Press Freedom Groups Join Defending Rights & Dissent In Demanding Charges Be Dropped Against Journalists Arrested When Covering Inauguration Protest

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By Chip Gibbons for Defending Rights & Dissent – Defending Rights & Dissent was joined by a number of press freedom groups, including Freedom of the Press Foundation, Free Press, Pen America, and the Nation Institute, in sending a letter to the Department of Justice calling for an end to the prosecutions of Aaron Cantú and Alexei Wood. Both Cantú and Wood are journalists who were covering a protest march on Inauguration Day 2017, in Washington, DC. They face a number of charges, including engaging in a riot, conspiracy to riot, inciting a riot, and property damage. Since some of the charges are felonies, they face potentially decades in prison. Cantú and Wood were arrested and charged for simply doing their jobs as reporters. Their prosecution endangers press freedom in the United State.

RT America Torched In Witch Hunt ’17

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – In one of the most horrendous blows to press freedom since the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s, the U.S. Department of Justice has forced the news broadcaster RT America to file under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). The assault on RT America, on which I host the show “On Contact,” has nothing to do with the dissemination of Russian propaganda. It is driven by RT America’s decision to provide a platform to critics of American capitalism and imperialism, critics who lambast a system of government that can no longer be called democratic. And it is accompanied by the installation of algorithms by Google, Facebook and Twitter that divert readers away from left-wing, progressive and anti-war websites, including Truthdig. The World Socialist Web Site has seen its search traffic from Google fall by 74 percent since April. Google, in a further blow, this month removed RT from its list of “preferred” channels on YouTube. Twitter has blocked all advertising by the channel. Put the censorship campaigns together and the message is clear: Left-wing critics, already marginalized by the state, must be silenced. It would seem, given how we are locked out of the corporate media and public broadcasting, that the assault is overkill. But the ideology that sustains the corporate state, the “free market” and neoliberalism has lost all credibility. The corporate state has no counterargument to its critics.

Using Worker Buyouts To Counteract Retaliatory Closings

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By Peter Gowan for People’s Policy Project – There has been much understandable outrage at the closure of Gothamist and DNAinfo, a mere week after the publications voted to unionize. The closure of these publications was a move that will cause huge hardship to the journalists and staff at those publications, and should never have happened. It is also probably legal. United States labor law is exceptionally favorable to employers who would prefer to shut down their business rather than recognise a union. This precedent isn’t about to change because of a persuasive legal argument under the current Supreme Court and NLRB – but there are policy options which would significantly reduce the incentives for owners to close businesses in response to unionization, and protect workers where such actions are attempted. The first part of such a platform would be a version of the Italian “Marcora Law”, introduced in 1985. The law established a state investment fund for “phoenix cooperatives” in businesses or workplaces that were shutting down. Workers were given the right to collectively use up to three years of future unemployment benefits to instead buy the shares in their former workplace. These funds would then be matched three times over by the state investment fund, creating a sizeable sum of capital which could be used to revitalise the company.

Journalists Who Want Online Privacy Need To Read This Guide

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By Chris Paulus for Occupy – We live in a time of journalistic prosecution, as investigative journalists get increasingly targeted for simply doing their job. The Obama Administration prosecuted more individuals under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined; in fact, it used the law to prosecute journalists almost exclusively. It is imperative that journalists protect themselves as they continue to pursue their important work in the face of growing government control. That is why Michael Dagan, a former deputy editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaertz, and Ariel Hochstadt, a former security expert as well as a marketing expert for Google, have created a guide, Online Privacy for Journalists, to help journalists protect both themselves and their sources. “Many journalists whom I have spoken with recently expressed concern for whatever lies ahead for the freedom of the press. All encryption systems can be compromised, if someone has the perseverance to track them,” writes Dagan in an introductory paragraph. “The good news is that it is nevertheless possible to make it difficult for anyone to try and intercept your emails, the text messages you’re sending or your phone calls.” One may be surprised by the extreme measures the guide suggests are necessary as preventive steps to ensure the highest likelihood of a journalist maintaining privacy.

