Tuesday, 20 February 2018






ENOUGH ALREADY!!



It's February 2018 and already in the USA this year, there have been 18 mass school shootings.

Of course, this happens so often in the US now, we know the routine. And even though shootings and terrorist attacks are rare in the UK, we have the same narrative. It happened after Westminster, after London Bridge and after the Ariana concert bombing. 

It goes as follows: the incident - whatever it is - happens, people are outraged. We say how sad we are. We use a #PrayingFor..... hashtag on social media, go to said place if we live nearby to lay flowers, hang balloons, sing songs, light tea lights, etc. And give thoughts and prayers to the victims who we claim to care about, but whom we will have forgotten about next week. I'm an empath, someone who believes in love, life, and peace above all else, and even I am guilty of this, I'm ashamed to say. 

 Or if you're on the idiot side (God forbid), you'll go on ad nauseam, about how it was all the government's fault, how it was a psyop/false flag event with crisis actors and how the victims' families and the survivors are lying.  The excuse that there were shooter drills a few days before is also flawed logic. You would except them do this and prepare for a shooting, considering how many there have already been. Why is that any different from a fire drill, a tsunami drill or an earthquake drill? Please know that I have nothing but utter contempt for the people who talk this rubbish, especially, as in Sandy Hook, there were those who actually went to the houses of said families and bullied them, saying that the thing never happened.These people are despicable and should be jailed.

ENOUGH ALREADY!!

Most Americans want mass shootings to stop, of course they do. The problems we have are gun owners, the NRA, and the government. We'll take them in turn.

First the NRA and the gun nuts. Maybe you need to take a good, hard look at yourself and ask why the hell you are so damned obsessed with weapons. Why the hell would anyone need an AR-15 rifle in their house? I am so fed up of hearing the, "It's in the constitution!" argument. Its got boring. If this is your only answer, then your argument is invalid. The constitution was written in 1776 for Heaven's sake! It was a) talking about militias and not every sodding person in the USA and 2) There's a difference between a flintlock musket and an automatic rifle. You are not Minute Men, you are NOT in the militia (today it's the National Guard), so why the hell do you need a weapon? There is certainly no reason to openly carry one. And stop saying the constitution cannot be changed. What a load of nonsense. It's been changed many times on many occasions.

And no-one is trying to take your damn guns away. All that's been suggested is that people have background checks before they can buy a military-grade weapon. Why is that such a problem? Is it possibly because you know damn well that if you have to have one you may be found mentally unfit to own a weapon? And what are you trying to hide that makes you fear a background check so much?

The worst gun nuts are the ones who say, "This was a false flag. It was done to garner the sympathy of the public, so they can vote for gun legislation as a way for the government to take our guns away". Oh and while we're on the subject of barmy people, how about, "If a goverment person came to my yard and tried to take my gun(s) away, I would shoot him!". I'm sorry, but if you find either of these arguments sensible, then that is exactly the reason your weapons should be removed from your possession, as you are clearly not mentally fit enough to be trusted with one in the first place. And don't say it's your "God-given right" to own a gun! That is ridiculous!

You think that isn't insane enough, how about this: the best way to stop mass school shootings is to arm the teachers! Arrrgh! So, the answer to gun violence is more gun violence? Where the hell is the logic in that?

The answer is proper gun control. In the UK, we had a mass shooting in a school in Dunblane in Scotland. After it happened, gun control was reinforced. We haven't had a mass school shooting since. That tells me that gun control works better than arming people against people being armed. We need to stop the cycle of violence, not make it worse.

Next, the government: Firstly, all politicians need to refuse funding from the NRA. Then they can't say "we have to support the NRA and be in their pockets because they paid for campaigns/elections etc" Stop the funding, stop the excuses.

Stop blaming mass shootings on mental health when you just repealed legislation that made it harder for people with mental health problems to get a gun. If that restriction was still in place then the guy couldn't have got hold of a gun in the first place!

