Questions that needed to be asked

It is unusual for an article about a charity to stray into controversial waters. Over the years, this newspaper has published many articles on Christian Aid’s work, all supportive.

It is unusual for an article about a charity to stray into controversial waters. Over the years, this newspaper has published many articles on Christian Aid’s work, all supportive.

On this occasion, however, the visit of a representative from the charity’s parent organisation gave us the opportunity to be more challenging.

The approach has been overdue since the well-publicised joint report with the Tax Justice Network in 2011 and subsequent calls by Christian Aid for a ‘clampdown on UK-linked tax havens’, including Guernsey.

The 2011 report placed both Guernsey and Jersey in the spotlight as ‘most secretive’ finance centres. It is an impression that the States of Guernsey has since worked hard to dispel with David Cameron and various world economic organisations. As such, there is a clear news value and the newspaper asked Martin Nicholls about the charity’s position.

The questions focused on the apparent contradiction that much of the money raised and donated to Christian Aid will have been generated by the island’s dominant industry while the charity is working closely with a pressure group that opposes offshore finance.

It is always uncomfortable for those at the coalface of large organisations to be held accountable for decisions made at head office but, as a local newspaper, we place matters in a local context. Having asked Mr Nicholls a difficult question, we gave him more than half of the article in which to respond.

As part of that, he acknowledged that some people might misunderstand and perceive an inconsistency in collecting in the Channel Islands. He did not, however, back away from calls for greater transparency and less tax abuse, nor from the charity’s controversial links with a group such as Tax Justice Network.

While Christian Aid says it is not campaigning directly against the Channel Islands, its latest report, Invested Interests: The UK’s Overseas Territories’ Hidden Role in Developing Countries, outlines a ‘tax scandal’ which encompasses and names both Guernsey and Jersey.

We would be very happy to hear from readers their views on this issue and whether they believe our questions were justified.

Comments for: "Questions that needed to be asked"

PLP

I think the questions were entirely justified. Whether the response was reported accurately is open to debate though, with todays letter by Martin Nicholls suggesting it wasn't.

So, we're in a "your word against mine" situation here. I don't know Mr Nicholls personally but unfortunately the GP has previous when it comes to selectively reporting on interviews to add some sensationalism or zest to a story. The recent article on the killing of a cat by a dog is another recent example of this, with the lady in question posting on TiG that the GP only partially printed what she had said in interview.

At the moment few people I know treat the GP as a credible source of information. Hopefully the new editor can change this, as the GP is in a unique position to be able to dig into issues that might otherwise stay under the radar.

Shaun Green

To some extent all interviews are selective PLP. The article was just over 300 words (standard for a picture story) and as the average person speaks at about 120-140 words per minute the reporter would be packing up his or her notepad after a few minutes if it was verbatim, probably with a very poor interview. While the interviewee might reflect on parts of a 20-minute conversation and be convinced they will appear in print the reporter might have picked up on a different thread entirely.

In this case Mr Nicholls understandably was focusing on his gratitude for the donations and the good work done by the charity. The reporter, however, had been specifically instructed to ask about the contradiction and that was their focus. The task then was to give Mr Nicholls space to answer in full – which we did with nine out of 16 paragraphs devoted to his answer.

It is a key part of the reporter's job to select what he or she sees as the best parts of the interview. However, no two reporters would a) ask the same questions or b) write the same story because we all see things differently.

Shaun Green

Deputy editor

PLP

Thanks for taking the time to respond Shaun and giving the other side of the story.

I can appreciate the restrictions placed on a journalist when converting a lengthy interview into a 300 word article. Nevertheless, perhaps you can see the other persons perspective and appreciate why some peoples experience might lead them to (a) feel misrepresented and (b) think twice before engaging with the media in future.

I don't want the GP to stop asking difficult questions however I do think a less sensationalist and more objective tone might benefit the paper.

Just my opinion though - and thanks for the opportunity to provide feedback.

Cher Eugene

Standard, stock reply by Mr Green to accusations of error or bias by a reporter. The "media" is always right and always has the last word so there!

It is not Christian Aid's use of its funds that we object to; it is their naïve proposition that Richard Murphy and his organisation propounds the gospel truth which is a laughable assumption. What amazes me is that CA does not realise that the objectives of TJN are incompatible with their's. As for stonking costs, well, others have raised this point but still no answers.

Martino

The questions posed by the GP were entirely justified and the responses demonstrate beyond doubt that Christian Aid is now no longer worthy of support from island residents. If it wishes to continue receiving our donations it must cease its disgraceful propaganda campaign against us and remove itself from the bed it is currently sharing with the overtly anti Channel Islands Tax Justice Network.

Beanjar

I wonder if CA make vociferous protests about corruption and government wrongdoing in the countries where Guernsey donations end up? Thought not. And what about Nigeria's space program, remind me why they need foreign aid when they have the money for satellites?

Martino

I've just read the three angry letters from the Christian Aid officials in the GP today - all carefully co-ordinated by CA central office in the UK of course.

Their main gripe essentially is that the GP diverted from CA's cosy little script that BBC Guernsey and others lamely followed and decided instead to ask some pressing questions that really needed to be asked in the interests of good, investigative journalism.

IE How can your organisation continue to tout for money locally from the hard working people of this island while your head office aligns itself with a specious propaganda campaign against the island's main industry? Still no proper answers of course, just more weasel words from their UK projects manager and no mention at all of the charity's blatantly anti Channel Islands bedfellow the Tax Justice Network.

Also no mention of the charity's grossly overpaid chief exec and her obscene £126,000 salary that equates to more than three times what they collected from the people of Guernsey last year. Can we take it that this is where our money went and not to the third world? Come on Christian Aid, show a little more transparency.