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Regional editor denies being ‘enemy of Welsh language’

OrujThe editor of a regional news website has denied being “an enemy of the Welsh language” after criticism over a comment piece.

Wales Online editor Paul Rowland apologised for any offence caused to those who misinterpreted the piece, which was written by Channel 4 News producer Oruj Defoite.

In her article for the Cardiff-based site, Indian-born Oruj discussed her upbringing in Merthyr Tydfil and Ebbw Vale, adding she now feels she is “judged as being less qualified to call myself Welsh for not speaking the language”.

Oruj, picture, added she felt some had also seen her skin colour as disqualifying her from “Welshness”.

The piece, which was published last month, received criticism online, with Paul responding on Twitter to a number of readers who felt there had been an insinuation that Welsh people, particularly Welsh speakers, were racist.

In an editorial published afterwards, Paul wrote: “Let me take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who drew that conclusion from the piece. I can say with my hand on my heart that interpretation did not occur at any stage when I read it.

“If, as a result, people want to call me a bad editor, or a lousy journalist, then I can live with their opinions. What I am absolutely not is an enemy or opponent of the Welsh language.

“When Oruj first contacted us to pitch her piece, it appealed to me most significantly because it was from a perspective that I was aware I hadn’t read a great deal about: the experience of a person of colour, and a woman in particular, in a part of Wales with one of the lowest levels of immigration in the country.”

He added: “Of course, I wasn’t so naive to not suspect it would be controversial. But if I’d read it as a smear of racism against Welsh speakers everywhere, I would never have published it.

“If I’d thought it as divisive as many fear, it would never have gone out. Believe or disbelieve that as you wish, but it’s the truth.”

Paul grew up in a largely Welsh language village near Aberystwyth, and went to a largely Welsh language school.

His editorial went on to highlight a number of positive stories run by Wales Online about the language.

3 comments

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  • January 11, 2018 at 9:56 am
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    ‘Enemy of the Welsh people’? I don’t think so – this woman has merely articulated what so many working class Welsh people feel, ie: that they are regarded by some as second-class citizens in their own county for being unable to speak their native tongue.

    Somewhat ironically these include the majority of people in the largely English-speaking Valleys who have formed the backbone of the country for generations.

    The nationalist vision just doesn’t seem to embrace such people, let alone those from ethnic minorities. As far as Wales is concerned this is a pretty large elephant in the room which so many nationalist politicians are unable – or unwilling – to address.

    How sad that the beautiful Welsh language has proved so divisive and might account for the fact the Welsh nationalists have conspicuously failed to come close to emulating the success of the SNP in recent years…

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  • January 11, 2018 at 11:14 am
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    Why the apology? This appears to have been a legitimate point of view made in a reasonable manner and no different from a newspaper running a controversial letter in its opinion column.
    Surely editors haven’t reached the point of feeling the need to apologise for every possible subjective reaction to anything outside the bland and boring?
    From my long and enjoyable experience as an outsider working in Wales I believe most people will see this not as an apology for a potential slur but as spineless and unnecessary.

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  • January 11, 2018 at 11:28 am
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    When Paul Rowland speaks of “a person of colour”, why doesn’t he say “brown”? With the exception of albinos, we’re all persons of colour, be it pinky-white at one end of the spectrum, to black at the other. The essence of journalism should be to express ourselves in the simplest manner possible and say exactly what we mean without skirting around the issue.

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