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House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms

House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms

Democrats’ justification for silencing their adversaries online and in media — “they are spreading fake news and inciting extremism” — is what despots everywhere say.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) with other House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices. On Saturday, I detailed how their escalating official campaign to coerce and threaten social media companies into more aggressively censoring views that they dislike — including by summoning social media CEOs to appear before them for the third time in less than five months — is implicating, if not already violating, core First Amendment rights of free speech.

Now they are going further — much further. The same Democratic House Committee that is demanding greater online censorship from social media companies now has its sights set on the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday announced a February 24 hearing, convened by one of its sub-committees, entitled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.” Claiming that “the spread of disinformation and extremism by traditional news media presents a tangible and destabilizing threat,” the Committee argues: “Some broadcasters’ and cable networks’ increasing reliance on conspiracy theories and misleading or patently false information raises questions about their devotion to journalistic integrity.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Biden Continues Trump’s War On The Press

Biden Continues Trump’s War On The Press

Just one day after a coalition of prominent civil rights groups made headlines with a letter urging the Biden administration to drop efforts to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States on espionage charges, the Biden administration has announced its intention to continue those efforts.

“Justice Department spokesman Marc Raimondi on Tuesday said the U.S. government will continue to challenge a British judge’s ruling last month that Assange should not be extradited to the United States because of the risk he would commit suicide,” Reuters reports.

“We continue to seek his extradition,” Raimondi said.

Assange’s arrest and subsequent charges under the Espionage Act in 2019 for what amount to standard journalistic practices which exposed US war crimes marked both a dramatic escalation in the US empire’s war on critical national security journalism and a sharp divergence from the Obama administration’s decision not to pursue such charges in this case. Biden is not just upholding Trump’s assault on press freedoms (far and away the single most egregious attack on journalism in the 45th president’s entire four years in office), he is rejecting the Obama administration’s decision not to charge Assange due to concerns that it would erode the First Amendment.

As The Washington Post reported during Barack Obama’s second term in 2013:

“The Justice Department has all but concluded it will not bring charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified documents because government lawyers said they could not do so without also prosecuting U.S. news organizations and journalists, according to U.S. officials.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

WATCH: ‘The Trial of Julian Assange: Implications for Press Freedom’

WATCH: ‘The Trial of Julian Assange: Implications for Press Freedom’

Watch CN Live!‘s simulcast on Sunday of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee’s production of Nils Melzer & Ray McGovern discussing the Julian Assange case and its impact on press freedom.

Watch the replay: 

Nils Melzer is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow, and holds the Human Rights Chair at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Ray McGovern is a former, longtime CIA Russia analyst, presidential daily briefer, and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

Julian Assange’s extradition trial ended at the Old Bailey in September. More than 30 witnesses for the defense included Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky; the prosecutors declared standard journalistic practices to be crimes; and the judge cut the feed to all monitoring NGOs on the first day. Judge Vanessa Baraitser on Jan. 4 blocked Assange’s extradition to the U.S. but two days later denied him bail and sent the WikiLeaks‘ publisher to Belmarsh prison.
Forum Host: Ann Batiza

Assange Wins. The Cost: Press Freedom Is Crushed & Dissent Labelled Mental Illness

Assange Wins. The Cost: Press Freedom Is Crushed & Dissent Labelled Mental Illness

We must not downplay the price being demanded of us for this victory, writes Jonathan Cook.

The unexpected decision by Judge Vanessa Baraitser to deny a U.S. demand to extradite Julian Assange, foiling efforts to send him to a U.S. super-max jail for the rest of his life, is a welcome legal victory, but one swamped by larger lessons that should disturb us deeply.

Those who campaigned so vigorously to keep Assange’s case in the spotlight, even as the U.S. and U.K. corporate media worked so strenuously to keep it in darkness, are the heroes of the day. They made the price too steep for Baraitser or the British establishment to agree to lock Assange away indefinitely in the U.S. for exposing its war crimes and its crimes against humanity in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But we must not downplay the price being demanded of us for this victory.