Oh and can you please stop coming up with the tired old "this is not the time to talk about guns" chestnut. When the hell will it be time? Translation: "We are not going to talk about it, because it will piss off the NRA!". Sod the NRA. Let them complain. Stop accepting funding from them, get some balls and do something. Don't arm the teachers. Do something constructive like ban assault rifles and bump stocks. Don't tell me it won't work. It worked here in the UK. And don't bother with the "thoughts and prayers" BS. Unless you are willing to act on it, your thoughts and prayers are empty words, nothing more.

All I hear are the same tired cliches from gun owners, the same gutless crap from the goverment and I see the same boring crap on social media. ENOUGH!!

Do something about gun crime, I mean REALLY do something. Talk about mental health, ideology, and the gun culture and find a way to sort this out.

No more, please! 


"Maybe the end begins with one boy putting down his gun" - Jonathan Frakes (TNG - The High Ground)




Saturday, 10 February 2018




KIM JONG UN-ITED


Friday was the day of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, South Korea. It was, as most ceremonies are, utterly amazing and stunningly beautiful. The sense of pride, joy and comradeship was all there. Although, they drew the line at having the president of Korea, Moon Jae-in, drop from a helicopter, in the same way the UK did with a pretend queen, while doing a James Bond stunt in 2012. 

One of the highlights of the show was a team from North Korea (DPRK), the most isolated, closed country on Earth, walking into the ceremony, together as a team with its counterparts from South Korea. They were all smiling, all wearing the same uniform and all walking under a united banner which illustrated a picture of the whole of Korea.  

The united banner of "Korea"
The smiling Korean team


This looks and sounds wonderful. But is it? 

While we are watching this thrilling spectacle, we must also remember that Korea and the DPRK have never really got on. Between 25 June 1950 and 27 Jul 1953 the Peninsula was in a full scale war when the North, under the rule of the founder of the nation, Kim Il-Sung, invaded the South, with the intention of uniting the country. It didn't happen. The thing is, even though no-one is shooting anymore, there was no peace treaty signed in 1953 when everyone stopped fighting. They have the demilitarized zone (or as we Trek fans are fond of calling it, "The Dee-Em-Zee") and that's it. So technically, though no-one is killing each other war is still going on. 

Kim Jong-un (Supreme leader and grandson of the founder) is not a man to be trusted. Though I would trust him over Donald Trump any day of the week. He (Kim) has over 300 people in South Korea for the Olympic ceremony, including party leaders, his cousin, the Moranbong (a really odd, but really cool female military rock group), cheerleaders and of course the competitors themselves. He has also invited Moon Jae-in to visit the North which, even though it sounds good, also sounds really suss. Much as I would like to believe that this is all what it looks like at face value: two nations working happily together, I can't help but feel that, behind the smiles, and the friendship, there is some political motive. Either in regard to Kim's nuclear weapons programme, or because Kim still wants to fulfill his grandfather's idea of a unified country. Yes, I'm cynical, but going on the past history of the countries and their leaders, it's unlikely to be a surprise if it happened. 

There is one other thing about this that bothers me. I can't fix it, but I can be compassionate about it. The North Korean athletes have been playing their hearts out. But is it because they enjoy it, or because they are pressured to do well? At home, no-one is allowed to step out of line and they have to show utter perfection in everything they do (watch the cheerleaders. They are not doing this out of fun. Their routine is regimented and precise, the girls specifically chosen, presumably by Kim). The united Korean team played a lovely game of ice hockey against the Swiss. It was a lot of fun to watch and it was amazing to watch girls and guys from North and South Korea playing together. The only thing is the Swiss beat the Koreans to the bonkers score  of 8-0. OUCH. 

The question is: What happens to these wonderful athletes if they go home without any medals? In the eyes of the West, the North Koreans have plenty to be proud of: they have been just amazing and have played with just as much enthusiasm as any other country. And there's the fact that they managed to qualify for the Olympics in the first place. 

Unfortunately, I doubt that is how President Kim will see it. In the DPRK, stepping out of line and putting one foot wrong, is punished. I suspect failure is classed as an embarrassment and warrants the same fate. I hope I'm wrong, but I worry about what may happen to these wonderful athletes if they fail to win. They made an impact in the games, which is good, but if they win no medals, life may get hard for them when they go home. 

