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Juan José Téllez, Journalism and Brexit: “I know that I know nothing”

Soraya Fernández · Photos: Fran Montes

Journalist Juan José Téllez on journalism ad Brexit | Mar del Sur conference in La Línea | Campo de Gibraltar

During a conference organized by Mar del Sur, Juan José Téllez, a true journalist, talked about the ‘key to journalism’ in view of Brexit, and had some blunt conclusions and reflections.

“My name is Juan José Téllez. I write for newspapers and write books; I have delved into the subject of Gibraltar in several essays and have dedicated half of my life to providing information through various media channels.”

This was the simple opening statement made by this veteran journalist from Algeciras during a Mar del Sur conference in La Línea. The theme was ‘the key to the journalistic profession in view of Brexit’.

Juan José Téllez Brexit | Mar del Sur

“As a journalist, I think that I share the same perplexity as society as it contemplates Brexit. The media is a product of our society and it is healthy for there to be a synergy of emotions between society and journalists. In this case, it is inevitable. I think that we are all like Socrates’ disciples in the face of Brexit with the notion ‘I know that I know nothing’. That should be the slogan that governs our roadmap through Brexit.”

At the beginning of his talk, Téllez provided the audience with this blunt headline and then delved into the key factors of how Spanish journalists are treating the whole process of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union:

“As a journalist, I feel as though I am commentating on a football match while watching it on TV from my living room. The main characters involved in Brexit, the British Government and the European authorities, have their headquarters in London and Brussels respectively. Therefore, most Spanish journalists can’t access the primary sources of information, except through alternative channels, such as the European Commission headquarters in Madrid, the British Embassy or the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Reports this evening in the centre-left London newspaper “The Guardian” suggest that Brexit could be delayed until 2021.

He acknowledged that there was indeed a significant flow of information from the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs during the negotiation process for the four Memoranda of Understanding that were signed with the United Kingdom last year. This was when it was presumed that there would be an orderly Brexit, rather than a savage one – as seems will happen on the 31st.

The Brexit date draws closer, and the rollercoaster that we have seen throughout the process is only increasing worries in Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, which is something that journalists can also relate to.

In this regard, Téllez recognizes that the potential border crisis with Northern Ireland has monopolised the entire process.

“From that point of view, it would seem that the Gibraltar frontier is not in the interests of the EU or the United Kingdom. Neither, I’m afraid, is it of interest to Spain. But let’s not be alarmists. It is not only that Spain is not interested in Gibraltar; it is not interested in Brexit, either. Right now, the information on this process is reduced to the economic and political current affairs pages of the newspapers. There is no open debate about the consequences, which won’t only affect Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar, but also British tourism, the many British residents in Spain and the exports to the United Kingdom. We are less than a month away from Brexit, yet it does not form part of everyday debate.”

The ‘Transversal Virus’

Juan José Téllez Brexit | Mar del Sur

Juan José Téllez also stressed that Brexit is a “transversal virus” which may affect the British economy in a very significant way, as well as that of the EU and “our day to day lives”.

He regrets that, from a journalistic point of view and with so little time left until the exit, “we are still thinking about where the Brexit Information Office will be in the Campo de Gibraltar. In Gibraltar, which is the most affected, it only opened a few days ago. We have had three years to provide information on this.”

The application of the memoranda is also limited to a Brexit with an agreement so, according to this journalist, all this means is that “we find ourselves in a process of enormous uncertainty that costs us money with every day that passes. The fall of the stock market has a lot to do with this.”

His appreciation of this complex puzzle is devastating: “As journalists, we do not know how to report on this because there is a lack of reliable and direct sources. We very much doubt that senior officials of the autonomous and state administrations have a clearer idea than the journalists, trade unionists or mayors may have at local level. Therefore, we have no authorities who would be able to tell us what might happen.”

Juan José Téllez Brexit | Mar del Sur

He also recalled that in the media today, “which has suffered a massive blow due to layoffs in newsrooms and a preference to profit over production,” there are very few journalists specialising in Brexit.

“There is neither the time nor the money to be able to tackle the monitoring and provision of information to the population. We are all like parrots, repeating analyses that come to us from the outside, translating the few works that have been done and trying to get our political representatives to explain the inexplicable.”

Journalist Juan José Téllez on journalism and Brexit | Mar del Sur conference in La Línea | Campo de Gibraltar

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