Lawmakers Demand Tech Companies Censor Journalists And Conduct Mass Surveillance

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By Andre Damon for WSWS – Wednesday’s hearings by the House and Senate Intelligence committees on “extremist” political views served as the occasion for members of Congress to urge technology companies to flagrantly violate the US Constitution by censoring political speech, carrying out mass surveillance, and muzzling journalists in pursuit of the government’s geopolitical aims. The hearings revolved around allegations, promoted ceaselessly in recent months by the intelligence agencies, leading figures within the Democratic Party, and newspapers such as the New York Times, that social opposition to the political establishment results from “fake news” promoted by Russia. As Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff put it, “Russia” promoted “discord in the US by inflaming passions on a range of divisive issues” and sought to “mobilize real Americans to sign online petitions and join rallies and protests.” The basic problem, however, as Schiff put it, is “not just foreign.” The algorithms used by Facebook and Twitter have the “consequence of widening divisions among our society.” Schiff complained: “What ends up percolating to the top of our feeds tends to be things we were looking for,” as opposed to US government propaganda disseminated by the establishment media, which he referred to as “true information.”

Empower Communities Through Stories And Mobile Journalism

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By Staff of Law at the Margins – Join Law at the Margins in collaboration with Evrybit, veteran journalists and social justice innovators as we discuss how mobile journalism can strengthen marginalized communities by amplifying voices, stories and images that are often underrepresented, misrepresented or ignored. Mobile journalism—where reporters use portable technologies to gather news—provides a unique opportunity to share stories from local communities in the United States and around the world. Can these tools be used to help strengthen historically marginalized communities? Law at the Margins in collaboration with the Evrybit mobile storytelling platform, veteran journalists, and social justice innovators will discuss existing tools that residents can use to document what’s happening in their neighborhoods and become their own trusted news source.

Malta Car Bomb Kills Panama Papers Journalist

Forensic experts walk in a field after a powerful bomb blew up a car killing investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Photograph: Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

By Juliette Garside for The Guardian – The journalist who led the Panama Papers investigation into corruption in Malta was killed on Monday in a car bomb near her home. Daphne Caruana Galizia died on Monday afternoon when her car, a Peugeot 108, was destroyed by a powerful explosive device which blew the vehicle into several pieces and threw the debris into a nearby field. A blogger whose posts often attracted more readers than the combined circulation of the country’s newspapers, Caruana Galizia was recently described by the Politico website as a “one-woman WikiLeaks”. Her blogs were a thorn in the side of both the establishment and underworld figures that hold sway in Europe’s smallest member state. Her most recent revelations pointed the finger at Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, and two of his closest aides, connecting offshore companies linked to the three men with the sale of Maltese passports and payments from the government of Azerbaijan. No group or individual has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. Malta’s president, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, called for calm. “In these moments, when the country is shocked by such a vicious attack, I call on everyone to measure their words, to not pass judgment and to show solidarity,” she said. After a fraught general election this summer, commentators had been fearing a return to the political violence that scarred Malta during the 1980s.

Catalan Referendum: Attacks On Journalists, Biased Coverage

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By Staff of RSF – Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled that media personnel were among the victims of police charges against civilians during the illegal independence referendum organized by the regional government in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain, on 1 October. According to figures provided by the Catalan government, around 850 people were injured as a result of the disproportionate use of force by police who had been deployed by the Spanish government. Those injured included press photographers and reporters who were covering the voting. The most serious incidents occurred in and around the Ramón Lull School in downtown Barcelona, which served as a polling station. Several photographers were hit or injured in crushes, as the photo-journalist Juan Carlos Mohr reported on Twitter. Xabi Barrena, a reporter for the Catalan daily El Periódico de Catalunya, was among the journalists attacked by Spanish riot police. He was struck by a police baton while using his mobile phone to film police charges inside the school. When he was on the ground, the police also kicked him. Sofia Cabanes, a reporter for the digital daily NacióDigital in Terres de l’Ebre who also freelances for the Spanish news agency EFE, was filming a police charge in Sant Carles de la Ràpita, near Tarragona when a member of the Spanish Civil Guard (a gendarmerie-style force) struck her arm with his baton, knocking her mobile phone to the ground. When she tried to pick it up, one of the policemen deliberately stamped on her hand.

