Posts Tagged ‘Free Press’

TYT on Anti-Putin Journalist Stabbed in the Throat

October 25, 2017

This is another piece of news on the attack on free speech and a free press and media around the world. In this piece, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turks comment on the stabbing of Tatiana Felgenhauer, an outspoken critic of Putin, by an apparent schizophrenic man, Boris Gritz. Felgenhauer was the deputy editor in chief and a presenter at an anti-Putin radio station, Ekho Moskvi, whose name translates as ‘Moscow Echo’. Gritz, who the pro-Putin media has claimed believed he was in telepathic contact with Felgenhauer, broke into the station’s headquarters, pepper-sprayed a guard, and then stabbed Felgenhauer in the throat. Gritz had previously emigrated to Israel, but shortly returned to Russia. Felgenhauer was rushed to hospital. She has survived, and is breathing through a tube.

Uygur and Kasparian find the claim that Gritz believed he was in mental contact with her far too convenient. They point to the immense number of journalists, who have been killed in highly suspicious circumstances, which suggests that they were murdered because of their criticism of the Arkhiplut. They were killed even when they were not actually opponents of Putin. Simply pointing out problems with Putin’s policies or other failures is enough. In Gritz’s case, the attack occurred two weeks after a pro-Putin news programme stated that Ekho Moskvi was an agent of America, and specifically named Felgenhauer.

And it’s not just journos that are being killed. After Trump was elected president, a whole slew of diplomats met with similar suspicious ends. One was simply walking down the street when a sofa, which was being lifted into position into an apartment above him, happened to fall and kill him. The poor fellow’s death made little impression with Trump, who seems to have shrugged it off. As for Gritz, Uygur speculates that, as the main suspect in what looks like an assassination will go the same way as Lee Harvey Oswald.

Kasparian also goes on to explain the reason she went off on a rant about the number of Americans a recent poll claimed believed that Donald Trump was right when he said he wanted to revoke the broadcasting licences of the news media that opposed him. She states its because all over the world journalists are hated by those in power, because they’re supposed to keep a check on the government and tell truth to power. She and Uygur make the point that freedom of speech is at the core of American constitutional freedoms, and is what makes America so great. But this freedom is under attack, both in Russia and in Trump’s America. They state that before he became president, it was okay for Trump to admire Putin. But now he’s in office, he needs to be told that the muzzling of the press and media is not how it’s done in America.

This is indeed another suspicious attack from a long line of very many similar attacks in Putin’s Russia. The Graoniad’s John Kampfner discusses the number of Russian journos, who have been beaten and murdered in his book on the way governments around the world are becoming increasingly autocratic, Freedom For Sale. And it really isn’t just journos, who are being assassinated. The victims also include leading dissenting politicians, like Aleksandra Politovskaya. She was a genuine pro-democracy activist and opponent of Putin, who was mysteriously shot dead in her apartment in Moscow. Her murderer has never been caught. And what made her death more suspicious was that her flat was in the same block as a cop bar on the ground floor.

Felgenhauer’s murder looks very much like a plot from Stuart Kaminsky’s Inspector Rostnikov novels, The Man Who Walked Like A Bear, A Fine Red Rain, Rostnikov’s Vacation and others. They’re crime thrillers, set in the last days of the Soviet Union. The hero, Rostnikov, is an honest cop, who’s been posted to a police department, whose own functions are largely ceremonial, because he has embarrassed the authorities by solving the kind of crimes they didn’t want solved. Rostnikov’s team includes a short pathologist and a man so humourless and inadvertently intimidating that he is nicknamed the ‘Vampire’. They go on to solve various murders, all of which appear to have a political dimension to them, as hidden factions within the Communist party try to settle their differences by setting up various pawns and patsies to assassinate their rivals. Or else stage incidents, which are carefully set up to lead Rostnikov and his team to those they want caught, but can’t be seen moving against themselves.

Kaminsky seems to have captured the politically fraught world of the Soviet police. The novels came out at about the same time as the thriller, Gorky Park, which was later filmed, about a soviet policeman investigating a serial killer in Moscow. And then there was the case of a real-life monster, arrested by another honest cop. The dedicated ‘tec this time was an Ingush, one of the small nations deported from their homes in the Caucasus to Siberia by Stalin. He caught a monster, who had raped, killed and eaten about 50-odd men and boys. The perp was able to get away with his crimes because he was a member of the Communist party.

