Alain was born in Cairo. His mother was Polish, his father French/Greek/Italian. He was on the Financial Times for 23 years and before that on the Daily Express. ( aka Alain Cass) He covered the events in Northern Ireland & the 1973 October Middle East war. He was the FT's News Editor from 1989-1995. He pioneered the paper's investigative reporting which won a number of awards. After he retired he learnt to fly (at 60) and circumnavigated Africa in a single-engine Piper. Alain speaks a handful of languages. He lives in the Chilterns with his wife and Catalan sheepdog. He has 9 world-class grandchildren. This site is dedicated to them
The world is complicated. Explaining it needn't be. But I'm lucky. I live in a democracy where freedom of expression is taken for granted although increasingly abused and subverted. Brexit, Trump and Johnson may have turned truth on its head. The cancel culture speaks of greater intolerance. But as long as I don't break the law I'm free to say what I please. Others, as this map shows, are not so lucky. Some, many, die, trying.
I write about people, issues & places I care about. What interests me most is social justice and where that intersects with politics. How we can make a better world for our grandchildren?
FREEDOM IS SHRINKING
I try not to be too shouty. Nearly 25 years on the FT taught me that. The FT is the best university on earth.
A journalist's job - the part that matters - is to speak truth to power. To find things out that people don't want you to find out. And to set facts into context so they make sense. The rest, as the man said, is PR.
Tank Man (my masthead) epitomises the challenge to totalitarianism. Taken at the height of the Tienanmen Square uprising in 1989 it represents heroism in its purest form.
Tienanmen erupted on my first day as News Editor of the FT. I was lucky to hold the job at a period of almost unprecedented political drama. Journalists thrive on drama and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The pro-democracy movement was crushed. (As it is being crushed in Hong Kong in 2020) .
But there was better news that year when the Soviet Union unravelled leading to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. We thought then that liberalism would sweep the world. That judgement was premature.
Freedom of information is fundamental in any democracy as well to free markets, science and public health as the pandemic has shown us. But nearly half of the world’s population has no access to freely-reported news and information as this map shows.
Over the past two decades at least 80 journalists a year are killed in the line of duty. Many more are imprisoned most in China. The NGO Reporters Without Borders estimates that over 60% of those who died were murdered or deliberately targeted. We in Britain are not entirely immune to the impulse. The new Espionage Act proposes to place whistleblowers and journalists on the same par as spies.
Journalism matters. But the truth is indispensable..
Alain Catzeflis August 2020
One step closer to break-up
Boris Johnson won power largely by appealing to English nationalism. He seems to believe that he can use that power to quell nationalism north of the border.
Nationalism (as opposed to national pride) is a dead end. To lead, you also have to cooperate. He is steering Britain ever-closer to a calamitous fracture.
A one-trick pony
There is a void at the heart of this government. Johnson is a good news Prime Minister who wants to be liked. His project, guided by Dominic Cummings, is about what he wants the world to look like, and is less about dealing with the world as it is. It’s about dreams, not the daily grind of governing.
SHOOTING THE MESSENGER
When the President of the United States, declares “I am your President of law and order” and brands reporters as “enemies of the people” it’s a license for every cop with a grudge to lash out when he thinks he can get away with it.
BEIRUT: DREAM TO NIGHTMARE
Lebanon’s disintegration lies in the manner of its birth.
It was a melting pot of faiths, clans and ethnic groups thrown together by armchair strategists.
As with much of the Middle East, creating a country is one thing. Creating a nation is another.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Photo: Alain Catzeflis The Danakil Desert Ethiopia 2019