Looking back at 2010: First Wednesdays at the Frontline Club

At our First Wednesday events the focus is on finding informed, respected panelists to discuss topical issues and creating a public meeting atmosphere, with lots of time for questions comments and debate from the floor.

Looking back over 2010, we have covered many of the big stories – from Haiti in the wake of the January earthquake to November’s US midterm elections.

Here’s a run-through of the First Wednesdays of 2010, hosted brilliantly by Paddy O’Connell of BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House.  


January: Murdered journalists in the Philippines/Yemen and Al Quaeda

We began the year with media safety consultant Christopher Cobb-Smith discussing the findings of his investigation into the murder of 32 journalists and media workers in the Philippines.

There was also a discussion about Yemen and terrorism, a story that was in the headlines after the failed Christmas day bomb plot caused international attention to focus the country’s links with Al-Queda – and again in November, when parcel bombs were discovered at Britain’s East Midlands Airport.



February: Reporting Haiti – are journalists getting it right?

Another timely event, with the focus on the continuing plight of the people of Haiti after an earthquake left hundreds of thousands of people dead and 1.5 million homeless. This proved to be a fascinating and revealing discussion about the country’s colonial history, the role of the international community in shaping its future and the prospects for genuine reconstruction of the country



March: Focus on Afghanistan and Operation Moshtarak

This lively discussion focused on the media coverage of the conflict in Afghanistan where journalists, UK military officials and the Afghan ambassador to the UK Homayoun Tandar were in broad agreement that the full story was not reaching the public. You can read our blog post on the event or watch the video below.



April: The ‘war on terror’ – are Russia and the West now on the same side?

April’s First Wednesday was a response to the 29 March bomb blasts in Moscow and in Dagestan just days later and took a look at Russia’s response to the recent terrorist attacks. We had a great panel to discuss the event, which you can read more about on our blog post here.



May: Is this a change election?

On the eve of the General election the First Wednesday focus was inevitably on prospect of a hung parliament and coalition government. But we asked, was it really a ‘change election’ or were we being carried away by ‘Cleggmania’?

There’s a great summary of the event by Patrick Smith on the Forum blog, which is well worth reading to pick up the main points discussed during the course of the evening. Or you can watch the video below.



June: Iran, democracy and the international war of words

One year on from Iran’s tumultuous and controversial presidential elections, we were discussing how far the country is from genuine democracy. With a new government in Downing Street, we also looked at what the UK’s response might be to a potentially nuclear-armed Iran?

Taking part on the panel were Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran last year; Ian Black, the Guardian’s Middle East editor; Ann Harrison, from Amnesty International and Afshin Rattansi, co-host of Rattansi & Ridley. This First Wednesday was chaired by Pooneh Ghoddoosi, a presenter at BBC Persian TV.

Read a summary of the events on the blog here or watch the video below.



September: Natural disaster and political turmoil in Pakistan

Tackling this topic were Brice de le Vingne, Medecins Sans Frontieres operation manager for Pakistan, Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner in the UK, Karen Pierce, Foreign Office director for Afghanistan and South Asia and Mustafa Qadri, an independent journalist based in Pakistan who writes regularly for The Guardian, The Australian



October: The looming power shift in North Korea and the nuclear threat beyond

The promotion of Kim Jong Un by his father Kim Jong-Il and claims that North Korea’s nuclear threat had reached "an alarming level" prompted this First Wednesday discussion.

Our panel were incredibly well-informed, making this a fascinating and informative event from the outset. This one is well worth watching if you want to gain insight into a country about which so little is known.



November: The US midterms – the reckoning and Yemen, what happens next?

With the results just in, Novermthe US midterms and the repercussions of the results. Following the failed attempt this weekend to plant bombs on cargo planes destined for the US, we will be discussing Yemen, its politics and the response of the US to this latest terrorist threat.