But such crimes and assassinations aren’t confined to the Soviet past. There was a massive surge in gang violence in the days of chaos following Yeltsin’s privatisation of the Soviet economy. The mob moved out of the usual criminal activities – drugs, stolen goods and extortion – and tried to take over whole industries. Travelling through Siberia, Simon Reeve in his programme on contemporary Russia a few weeks ago commented on how the Russian mafia fought a series of battles with the authorities in one Siberian town in order to wrest control of the local, profit-making aluminium smelter. Reeve explained that Putin is genuinely immensely popular in Russia, despite his dictatorial nature, because he put a stop to the gang violence.

The price, however, is high. The oligarchs, who were given or bought their control of the great Russian monopoly industries, have done so at the cost of giving their complete support and loyalty to Putin. And Politovskaya herself said that so long as this system remains in place, there is no freedom, no democracy, ‘just the strong man in the Kremlin’.

A silovik (strong man), who is very much appeared by Donald Trump. Who would like to do to the press in America, what Putin has done in Russia.

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American State Censored TV Programme on American Nerve Gas Atrocity in Laos

February 13, 2017

I’ve blogged before about the way the Thames TV documentary, Death On the Rock, about the killing of an IRA terror squad by the SAS in Gibraltar, angered Maggie Thatcher so much that she destroyed Thames. The documentary presented evidence that the British army knew about the group’s movements, and could have picked them up peacefully at any time. They deliberately chose not to. The shootings were therefore a targeted assassination, with the SAS acting as a South American-style death squad.

This was, of course, too much for Maggie. She had Thames’ broadcasting licence removed, and they were replaced by Carlton. This is something to remember the next time John Humphries or anyone else at the Beeb tells you that she never interfered with the state broadcaster, and that this only began under Blair. I’m not arguing that Tory Tony didn’t interfere or throw his weight around with the Beeb. And there’s plenty of evidence that Maggie also had programme censored. She had the documentary, ‘Maggie’s Militant Tendency’, produced by Panorama, censored because it argued that the Conservatives had been infiltrated by card carrying neo-Nazis, just like the Labour party had been infiltrated by Militant. Perhaps in Humphries’ case, the Conservatives didn’t interfere with the news coverage, because they didn’t need to. It already reflected their own bias.

Such censorship isn’t confined to Britain. It also happened in America. William Blum, a very long time critic of US foreign policy, has a section describing the censorship of a documentary on American television in 1998 in his book Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower (London: Zed Books 2014). The company aroused the ire of the political, economic and media elite because it dared to tell the truth about a US gas attack in Laos that resulted in the deaths of civilians and American servicemen. He writes

In September 1970, American forces in Laos, acting under “Operation Tailwind”, used aerosolized Sarin nerve agent (referred to also as CBU-15 or GB) to prepare their entry in an attack upon a Laotian village base camp, with the object of killing a number of American military defectors who were reported to be there. The operation succeeded in killing in excess of 100 people, military and civilian, including at least two Americans. How many died before the attack from the gas and how many from the attack itself is not known.

Sarin, which was developed in Germany in the 1930s, can kill within minutes after inhalation of its vapor. A tiny drop of it on the skin will do the same; it may even penetrate ordinary clothing. It works by inhibiting an enzyme needed to control muscle movements. Without the enzyme, the body has no means of stopping the activation of muscles, and any physical horror is possible.

When the invading Americans were making their getaway, they were confronted by a superior force of North Vietnamese and communist Pathet Lao soldiers. The Americans called for help from the air. Very shortly, US planes were overhead dropping canisters of sarin upon the enemy. As the canisters exploded, a wet fog enveloped the enemy soldiers, who dropped to the ground, vomiting and convulsing. Some of the gas spread towards the Americans, not all of whom were adequately protected. Some began vomiting violently. Today, one of them suffers from creeping paralysis, which his doctor diagnoses as nerve-gas damage.

This story was reported on June 7, 1998, on the TV programme “NewsStand: CNN & Time”, and featured the testimony of Admiral Thomas Moorer, who had been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1970,, as well as lesser military personnel, both on and off camera, who corroborated the incidents described above.

Then all hell broke loose. This was a story too much in conflict-painfully so-with American schoolbooks, Readers Digest, the flag, apple pie and mom. It was damage-control time. The big guns were called out-Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Green Beret veterans, the journalistic elite, the Pentagon itself. The story was wrong, absurd, slanderous, they cried. CNN retracted, Moorer retracted, the show’s producers were fired…lawsuits all over the place.

Like the dissidents who became “non-persons” under Stalin, Operation Tailwind is now officially a “non-event”.

