Comment // Culture & Media

Letters to the Editor: Autumn 2023

Ministry to the damaged

I know that you have heard this all before, but it must be said!   Thank you for bringing the news to me, for free. When I was seeking information and all I could find was propaganda, you provided news coverage freely. I have since paid for membership because of the value you provide, and it deserves remuneration (and I do not earn a lot).   I work in the service industry, which makes me an expert communicator over the bar or counter. I often cannot continue to 'educate' customers when more customers arrive, knowing that they will find the topic of conversation alien to them. In these circumstances, I immediately refer to as a ‘catch-all’—this keeps me out of trouble at work and provides the enquiring minds I meet with a trusted source of information.   Each day, I see people who are damaged by the 'current thing', be it “the V”, the blurring of lines between adult and child, or any of the other assaults on our society and customs. I try to help them all, and I use you and a few other sources to provide what it is they crave: some truth. They know something is wrong, but they can't see what it is.   I find myself to be something of a minister now. I sell them their goods and try to heal their soul, casually over the counter.   God bless you all for what you do, for it is truly God’s work.   James Carnson    

Monitoring the BBC

[This letter should be read in conjunction with Brian Gerrish’s 2014 article on BBC Monitoring’s track record in Central Asia—Editor] In my native Kyrgyzstan, there is currently a heated debate on social networks about nepotism at BBC Kyrgyz, after journalists revealed this summer that the BBC’s Kyrgyz-language service has been run by the Kasmambetov family for 27 years. First, the eldest sister joined the London office, and later her younger sisters and brother-in-law were hired as BBC journalists.   While this was not a complete secret, it came as a surprise to the majority of Kyrgyz citizens. Many are shocked that the nepotism which is widespread in Kyrgyz government offices is also prevalent in such a reputable news service as the BBC, whose mission is defined, with its renowned wording, as “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain.” The question is: How could this nepotism thrive for almost three decades without being noticed by BBC management?   The situation sends the message that democratic governments and their entities are complacent about the kind of corruption that is common in countries like Kyrgyzstan. The BBC, through its employment practices, thus contributes to scepticism that the democratic countries only preach democracy and transparency but do not necessarily exercise it.   Gulnara Kasmambetova joined the BBC in London 27 years ago. She apparently received a medal for services from the current Kyrgyz president for her assistance in arranging an interview with international media outlets—which was crucial to legitimise his government, given that he seized power in 2020 after his supporters released him from prison.   Gulnara’s sister, Ainara Kasmambetova, is the BBC Kyrgyz news representative in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. Her daughter, Ermek Maksutova, works in the same office. Arslan Koichiev, husband of the third sister Akcholpon Koichieva, worked in the BBC’s London office for almost two decades before he joined the Kyrgyz president’s office as an adviser.   Suyunbek Kasmambetov, brother of the Kasmambetova sisters, is the current government’s state secretary responsible for the status of the Kyrgyz language and its development—of which, however, there has been very little. In addition, he has been silent on the spread of radical versions of Islam, and at the same time quite vocal in his criticism of Western countries and democracy—despite the fact that his sisters live and work in the UK and his children live in the United States.   Ibrahim Nurakun uuly, formerly a journalist at the BBC Kyrgyz service, has defended the Kasmambetovs. While admitting that several Kasmambetovs were employed by the BBC, including the brother-in-law, Nurakun claimed that it was not fair to criticise the family for nepotism, “because in 2004 [he] was given a chance to work for the BBC in spite of [his] poor English and limited journalistic experience and even though [he] was not even related to this family”. He added that “so-called nepotism” exists not only in the BBC Kyrgyz service but also in BBC Pashto, Persian and other regional services.    In other words, rather than deny the accusation of nepotism, this former colleague of theirs has tried both to water it down and to place the blame on the BBC rather than the Kasmambetovs. But his admission of his low qualifications only adds to the scandal: such a person would have been in no position to challenge the Kasmambetovs. Meanwhile, there are plenty of qualified journalists with a far better command of English and more journalistic experience than Nurakun and the Kasmambetovs. The former has admitted that he had such great relations with the family that Gulnara Kasmambetova called him in 2015 to invite him to work for the BBC in London again, but he declined.   The media play an important role in informing any society. The media’s impartiality and transparency come into question when credible concerns are raised as to the way they function. Kyrgyz journalists claim to have raised the issue of nepotism in the BBC Kyrgyz service with BBC headquarters; they say that their concerns were not taken seriously but rather dismissed as complaints from disgruntled former staff. (Similar concerns were raised at US-funded Azattyk, the Kyrgyz-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and garnered a similar response.) Thus, Kyrgyz society continues to suffer from a lack of reliably impartial media.   This example only cements the claim, often dismissed as propaganda, that the democratic countries are hypocrites and that, while they extol transparency and openness, they are far from exercising it. This only gives incentives to corrupt governments also continue their corrupt practices. Therefore, to restore its credibility in Kyrgyz society, BBC management (as well as Radio Free Europe) should take these allegations of nepotism seriously, since they affect their mission and give rise to the notion in society that even Western media serve the interests of the world’s corrupt governments.   Aidai Masylkanova    

Hospital horror

I am writing about the standard of care and treatment that my late mother-in-law, Brenda, received on 8 June 2023 from the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust.   On 8 June 2023, she was being collected from her home to be taken to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge for immunotherapy, as she had terminal cancer.   The driver arrived from Patient Transport, which is run by East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. The driver dropped the ramp to the ambulance and she managed to get in without too much of a problem. She did struggle, as this was a new-style ambulance and she had usually been collected in the older-style ambulance.    When Brenda and her husband arrived at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, the driver refused to drop the ramp. The steps were far too steep for her to negotiate going forwards, a fact that both she and her husband told the driver on at least four occasions. Despite this, the driver still refused to drop the ramp and instead made her walk down the step backwards. Unfortunately, her hand slipped off the grab rail as she walked down the step, and she landed awkwardly on her leg.   When she was admitted to Addenbrooke’s, she was diagnosed with a spiral fracture of her left femur. Brenda underwent open reduction surgery with an internal fixation on 10 June. She was discharged on 20 June.   The standard of care in Addenbrooke’s was diabolical. Again, no-one came to check on her, and she was left in bed in her own urine and faeces. She was drugged up so much that she was hallucinating.    On discharge, there was no mention of the fact that she had fallen while exiting the ambulance. This fall led to a decline in her health. She lost her motivation and confidence in herself and her ability to walk.   She was then admitted to Bedford Hospital in mid-August, where she had absolutely no care. Nobody helped her to get in and out of bed. There was no help to go to the toilet, which led to the staff just leaving her in the bed, where she lost the use of all the muscles in her legs. No care was given during the night, either. Nobody came to answer the buzzer calls.   Because Brenda was a proud lady, she tried to get out of the bed to go to the toilet by herself, which led to her to fall and hurt her shoulder. She was left on the floor until staff came, but it took the other patients to ring the buzzer before somebody attended. No X-rays were given. They just left her to decline. My sister-in-law spent the next night in an upright chair beside the bed, as there was no-one to sit with her.   After the discharge from Bedford Hospital, there was still no mention of a fall out of bed. Brenda was basically sent home to die. We tried to care for her, but it was overwhelming for my father-in-law. She was sent to a Sue Ryder hospice and passed away on Monday 28 August 2023.   This is just a short outline of what happened. There is much more to this.  She endured a horrific experience under the NHS’ care.   And I thought I should note that my mother-in-law was triple jabbed with the Pfizer Covid vaccine. Her cancer diagnosis was made in December 2021, after her Covid injections.   Helen Abrahams        Main article image: Scott Graham | Unsplash license