Right now, all we can do is watch and wait to see where this goes. Hopefully it will be exactly what it appears to be: a wonderful collaboration between two countries who are used to being on opposite sides, with North Korea spreading its arms open in friendship to the South. Which is pretty brilliant!!

I will leave you with the wonderful Moranbong:





"War may keep an enemy at bay, but only peace can make him a friend" ~ Kai Winn (Deep Space 9)







Tuesday, 30 January 2018





Don't Tell Me You're a Woman.



This blog may sound a bit strange coming from a woman, but I have been witnessing stuff over the last few days on social media that has been doing my nut in. 

Before we start. let me just digress and say one thing. I hate American Award ceremonies. Award ceremonies in the States are so annoying. The exception being the News Emmys where everyone is sensible.The ones in the UK are so much nicer. They are polite, they are dignified. People don't scream like they just won the mega-millions or a prize on a game show. They go up - quietly - get their award, give a polite speech, then go the hell away.  That's how it should be. Oh, and no-one tries to turn it into a platform for some boring social agenda.There's a time and place for such things. An award ceremony isn't it.

Anyway, it was one of those crappy awards ceremonies in America that prompted me to write this. I think it was the Oscars - someone feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Then it was the Grammys.

There were women complaining about not getting on in movies and in music and using their gender as an excuse for it, saying there was a distinct lack of women nominated for, or receiving awards. 

Before everyone castigates me for this, I will make two things clear. Firstly, I am NOT talking about the gender pay gap issue. I am totally on board with women being paid the same money as a man for the same job. To use an example that makes sense to me: Julie Etchingham should be paid equal to Alastair Stewart as they both do the same job, or Kate Adie should have been paid the same as Bill Neely because they did the same job. You get the idea. 

Secondly I am not having a go at the #MeToo bunch. I have been perved on. I've been sexually, verbally, and physically assaulted (ie hit) by several men. It is horrific and psychologically damaging. I know. I've been there. I don't trust men easily. There are only three men in my life I trust right now. So, no. #MeToo are not my problem either, except the unscrupulous ones who consent to get a job now and cry "Wolf!" later. It is difficult to get to grips with this, I know, but they do exist. I've known a few. Anyone who is willing to cheapen themselves like that deserves no sympathy whatsoever.  Thankfully, I believe most of the people in the #MeToo campaign have a genuine grievance and as someone who has been through abuse, I stand by them. And any man who abuses a woman should be jailed. 

Having cleared that up, the thing that really annoys me are the women who say, "There are not many women represented at the Oscars/Grammys/Emmys.....(insert crap US award ceremony of your choice), and then assume it's a sex thing. NO IT ISN'T. It has nothing to do with you having a vagina or not and I'm fed up of these women making it out that it is. It's because you're NOT good enough to be considered. 

I'll tell you a story. We all know my dream of being in journalism. I can't get a paid job. But it is more to do with ageism, rather than sexism. Older people such as myself are not encouraged to become journalists. Even one of my heroes, Martin Bell, said journalism is a young person's game. He's right. So where does that leave me? Do I whimper in a corner and say, "Oh, well I may as well not try because I'm too old for the job!"? No. If I had that attitude, I wouldn't even be writing this. It only makes me more determined to prove to the people I admire that I am worthy of attention and consideration. I may not go to war zones (you need quick reactions, I don't think I have them, though I could be wrong) , but I can write and can make my newsie videos about things that matter to me. It's a small thing, but it shows my passion.

One of the women who broke the glass ceiling and has inspired me is NBC's Deborah Turness. And another woman I am thrilled to call a hero is BBC's Kate Adie. They are a women, yes and they had to work twice as hard to get where they are now. But did they moan about that? NO. They busted a gut to show they were as capable of doing the job as anyone is. They worked their asses off to get recognised and to achieve what they have. And they have encouraged me to do the same. 

And so it should be with these women at the award ceremonies. If you want to be given serious attention and consideration, you need to show that you have the passion. Not by your looks, but by your actions. Make a film that REALLY grabs people's attention. Improve your acting skills. Same with the Grammys. You want to grab attention? Then write that one song that will knock 'em dead.  Better still learn to sing, REALLY sing, properly. All I seem to hear these days (with the exception of Ariana, and Adele who are amazing singers) are woman squeaking and screaming. That would turn me off, never mind the Grammy committee. SING CORRECTLY.  