Notwithstanding this, the program’s producers, April Oliver and Jack Smith, put together a 78 page document supporting their side of the story, with actual testimony by military personnel confirming the use of the nerve agent. (pp. 139-141).

This is truly Orwellian. Orwell, of course, based 1984 on Stalin’s Russia, and the way party functionaries rewrote history to suit the needs of the party and Stalin. The most famous example of this was the way the regime turned Trotsky from a hero and co-author of the Revolution with Lenin, to its arch-enemy and betrayer.

This incident shows how the American military-industrial complex and its puppets and paid shills in the media are quite prepared to do the same, and vilify and expel anyone who commits the same cardinal crime of exposing state lies and atrocities.

Cockburn and Sinclair in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, describe the way the American military and media have managed news reporting to support the Iraq invasion, up to and including the killing of journalists. Now the situation seems ready to get worse under Fuhrer Trump. But this would have been under Bill Clinton’s presidency. And Blum’s book shows that the corruption goes back further than that, right back to the Second World War.

It really makes you start to wonder how free the American press and media is, or if it ever was.

William Blum Dissects American Hypocrisy over Castro’s Cuba

December 3, 2016

William Blum, the veteran critic of American imperialism, has an interesting piece on the latest issue of his Anti-Empire Report, no. 147, in which he takes apart American accusations that Cuba is a dictatorship. It’s one that’s been repeatedly frequently over the past several days in the reporting of Fidel Castro’s death. Jeremy Corbyn also caught some of the flak, because he gave tribute to Castro without condemning him, or at least, not condemning as much as the Tories wanted. And by Tories I also mean the Lib Dems and Blairites. They are Tories in that they have swallowed Thatcherism and are determined to preserve free markets and the privileges and bloated profits of the elite, and the poverty and creeping enslavement of the poor.

Blum takes the principal accusations directed at Cuba to support the Right’s denunciation of it as a dictatorship – that it does not have a free press, hold free elections and locks up dissidents, and shows the hypocrisy behind them. In each case, America does precisely the same thing. Or else, if didn’t, American interests would quickly pour in to overthrow the system and the benefits it has conferred on the Cuban people in favour of turning it into an American vassal. Here’s the article:

Cuba, Fidel, Socialism … Hasta la victoria siempre!

The most frequent comment I’ve read in the mainstream media concerning Fidel Castro’s death is that he was a “dictator”; almost every heading bore that word. Since the 1959 revolution, the American mainstream media has routinely referred to Cuba as a dictatorship. But just what does Cuba do or lack that makes it a dictatorship?

No “free press”? Apart from the question of how free Western media is (see the preceding essays), if that’s to be the standard, what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control almost all the media worth owning or controlling?

Is it “free elections” that Cuba lacks? They regularly have elections at municipal, regional and national levels. They do not have direct election of the president, but neither do Germany or the United Kingdom and many other countries. The Cuban president is chosen by the parliament, The National Assembly of People’s Power. Money plays virtually no role in these elections; neither does party politics, including the Communist Party, since all candidates run as individuals. Again, what is the standard by which Cuban elections are to be judged? Is it that they don’t have private corporations to pour in a billion dollars? Most Americans, if they gave it any thought, might find it difficult to even imagine what a free and democratic election, without great concentrations of corporate money, would look like, or how it would operate. Would Ralph Nader finally be able to get on all 50 state ballots, take part in national television debates, and be able to match the two monopoly parties in media advertising? If that were the case, I think he’d probably win; which is why it’s not the case.

Or perhaps what Cuba lacks is our marvelous “electoral college” system, where the presidential candidate with the most votes is not necessarily the winner. Did we need the latest example of this travesty of democracy to convince us to finally get rid of it? If we really think this system is a good example of democracy why don’t we use it for local and state elections as well?

Is Cuba a dictatorship because it arrests dissidents? Many thousands of anti-war and other protesters have been arrested in the United States in recent years, as in every period in American history. During the Occupy Movement of five years ago more than 7,000 people were arrested, many beaten by police and mistreated while in custody. And remember: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer; virtually without exception, Cuban dissidents have been financed by and aided in other ways by the United States.

Would Washington ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and engaging in repeated meetings with known members of that organization? In recent years the United States has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents’ ties to the United States. Virtually all of Cuba’s “political prisoners” are such dissidents. While others may call Cuba’s security policies dictatorship, I call it self-defense.

The original article is at: https://williamblum.org/aer/read/147
Go and read it for other insights from one of the most incisive critics of the brutality of American foreign policy.