Corporate Media Analysts’ Indifference To US Journalists Facing 70 Years in Prison

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By Adam Johnson for FaIR – For over two years, many in corporate media have been trumpeting the looming threat to a free press posed by Donald Trump. “Would President Trump Kill Freedom of the Press?” Slate (3/14/16) wondered in the midst of the primaries; after the election, the New York Times (1/13/17) warned of “Donald Trump’s Dangerous Attacks on the Press,” and the Atlantic (2/20/17) declared it “ A Dangerous Time for the Press and the Presidency.” Reporter Aaron Cantu’s press credentials. It’s strange, then, that the attack on the press that kicked off the Trump administration—the arrest and subsequent threatening of two journalists with 70 years in prison—has been met with total silence from most of these same outlets. Aaron Cantú, Santa Fe Reporter staff writer and editor at the New Inquiry (and a contributor to FAIR.org), and professional photographer Alexei Wood are both facing decades in prisonfor the act of covering the January 20 unrest in DC—charged with felony rioting for little more than being in the proximity of window-breaking and brick-throwing. (Prosecutors initially brought and then dropped felony charges against six other reporters, though how their cases differ from Cantú and Wood’s is unclear.)

Turkey: Show Trials Of Journalists Are A Travesty Of Justice

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By Staff of RSF – This week, ARTICLE 19 and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) are monitoring two trials of journalists in Turkey. On Monday 18 September they attended the first hearing in the trial of 30 journalists, columnists and staff working for Zaman newspaper, including Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç, Ahmet Alkan Turan and Mümtazer Türköne. Today, on Tuesday 19 September, they are attending the second hearing in the case of 17 journalists and columnists including Ahmet and Mehmet Altan. ARTICLE 19 and RSF call for the journalists to be released from pre-trial detention and for the charges to be dropped. In both trials, the defendants are accused of involvement in last year’s failed coup. They face charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence or force”, “attempting to overthrow or interfere with the work of the national assembly through violence or force” and “attempting to overthrow or interfere with the work of the government”. In the Zaman case, the defendants are also charged with membership of a terrorist organisation, which refers to the Gülen movement, the organisation the Turkish government blames for the coup attempt. In the Altans’ case, the defendants are charged with aiding a terrorist organisation without being a member, which carries the same sentence as membership.

Journalists Sue Chicago Police Over Hidden Records Of SWAT Responses To Mental Health Crises

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By Andy Thayer for Loevy and Loevy – CHICAGO – Independent journalist Sarah Lazare and community activist Debbie Southorn sued the Chicago Police Department today demanding release of records about Chicago SWAT deployments responding to mental health crises. A copy of the suit can be found here. These records are of particular public importance because all of Chicago’s mental health clinics have been closed or privatized in recent years, and SWAT teams are used to respond to mental health incidents. As Lazare and Southorn note in an article published yesterday at The Intercept, “Since 2013, Chicago police have deployed SWAT teams at least 38 times to respond to mental health incidents and suicide attempts,” as revealed by records produced in response to a previous FOIA request. * Laquan McDonald, killed by police officer Jason Van Dyke in October 2014. McDonald had been “diagnosed with complex mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder” noted the Chicago Tribune, and had been hospitalized in psychiatric hospitals three times by the time he was 13.