To get your dream - as I'm always being reminded - takes persistence and sticking power and needing to show you can do it. Being a woman has absolutely NOTHING to do with it!

So stop using your sex as a justification for your failures. or as an excuse for not getting what you want. Get off your backsides and work for what you desire. Then you will be noticed.  Stop using your gender as a Get out of Jail Free card. You want an award? Show people you deserve it.

Oh and one last thing: I've seen a lot of women complaining of abuse after guys tell them they look good in a dress or by calling them "Babe" or "Love" or "Darling" or something! For God's sake, why can't you just take a compliment in good faith when it's given? If a man told me I looked sexy in a dress or my hair looked nice, I would be immensely flattered. Giving a compliment is not a crime! GROW THE HELL UP! Now, I don't like being called "Love" or "Babe"either, but that's more because they sound dumb, not because they are offensive. But, "Honey", "Sweetheart", "My dear", Sweet Pea (Don uses that sometimes)" etc, etc? Knock yourself out. As long as it is done in kindness and not malice, what the hell is the deal? Jeez. Some women really need to get over themselves. I've been abused/bullied - a lot. I know the difference. And believe me neither of these things are. 

I'm a woman. But if you want to complain that some guy called you sweetheart or said your hair looked cool, don't come to me. And stop being so damn sensitive about people being nice to you. 

If a guy touches you inappropriately (the only grey area is hugging. some people are naturally affectionate. Hugging doesn't always mean abuse. However in the wrong circumstances I can see why it would be awkward) or smacks you, then you can moan. Until then, give a rest!!

 Better still, go away. You're giving woman like me, who are actually trying our best. a very bad name!!

I'm AM a woman and even I DON'T want to hear about it!
















Friday, 24 November 2017




THE DANGERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA
(OR "LOSE TALK COSTS LIVES")





I really love social media, well most of it. There are exceptions like Facebook, which I loathe with a passion, but overall I think it's a pretty cool thing. If it hadn't been for social media, I would never have made amazing friends, worked for an amazing charity and met some throughly nice people.

I love Twitter, especially as it gives me a chance to express my opinions, something I'm not ordinarily allowed to do much for fear of being shut down. It also gives me the chance to let off steam at people who deserve to be called out on their behaviour, whereas you would feel bad doing that to their face. For example, could you imagine telling Donald Trump to his face, that he is a disgrace to the United States. Scary, eh? Especially, for a journalist as he seems to have a deep hatred for the media. But on Twitter no problem at all. I have called him out many times for his behaviour and it was completely deserved.

 However, social media (I'll focus on Twitter because that is my main social media site) is not always a good thing. It can be used to promote very, very bad things. But there is one other thing it does that drives me completely insane.

Every time an incident of some sort happens nowadays (most recently a fight that broke out in a tube station), people instantly jump up and start spreading nonsense on Twitter. Saying things like, "I bet it was terrorism", or "I bet it was the Muslims again", or worse we have the "This is a false flag/crisis actor" nutters. And then, as if that wasn't enough, we have bigots and gobshites like Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins who can't wait to shove their racist tupenny worth in. None of this is constructive, nor is it sensible and it can, in fact be downright dangerous. 

In World War II there was a saying, "Careless talk cost lives". It is as true today as it was then, if not more so. In this age of uncertainty and global terrorism, we have to be very careful what we say and how we say it. We should not be blabbing stuff all over social media that is either false, racist or both. This applies to journalists and non-journalists alike. 

As Bill Neely once said, "False words, inaccurate words....can be very dangerous!" and "Words can kill. If you're standing on a street corner and you say, 'This ethnic group was responsible for this' and it's broadcast, it could be that, a few hours later, you are responsible for someone's death! Because someone has heard you..or these days read your tweet and then taken action". 