Moment of Celebration

We have contributed collectively in our various small ways to win back for Assange some degree of freedom, and hopefully a reprieve from what could be a death sentence as his health continues to deteriorate in an overcrowded Belmarsh high-security prison in London that has become a breeding ground for Covid-19.

For this we should allow ourselves a moment of celebration. But Assange is not out of the woods yet. The U.S. has said it will appeal the decision. And it is not yet clear whether Assange will remain jailed in the U.K. – possibly in Belmarsh – while many months of further legal argument about his future take place.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Greenwald: MSM Journalists Hate Assange Because He’s Broken More Blockbuster Stories Than All Combined

“Nonsense!” — Julian Assange shouted as during the second day of his resumed extradition hearing US federal government attorney James Lewis told a witness that the WikiLeaks founder is facing extradition over the publication of informants’ names and not for merely handling leaked documents.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser promptly warned Assange, seated in the dock, that any further outbursts could get him removed from court and the hearings could proceed without him.

“If you interrupt proceedings and disrupt a witness who is properly giving their evidence, it is open to me to continue without you in your absence,” Baraitser said. “This is obviously not something I wish to do. I am, therefore, giving you a clear warning.”

Julian Assange being held in a glass cage during prior May UK court proceedings, via The Gray Zone.

The US side is hinging its extradition request argument on its prior claims that WikiLeaks under Assange’s leadership revealed names of sources. These individuals then “disappeared” according to the government’s argument, suggesting Assange actually got US operatives and assets detained or killed in foreign countries.

During the Tuesday proceedings, US wrongdoing was highlighted as well. Reuters reported that:

Stafford Smith, a dual US-UK national, said the leaked information had contributed to court findings that criminal proceedings should be taken against senior U.S. officials.

“I say this more in sadness than anger. I would never have believed that my government would do what it did,” he said. “We are talking about criminal offences of torture, kidnapping, rendition, holding people without trial.”

Meanwhile The Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald blasted the deafening press silence this week as the hearing proceeds.

Greenwald pointed out that years ago “it was fairly accepted in liberal circles (and media ones) that prosecuting Assange would be a grave threat to press freedom.”

But what’s different this time, Greenwald underscores, is that “Now Trump DOJ is doing it, and liberals are silent-to-supportive because Assange hurt Hillary & liberals want him imprisoned for that.”

WATCH: WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: What It Means for Press Freedom,

WATCH: WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs: What It Means for Press Freedom

WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson leads a discussion with investigative journalists Iain Overton and Chris Woods about the impact of the Iraq War Logs’ release a decade ago.

Almost 10 years ago WikiLeaks published the Iraq War Logs along with The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, The Washington Post and other news outlets. The logs showed the true numbers of civilian deaths in Iraq—at least 15,000 more people had died than previously thought—as well as the abuse and torture of prisoners by police and military in full knowledge of coalition forces. 

“The U.S. figures appear to be unreliable in respect of civilian deaths caused by their own military activities,” The Guardian reportedThis online event was organized by the Don’t Extradite Assange campaign. It features WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson and investigative journalists Iain Overton and Chris Woods.

WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange remains held at a maximum security prison in London in relation to a US extradition request – he faces a sentence of 175 years for publishing truthful information in the public interest, which include the Iraq War Logs.

 

A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

A Danish Journalist Arrived to Cover the TMX Pipeline. The Guard at YVR Decided to Deport Him

Kristian Lindhardt says Canada’s laws stifle press freedom afforded ‘during every crisis.’

When Danish journalist Kristian Lindhardt arrived at the Vancouver airport on Friday, he knew he would face additional levels of border scrutiny because of the coronavirus. Lindhardt wasn’t too concerned, though, because he has international press credentials from Denmark’s version of CBC and a statement from Chief Reuben George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation explaining that Lindhardt is here to report on the Trans Mountain pipeline. Lindhardt had also made all the necessary arrangements for a 14-day quarantine in Vancouver.

