve no idea how much this helps the campaigns and helps us. It plays such important part in the job of tackling the inequality that faces us all. So thank you for 2021 and here’s to 2022 – another year in progressing the struggle for a fair society.

Featured image via YouTube Screengrab – Channel 4 News

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