This is so important and to me is just plain common sense. Do not say things you can't verify, without admitting you can't, don't spread rumours that this group/person was responsible, or this was such-and-such a device when you have no idea. And as to the false flag nutters, well my feelings about them are very clear there: STAY QUIET!  

Wait for confirmation from official sources, namely the police before saying anything.

Remember, careless talk costs lives. Or as they say in lovely Northern Ireland: 

"Whatever you say, SAY NOTHING".


Even more true today than it was in WWII







Saturday, 14 October 2017




LEARNING TO LIVE WITHOUT EMPATHY


As an aspiring journalist, I usually concentrate on news when writing a blog. However this time I'm not. I want to explain a bit about myself and why I am in trouble. 

Most people see the world exactly as it is. They take someone at face value, see the surface and have no idea about who that person is other then via their behaviour and body language. They can watch a news story and face it with practical eyes. If a major news story happens where a lot of people are hurt, they can be saddened and shocked, as would anyone, but then they can carry on with their own lives without thinking too much about it. It's just another news story. 

They can spend time in a crowd and not be bothered by it. They can see only what their eyes tell them. And they can experience stuff when it happens and not know what may happen later. 

This is not me. I am described accurately as an empath. I see the world differently from other people. I am also an HSP, but that is something else and is related, but is a discussion for another time. Right now, we are talking about being an empath. Here are a few examples to help you understand what I am. It's not something I can turn on or off. It's a part of me just as your eyesight is a part of you.

 If I meet someone I know instantly if they are trustworthy or not. Because I will be able to pick up on the energy the are projecting my way. If I feel any bad vibes from them, I walk away. When I went to college as soon as I met my tutor, she projected such bad energy that she gave me the creeps. She didn't even have to open her mouth. I knew she was trouble. I should have walked away right there and then, but I needed to get my education. As it turned out I was right and thanks to her, my education collapsed. 

At the other end of the spectrum: Five years ago I met my friend Bill Neely for the first time. He was exactly the opposite to the tutor. He was open and generous with his emotions and was hiding nothing except his own private thoughts. I felt nothing but good vibes from him. I knew the instant I met him that I could trust him 100%. I know I still can. We have been friends ever since and I consider it a privilege.



Then there are people who are half and half. They seem nice, but something is hidden underneath. I don't mean secrets exactly, as everyone is entitled to their privacy, but more that there is a side to them that they don't want you to see, even though they are acting friendly enough. These are the people to be most wary of: they are not necessarily bad people, but as they are hiding something, they are not to be instantly trusted. These are the ones that you learn to trust over time. Of course, they could be an empath and they are putting up a wall for their own protection. This is vital to our survial, in a world full of emotion otherwise we would absorb them like a sponge and they would overwhelm us to the point of insanity.



Take news events. One of the strongest memories I have of my empathy was on 9/11. At about 1pm (8am New York) I set off to go to my afternoon shift in the Cinema. Something was bothering me. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew something was out of place. The atmosphere felt just weird. I tried to shut it out but it was too much.  I arrived at work at 2.10 (9.10 am in New York) just after plane 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Centre. I hadn't seen this, but I knew something was wrong and it was very serious. As I walked in, my friend said,"Come upstairs and see this!". I knew what he was going to show me before I even got there. A disaster, an unimaginable one. As soon as I saw the images on TV, everything clicked into place. And you can imagine how I felt for the  rest of the day as a person who is an emotional magnet.

Everytime there is an attack anywhere I feel the pain and the confusion of what is happening. And I can't shut it out. Sometimes it can be awful. but I just have to erect the wall and hope it holds up. That why empaths and HSP's tend to not watch the news because they can't handle the upsetting images or cope with the tsunami of emotions that go with it, both their own and from the people involved. The other one that affected my senses quite badly was the Boston Marathon. 

Let's move onto some fun stuff, when being an empath can be fun. 

Trying to plan a surprise for an empath is virtually impossible, because they know you are up to something. Don has virtually given up trying to surprise me with presents, because I know I'm getting it. Now he just asks me what I want instead.