But just as Lindhardt was about to get through customs a border guard pulled him aside. The guard questioned him for hours and made him sign a document promising to fly back to Denmark today. “I asked what happens if I don’t sign them,” Lindhardt told The Tyee over the phone Saturday morning, just hours before his flight back to Europe was set to depart. “And he said he would detain me in a jail cell.”

The B.C. government currently deems “newspapers, television, radio, call centres, online news outlets and other media services” as essential work. But there is no direction from the federal government saying journalists must be let into the country, according to Green Party MP and former leader of the party Elizabeth May, who has looked into the issue. At the end of the day, it’s up to individual border guards to decide who can enter and who can’t.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Establishment Journalists Call For Big Tech to Censor Everyone Else

ESTABLISHMENT JOURNALISTS CALL FOR BIG TECH TO CENSOR EVERYONE ELSE

In a major threat to what’s left of press freedom, establishment journalists are calling for Big Tech to censor those who won’t parrot the government-approved official narrative. Journalist Sulome Anderson has publically called for censorship of a site because it’s an independent news source.

Anderson publicly requested that Google de-rank the independent news site The Grayzone. Anderson, who, according to her bio on her Twitter page, has published with news outlets such as The Washington PostNewsweekNew York Magazine, and Foreign Policy, labeled a recent article by Grayzone contributor Rania Khalek as “dangerous”. For her part, Khalek called Anderson’s comments to Google a “dangerous threat to press freedom.”

Khalek’s article, which Anderson specifically took aim at, is part of a two-piece investigation into alleged U.S. and Gulf states attempts to co-opt and influence the ongoing anti-corruption protests in Lebanon, according to Sputnik News.

Khalek writes that:

“By joining the roadblocks around Beirut, the protesters have inadvertently allowed themselves to be used by these US-allied parties. Whether they know it or not, the media-friendly artists and students at the ring road in downtown Beirut have given cover to the Lebanese Forces roadblocks in the north and the [Progressive Socialist Party] and Future Party roadblocks in the south.”


Who decides which protests are worthy/unworthy? And why?

It’s all about location!

Protest against a government the US hates and you’ll get the hero treatment in US media.

But protest against a US ally and you’re a rioter.

Watch my handy guide:


Anderson lashed out against the article, calling The Grayzone a “conspiracy theorist website” worth of Google’s power-hungry censorship:

“It’s Not a Conspiracy Theory… It Is Happening Right Now”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Grayzone Editor Max Blumenthal Arrested Months After Reporting on Venezuelan Opposition Violence

Grayzone Editor Max Blumenthal Arrested Months After Reporting on Venezuelan Opposition Violence

Blumenthal has been arrested on false charges after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence outside the D.C. embassy. He describes the manufactured case as part of a wider campaign of political persecution, reports Ben Norton. 

Max Blumenthal, the editor of the news site The Grayzone, was arrested on the morning of Oct. 25 on a fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., that took place between April and May.

A team of D.C. police officers appeared at Blumenthal’s door at just after 9 AM, demanding entry and threatening to break his door down. A number of officers had taken positions on the side of his home as though they were prepared for a SWAT-style raid.

Blumenthal was hauled into a police van and ultimately taken to D.C. central jail, where he was held for two days in various cells and cages. He was shackled by his hands and ankles for over five hours in one such cage along with other inmates. His request for a phone call was denied by D.C. police and corrections officers, effectively denying him access to the outside world.

Max Blumenthal.

Blumenthal was informed that he was accused of simple assault by a Venezuelan opposition member. He declared the charge completely baseless.

