Friday, December 29, 2006

Press freedoms new definition

According to Reporters without Frontiers, as long as you have a press pass, you can do pretty much whatever you like. You can spy for the enemy, you can consort with the enemy to provide his propaganda, you can provide exactly the kind of work that will boost the enemies propaganda message: and if anybody interferes with you, they are an evil dictatorship trying to suppress press freedom!

"Deterioration in the United States and Japan, with France also slipping

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.
Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year."

First of all, lets take the three star turns given as evidence of foul US malpractice. Two seconds
googling found me this on a website touting for his release-

"Josh Wolf is an independent journalist and blogger who was jailed on August 1 when he refused to testify or turn over unpublished video out-takes to a federal grand jury investigating a July, 2005 anti-G8 demonstration. Josh has never been convicted of a crime. He is being held on civil contempt in an effort to coerce him to testify and turn over his unpublished material to a federal grand jury. Josh was released on bail September 1st but was ordered to return to prison on September 22nd pending a hearing before the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals."

So, reasonable folk of the world, here is a man who has in his possession video of crimes being committed which he will not give to the authorities because presumably he supports the causes in whose name the crimes were committed. His choice. But lets face it, being held in jail on contempt of court is universes away from the gun-toting free-for-all that many journos in many countries face. A martyr he is not. Whether or not there were violent crimes on the tapes, his civic duty is to allow the relevant prosecutors the chance to judge whether there are cases to be answered. The normal reason for protecting a source is that to reveal their identity would compromise their personal life to a very great extent, despite their having acted for the greater public good. Rabid anti-capitalist protestors assaulting and in one case in Italy murdering policemen are not acting in the public good by any reasonable judgement.

Sami Al-Hajj

According to a fulsome Wikipedia entry, the following charges have been levelled againt Al-Hajj.

1. The detainee worked as an executive secretary for Abdul Al-Latif Al-Imran, general manager for the Union Beverage Company (UBC). The Union Beverage Company has been associated with Bosnian/Chechen mujahid.
2. The detainee traveled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to courier money to the Al-Haramayn non-governmental organization (NGO) on behalf of his boss, Abd Al-Latif Omran.
Al-Haramayn has been designated under Executive Order 13224 as an organization that has provided support to terrorist organizations.
3. During the winter of 1997, the detainee delivered $7,000 USD to Al-Haramayn.
4. During the winter of 1998, the detainee visited Al-Haramayn’s summer camp, and delivered $13,000 USD to Al-Haramayn.
4. During November 1999, the detainee delivered $12,000 USD to Munir Al-Barguoni for a new factory in Azerbaijan; he also delivered $100,000 USD to Jamal, the Director of Al-Haramayn.
5. The detainee was detained in Azerbaijan for the transport of $220,000 USD. The money was destined for Chechen rebels and not for humanitarian support as the detainee was told....

Theres quite a bit more if you really care!

When did the guy have time to take photos, for goodness sake? To portray this guy like he's joe schmo beat reporter hoiked off to Guantanamo because he's a darky is about as meretricious as you can get.

Bilal Hussein

Quoting from a very biased Wikipedia entry (biased towards Hussein):

"The military said that Hussein was found with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida forces in Iraq.[1] According to a May 7, 2006 e-mail from U.S. Army Major General Jack Gardner, "He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces."[1] Gardner continued, "The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities."[1]"

I know from my own long-tracking of this story that months before Bilal Hussein was captured with a known Al Qaeda in Iraq operative, a number of blogs in the US, particularly Little Green Footballs, had brought to the attention of the US military the extraordinary nature of the pictures provided to AP by Mr Hussein. Given the extraordinary barbarity of AQII, the fact that Mr Hussein was able to photograph them with faces uncovered at the precise moment they were attacking US positions meant he had a level of access granted to none but full associate members of the organisation. A number of the attacks shown in his pictures were demonstrably staged (ie they didn't involve any coalition forces). Given the access Mr Hussein had to REAL attacks, photographing faked ones would immediately call into question his role. The fact is, a number of real journalists tried to get pictures like the ones Mr Hussein seemed to get hold of so easily, and died in terrible gruesome circumstances as a result.

US Ranking on the Press Freedom Index 2006: 54 (along with Tonga and Croatia)

'Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.”' And the concrete, day-to-day impact on working US journalists of this deterioration was? Er, nothing. George W. Bush grumped away to himself, we presume. You'll notice that this very serious accusation, that a sitting US president has threatened working journos who disagree with his policies is not backed up by even a single piece of evidence. Convinced me!

'The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.' To the unobservant eye, this statement closely following on from the previous statement would indicate some Bush administration control over these federal courts. As those with even the merest smidgin of knowledge about the US government could tell you, the three branches are entirely separate: judicial from legislative, legislative from executive and executive from judicial. Two seconds of rumination would reveal why there is no absolute right for journalists to refuse to reveal their sources- when there is an overriding public interest that criminals or terrorists be apprehended for instance. But don't let those silly little reality-based things intrude...

America-hatred (and its little brother Bush-hatred) is turning organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the ACLU and Reporters without Frontiers from genuine monitors and tellers of painful truths into cynical purveryors of lefty ritual positions. Instead of simply reporting what the facts tell them, the urgent need to turn America into the barbaric fascist dominator it patently isn't over-rides and distorts. Who this helps, I can't say. Who it hurts is everybody who used to pay attention to the often afwul truths these organisations presented us with.

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