Media Groups Concerned About Death Threats To California Newspaper

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By Staff of RSF – RSF first learned of threats against the twice weekly newspaper The Sacramento Valley Mirror last April, after the paper’s editor and publisher Tim Crews reached out by email. According to Crews and his attorney, he and reporter Larry Judkins began receiving threatening phone calls and complaints after they covered a local death in late March. In addition to the calls, Crews also sent RSF a photograph of a noose that had been left in front of the door to the paper’s offices in downtown Willows, California on April 21. “This threat, in broad daylight, means to us that the perpetrators, who are trying to warn us off a series we are working on, are operating with impunity,” Crews told RSF. “Since learning of the threat against the Valley Mirror, RSF has been closely monitoring the case, says Margaux Ewen, Advocacy and Communications Director for RSF’s North America Bureau. “Due to the lack of any serious development in the investigation to date and events of the last month where journalists in the United States have been arrested, manhandled and even physically assaulted for attempting to ask questions, it’s important that we implore the local authorities to take threats of violence against the press very seriously.”

Right Wing Venezuelans Threaten Reporters Abby Martin & Michael Prysner

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By Ben Norton for AlterNet – Prominent members of the right-wing Venezuelan opposition, including professors and journalists, are spreading blatant lies about U.S. journalists, inciting violence and subjecting them to a torrent of extreme death threats. As the price of oil has plummeted, Venezuela has seen growing inflation and goods shortages. The South American nation’s right-wing opposition — which has long been backed by the United States government, and which in 2002 briefly carried out a coup, with U.S. support — has exploited this crisis to launch a borderline insurgency against the democratically elected socialist government. For months, the right-wing opposition has been engaging in large, often bloody demonstrations. Protesters have lynched three Afro-Venezuelans, whom they accused of being “infiltrators”; two of the men were burned alive. Right-wing demonstrators have also set fire to government buildings and buses, and even thrown explosives and molotov cocktails at police. In response, Venezuelan security forces have cracked down on the violent protests. Dozens of people have been killed, on both sides. Some academic experts have suggested that the opposition is intentionally provoking a violent response, in hopes of attracting international media attention.

NYT’s New Syria-Sarin Report Challenged

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By Robert Parry for Consortium News – For U.S. mainstream journalists and government analysts, their erroneous “groupthinks” often have a shady accomplice called “confirmation bias,” that is, the expectation that some “enemy” must be guilty and thus the tendency to twist any fact in that direction. We have seen this pair contribute to fallacious reasoning more and more in recent years as the mainstream U.S. media and the U.S. government approach international conflicts as if the “pro-U.S. side” is surely innocent and the “anti-U.S. side” is presumed guilty. That was the case in assessing whether Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003; it was repeated regarding alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria during that six-year conflict; and it surfaces as well in the New Cold War in which Russia is always the villain. The trend also requires insulting any Western journalist or analyst who deviates from the groupthinks or questions the confirmation bias. The dissidents are called “stooges”; “apologists”; “conspiracy theorists”; or “purveyors of fake news.” It doesn’t really matter how reasonable the doubts are. The mocking insults carry the day.

Journalist Faces 75 Years For Covering DC Inauguration Protest

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By Matt Grubs for Santa Fe Reporter – Aaron Cantú, a staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he participated in a riot while working as a journalist during protests in Washington, DC on Inauguration Day. Cantú faces eight felony counts—including inciting a riot, rioting, conspiracy to riot and five counts of destruction of property. The grand jury handed up the indictment last week. On January 20, a collection of DC police and federal law enforcement officers arrested more than 200 people in connection with a rally that began as a protest, but turned destructive as several people broke the windows of businesses, damaged vehicles and allegedly caused a police officer to break his wrist. Cantú was not named specifically by prosecutors as the cause of any of the destruction, as some defendants were. Instead, the indictment named him as being present while the damage happened. The arrests have been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, other civil rights groups and newspapers as overly broad and lacking hard evidence. Video from the conservative media group The Rebel shows glimpses of Cantú off to the side of the protests with other journalists, washing what appears to be pepper spray from his eyes.