There are times being in a crowd is wonderful. For instance, I love going to the London Marathon, because everyone is happy. All I get are amazing lovely vibes from feeling the happiness of people all sharing the same joy of helping charity and running with others. The only pain I feel is - as the last time - if my friends are struggling because of injury. Other than that though, it's just happiness and joy. The London Marathon in 2013 was even more emotionally charged as we were supporting the people of Boston. It felt incredible.

So why am I in trouble? Well, basically and simply, my empathy - for whatever reason - has suddenly switched off. A friend who lives near me suggested that my emotions have become so overwhelmed, that they have shut off as a form of self protection, a more permanent wall, shall we say. Which makes absolutely perfect sense.

I am now seeing the world the same way as everyone else does. Unfortunately, I don't know how to work like that because I've never had to.

I can't live this way. I am trying to, but it is very hard not having the survial instinct that has served me so well in the past. To use an example of my friend Bill: you have to work out whether it is safe to go another hundred yards up a road. I wouldn't have to try and work it out. I would know. Except at the moment I'm as clueless as everyone else.

Bill once described it as 'emotional intelligence', which is a delightful and accurate description. But now I don't have it, does that mean I'm suddenly emotionally stupid? Well, no....and yes. No, because I still feel emotion. However, there is only mine rather than everyone else's. But yes, because my empathy is a part of me, so it's more accurate to say I'm emotionally blind. I can't sense danger the way I used to or anyone being in a room before I even walk in and the most dangerous thing is I can't tell a person's true motives.

Trying to live without my emotional intelligence is terrifying, confusing and worse of all intolerable. I am hoping it is just temporary. Because if this is going to be for good, it will be horrible and take a lot of adjustment.

I can only hope and pray that it returns ASAP. Until then, I will have to live the best I can. Wish me luck, eh?

  








Thursday, 3 August 2017




THE JOURNALISM JOB HUNT



Since 2013, I have been (with little success) trying to get a paid job in journalism. Regular readers and tweeters will know the reason for this, the inspiration of Bill Neely and Kate Adie.

 I decided that having a better education, specifically related to journalism would be a good idea. So I started planning for this, which is when I had my first of many setbacks. Apparently, I had no recent exam results, so I needed an access degree first. This was only told to me after I had visited a load of Universities, instead of being told of this upfront when I applied for the very first one. 

No problem I thought. Persistence is the key and is also one of the main talents of being a journalist. Just keep on going. So I applied for the access course and ended up in Plymouth. One of the prettiest places I have ever been. Unfortunately I came back up North as a complete failure after circumstances that were not of my making forced me to leave. Again I kept going. 

As soon as I got back up North, not to be deterred, I applied for every broadcast journalist apprenticeship/internship I could find. I didn't get accepted for one of them. 

I remembered that there were journalists (Jon Snow, Martin Bell and Bill Neely to name a few) who didn't have degree in journalism, or in Jon Snow's case, a degree in anything. At all. So, I didn't worry about the degree, but I had to do something. 

Alastair Stewart, whom I greatly admire, once said, "If you really want to be a journalist, prove it to me!" Well, if  I was given a chance to prove it I would do. I have the passion and the persistence, but I need someone to give me a break too. 

I also recall someone (can't remember who) saying, "If you have contacts use them". I discounted that immediately. To use someone you know in the business, especially if you are friends is just wrong. How are they ever to trust you if you make them believe you are just their friend to get a job? They can't. I would never treat my friend this way and he knows it. I asked him once (possibly twice) and he refused for his own perfectly good reasons. As far as I was concerned that was the end of it. I don't expect it. I value his friendship more than I value having a job.  

So, next step, apply for as many local journalism organisations I could. Again, nothing.  

And to add to this already bizarre and sometimes irritating situation, I met a young man yesterday on a shopping trip who had a journalism degree and still could not get a paid job, so he is spending his summer chugging and is switching professions in September to teacher training instead, as he is too frustrated to go down the journalism route any longer. One of the most interesting things he said was that while doing the degree he learned absolutely nothing and probably would have been in the same boat whether had taken a degree or not. 

So, do you need any education to be in journalism. Well, it's hard to say. It would appear the answer is no, but it looks like experience is a thing. But as with all jobs, it's the catch 22 of getting the job to get experience, but needing experience to get the job. I am struggling to get anywhere, and as a last resort I am now falling back on education. I don't know if this will come about or whether it will  work out if it does.