“This charge is a 100 percent false, fabricated, bogus, untrue, and malicious lie,” Blumenthal declared. “It is clearly part of a campaign of political persecution designed to silence me and the The Grayzone for our factual journalism exposing the deceptions, corruption and violence of the far-right Venezuelan opposition.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Forgotten Media Purges of the Great Depression

The Forgotten Media Purges of the Great Depression

Republican Hoover built the federal broadcasting shield in 1927. Roosevelt fashioned it into a weapon in 1934 and Democrats have never put it down since. One might consider the elaborate FCC speech barriers: A Poll Tax on Public Debate

One of the more enduring myths accepted as reality in our modern society is that America has a relatively free press. The ruling authorities and their entrenched accomplices promote that lie as diligently as they work to ensure that it never again becomes true.

America did have a mostly free and independent press until the rise of broadcasting in the 1920s. Within a few years, a small group of Republicans, progressives and corporate interests successfully nationalized the airwaves with restrictive licensing that blocked competition, rewarded insiders and squelched dissent.

Over the next few decades, the increasingly powerful medium of radio and then television drowned out the previously broad spectrum of information and ideas—with often three or more diverse choices of daily newspapers in many U.S. cities—and turned free speech into carefully rationed federal broadcasting privileges, their anointed urban newspaper monopolies and a few approved magazines.

One of the more ironic parts of this forgotten history is that a Republican, Herbert Hoover, led the initial charge to politicize the press. When the more authoritarian FDR took the reins in 1933—holding onto power until his death in 1945—he would ultimately purge the airwaves as well as the newspaper and magazine stands of the nation’s greatest commentators, publishers, editors and writers. In their absence, only pro-war / pro-welfare state neo-liberals and neo-conservatives would survive in mainstream media for generations to come.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Freedom of the Press? Not in the U.S.

Freedom of the Press? Not in the U.S.

The United States ranks 48th among nations for press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. Since few other countries have the equivalent of our First Amendment, learning that we rank below Botswana and Slovenia may come as a surprise.

Mostly the organization pins this dismal state of affairs on Trump’s attacks on the news media. They reference the White House’s revocation of CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press card, the president’s “fake news” and “enemy of the people” jibes and his tacit approval of the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by the government of Saudi Arabia. “At least one White House correspondent has hired private security for fear of their life after receiving death threats, and newsrooms throughout the country have been plagued by bomb threats and were the recipients of other potentially dangerous packages, prompting journalism organizations to reconsider the security of their staffs in a uniquely hostile environment,” reports RWB. (Cry me a river! I’ve received hundreds of death threats.)

Like most other mainstream analyses of the state of press, RWB focuses on how easy it is for large, corporate-owned media conglomerates with establishmentarian political orientations to do their jobs.

Independent journalists, especially those whose politics are left of the Democrats or right of the Republicans, have much bigger problems than deep-pocketed mega-conglomerates like CNN.

No consideration of freedom of the press in the U.S. is complete without a hard look at the case of Julian Assange. The founder and publisher of WikiLeaks is rotting in an English prison, awaiting extradition to the United States for possession and dissemination of classified information—exactly what The New York Times did when it published the Pentagon Papers and the Edward Snowden revelations.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The CIA’s “Intelligence Authorization Act” Would Criminalize Whistleblowers and Reporters

The CIA’s “Intelligence Authorization Act” Would Criminalize Whistleblowers and Reporters

(Starts at approx. 5:00)
A CIA written Bill called the Intelligence Authorization Act (SB 3153) would criminalize whistleblowers and reporters.

Section 733 Sense of Congress on WikiLeaks:

“It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resemble a nonstate hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”

The Bill is also known as the Damon Paul Nelson and Matthew Young Pollard Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020 (H.R. 3494).

Demand Progress warned,

“House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans by criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill,” Daniel Schuman, policy director, of Demand Progress said.

He added: “Schiff’s expansion of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act beyond all reason will effectively muzzle reporting on torture, mass surveillance, and other crimes against the American people — all at the request of the CIA. Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.”

Government That Tortures Journalists Bans RT From Media Conference

Government That Tortures Journalists Bans RT From Media Conference

The British Foreign Office has banned Russian outlets RT and Sputnik from attending the upcoming Global Conference on Media Freedom in London, citing their predilection for “disinformation”.