There is one thing I can say though. No matter how many times I get rejected or things fall apart I have lived by one of the most basic rules of journalism: I've kept trying, kept sticking to it and kept pushing on. And I will keep doing it.

Maybe one day, I may get the break I've been looking for! I keep going and keep trying. Because:




Wednesday, 28 June 2017





THE POSSIBLE END OF AN AL JAZE-ERA


Ah, Al Jazeera. I honestly never believed when I first started watching this amazing TV channel, that I would spend most of the next five years defending it, rather than just watching it. I don't regret doing it. It's just not what I thought would happen. It started with the jailing of the Al Jazeera four: Abdullah el-shami from Al Jazeera Arabic and the three people from Al Jazeera English: Peter Greste, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy. Then there were their collegues who got charged in absentia, including Sue Turton. Now, I'm standing up for them again, after unreasonable demands from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and Egypt to have them shut down.

Do I want to see Al Jazeera shut down? Well, yes..........and definitely NO.

We'll start with yes.

The spat between Egypt and Qatar is no secret. Unfortunately Al Jazeera were willing to endanger their journalists to put the point across. When the AJ Staff were in Egypt, the then bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, asked Al Jazeera time and time again if they  were legally working in Egypt. Did they have the right press passes, etc. He was told to butt out, under the pretence of, "It's all under control, Fahmy. You just do your job as Bureau Chief, and let us worry about the rest of it". Except it wasn't all under control. The company knew damn well that they were there illegally and the AJ staff got well and truly dropped in it.

In fact, Qatar were probably thrilled when the AJ four got jailed because it gave them more ammunition to criticise Egypt. The longer they were in jail, the more publicity Al Jazeera got. And when the company began the 'zipped lips' campaign, everyone began to hear of Al Jazeera, which is exactly what Qatar were after. The unfortunate thing was, millions of people were sucked in by this, assuming that they were fighting for press freedom. Yes, we were, but underneath, it was all posturing to help Qatar stab a finger at Egypt, and by following our conscience and shouting for free speech, we became actors in this shameful piece of political theatre. That's not to say I didn't believe in what I was standing for - the release of the journalists and press freedom. Of course I did. I still do, otherwise I would not even be writing this. I support those journalists even more now, knowing as I do that they were basically used as pawns.

Any company who manipulates the good conscience of people in such a major way or is so cavalier about the safety of their reporters is a disgrace to journalism and quite honestly should be shut down. But this would again be punishing the fine journalists who work there because of two opposing governments acting like five year olds in a playground.

Which leads me on to the reason why Al Jazeera should carry on broadcasting and should not be shut down under any circumstances.

Many people in the Middle East have no voice. If they speak out they are silenced, or - as the AJ Staff have discovered - jailed, and sometimes even tortured and killed for saying what they believe. Al Jazeera gives a voice to the voiceless, speaks truth to power where no-one else can and their coverage is  second to none. They have some of the most experienced and impressive journalists in the world (take a bow Kamahl Santamaria!). When the Arab Spring was taking place across the Middle East, they covered it excellently and were the voice to many of the protesters and many of the other people in the region affected by it. Al Jazeera does exactly what it is supposed to do: Shines a light and gives people a voice. It's also about speaking truth to power, which via programmes like Inside Story, it does incredibly well.

Their programmes are of the highest quality and the highest professionalism. Their history documentaries are amazing. For instance, I never knew anything about the Sykes/Picot agreement until I saw the history programme Al Jazeera made about it.

To shut down Al Jazeera English would not only be a big mistake but would also be very sad. In Egypt, the station is already banned, Al Jazeera America has also gone. Let's not see the same fate happen to the brilliant Al Jazeera English. Let's stand for up for these guys and show Saudi Arabia how amazing our collective voices really can be. I want to shout one last thing: I STAND WITH AL JAZEERA!!







"Our job as journalists is to speak truth to power, shine a light in the dark places, be a witness to history and sometimes speak up for those who have no voice" ~ Bill Neely