“We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” said a Foreign Office spokeswoman.

“It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media; sadly, the world has learned to expect just that from the UK Foreign Office,” RT said in a statement in response.

“It amounts to direct politically motivated discrimination of the Russian channel,” said the Russian embassy in London. “The refusal of accreditation comes on top of the months-long smear campaign against RT by British political figures, governmental bodies, including media regulator Ofcom, and even fellow journalists.”

“Now a leading Russian international TV channel is denied access to the forum, despite being officially registered and working in the UK, on legal grounds,” the embassy added. “What better illustration of the real situation with media freedom in the UK does one need? Yet the organizers of the Conference, as far as we understand, wish to discuss the situation with media freedom anywhere in the world, but not in this country.”

UK govt organises international conference on ‘media freedom’, bans @RT_com (and Syria & Venezuela) from attending https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-48919085 …
’It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for media freedom, while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media’1,2296:26 AM – Jul 9, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyRussia’s RT banned from UK media freedom conferenceThe UK Foreign Office bans two Russian news agencies, accusing them of spreading misinformation.bbc.co.uk

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Professional Assange Smearers Finally Realize His Fate Is Tied To Theirs

Professional Assange Smearers Finally Realize His Fate Is Tied To Theirs

Rachel Maddow has aired a segment condemning the new indictment against Julian Assange for 17 alleged violations of the Espionage Act.

Yes, that Rachel Maddow.

MSNBC’s top host began the segment after it was introduced by Chris Hayes, agreeing with her colleague that it’s surprising that more news outlets aren’t giving this story more “wall to wall” coverage, given its immense significance. She recapped Assange’s various legal struggles up until this point, then accurately described Assange’s new Espionage Act charges for publishing secret documents.

“And these new charges are not about stealing classified information or outsmarting computer systems in order to illegally obtain classified information,” Maddow said. “It’s not about that. These new charges are trying to prosecute Assange for publishing that stolen, secret material which was obtained by somebody else. And that is a whole different kettle of fish then what he was initially charged with.”

“By charging Assange for publishing that stuff that was taken by Manning, by issuing these charges today, the Justice Department has just done something you might have otherwise thought was impossible,” Maddow added after explaining the unprecedented nature of this case. “The Justice Department today, the Trump administration today, just put every journalistic institution in this country on Julian Assange’s side of the ledger. On his side of the fight. Which, I know, is unimaginable. But that is because the government is now trying to assert this brand new right to criminally prosecute people for publishing secret stuff, and newspapers and magazines and investigative journalists and all sorts of different entities publish secret stuff all the time. That is the bread and butter of what we do.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Legal Narrative Funnel That’s Being Used To Extradite Assange

The Legal Narrative Funnel That’s Being Used To Extradite Assange

Isn’t it interesting how an Ecuadorian “asylum conditions” technicality, a UK bail technicality, and a US whistleblowing technicality all just so happened to converge in a way that just so happens to look exactly the same as imprisoning a journalist for telling the truth?

Following the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, top UK officials all began simultaneously piping the following exact phrase into public consciousness: “No one is above the law.”

“This goes to show that in the United Kingdom, no one is above the law,” Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament after Assange’s arrest.

“Julian Assange is no hero and no one is above the law,” tweeted Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. 

“Nearly 7 years after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK. I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation and @metpoliceuk for its professionalism. No one is above the law,” tweeted Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Over and over again that phrase showed up to be unquestioningly re-bleated by the human livestock known as the British press in all their reporting on the Assange case: No one is above the law. No one is above the law. No one is above the law. Something tells me they really want people to know that, with regard to Julian Assange, no one is above the law.

But what is “the law” in this particular case? What they are constantly referring to as “the law” with regard to Assange is in fact nothing more than a combination of ridiculous bureaucratic technicalities which can be (and have been) interpreted very differently, but are now instead being interpreted in a way which just so happens to lead to a truth-telling journalist being locked in a cage, awaiting extradition to the same government which tortured Chelsea Manning.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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