Sweden’s parliament adopted a major espionage law expansion that will permit the country’s police to investigate journalists, publishers, and whistleblowers if they reveal secret information that “may damage Sweden's relationship with another state or an international organization.” Journalists, publishers, or whistleblowers found guilty of revealing such “damaging” information could be sentenced to up to four years in prison under the new law. The expansion was aimed at ensuring the Swedish government has even more control over what the public learns about the country’s cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the European Union, and the United Nations.
"As this century began, I was writing War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, my reflections on two decades as a war correspondent, 15 of them with the New York Times, in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, Bosnia, and Kosovo. I worked in a small, sparsely furnished studio apartment on First Avenue in New York City. The room had a desk, chair, futon, and a couple of bookshelves — not enough to accommodate my extensive library, leaving piles of books stacked against the wall. The single window overlooked a back alley. There were days when I could not write. I would sit in despair, overcome by emotion, unable to cope with a sense of loss, of hurt, and the hundreds of violent images I carry within me. Writing about war was not cathartic. It was painful. I was forced to unwrap memories carefully swaddled in the cotton wool of forgetfulness. The advance on the book was modest: $25,000. Neither the publisher nor I expected many people to read it, especially with such an ungainly title. I wrote out of a sense of obligation, a belief that, given my deep familiarity with the culture of war, I should set it down. But I vowed, once done, never to willfully dredge up those memories again."
The way News Corp operates must be traced to Rupert Murdoch himself for he has told us that ‘for better or worse (News Corp) is a reflection of my own thinking, my character and my values’. Let me give some examples of how News Corp operates. Ken Cowley was a very senior and loyal executive of News Corp for many years. He was my production manager in Sydney at News Ltd. Unwisely, three years ago Cowley told the Australian Financial Review that [Rupert’s son] Lachlan Murdoch was not particularly smart and that The Australian ‘is pathetic’. People were wheeled out within 24 hours to defend Lachlan. Cowley was brought to heel. The Australian extracted the following from him: ‘‘The Australian has always been good, the Editor in Chief has been doing an excellent job… I have great respect for Lachlan Murdoch.”
This past May, Rand Paul, the Senator from Kentucky, did something that made a lot of sense. Before a vote to send another $40 Billion to Ukraine, Paul demanded language that would create oversight for that money. Most of Congress was furious with him for daring to put restrictions on U.S. funding for the proxy forces in Ukraine. One of his peers who was most upset with him was Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. As former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter writes for Consortium News, three weeks after Schumer forced that bill through and got the money for the proxy war in Ukraine, something funny happened.
Violence is the most basic and blunt form of press censorship. To kill or imprison a journalist is to silence the public’s source of news. To date, 33 journalists around the world have been killed this year and another 494 are currently imprisoned, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Put another way, thus far in 2022, on average, once per week somewhere in the world a journalist is killed for reporting the news. Sometimes these cases make headlines, as was true in October 2018 when Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who reported for the Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, was murdered by agents of the Saudi government, and in May 2022 when Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed—almost certainly by Israeli soldiers—in the occupied West Bank while reporting for Al Jazeera.
On June 10th, The Guardian's Mark Townsend published an article headlined "Russia-backed network of Syria conspiracy theorists identified." ("Russia-backed" has since been removed). The article is based on what Townsend calls a "new analysis" that "reveals" a "network more than two dozen conspiracy theorists, frequently backed by a coordinated Russian campaign." This network, Townsend claims, is "focused on the denial or distortion of facts about the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons and on attacking the findings of the world’s foremost chemical weapons watchdog," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). According to Townsend, I am named "as the most prolific spreader of disinformation" among the nefarious bunch.
Last month, British Home Secretary Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition to the US, where he faces 175 years imprisonment under the Espionage Act for publishing true information exposing American war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Pilger explains, Patel’s order will be the subject of a further appeal, but the British judiciary that will adjudicate has facilitated Assange’s persecution every step of the way. This underscores the urgency of a political fight to free Assange, based on the powerful struggles of the working class that are emerging all around the world. Pilger began his media career in the late 1950s. His first documentary, The Quiet Mutiny, exposed aspects of the US war in Vietnam in 1970. Since then, Pilger has produced more than 50 documentaries, many of them feature-length and centering on revealing the crimes of the major imperialist powers.
In the best sense of the word a journalist is someone who brings to the public sphere accurate, well sourced information, and rigorous analysis. Those individuals speak for the marginalized, who can’t speak for themselves, and they expose the privileged, who are always given opportunities for expression. They point out the faults of those deemed too authoritative to be questioned. If an outlet claims to write all the news that is fit to print or declares that democracy dies in darkness, their work should be given more scrutiny than credibility. The journalist should be truly independent and skeptical of official narratives. Glen Ford was such a person. His decades of work provide a blueprint for anyone who wants that word to have real meaning and integrity.
This is National Whistleblower Week, with Saturday marking National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The National Whistleblower Center in Washington has its annual lunch, seminar and associated events scheduled. Whistleblowers from around the U.S. attend, a couple members of Congress usually show up and we talk about how important it is to speak truth to power. I’ve been attending these events for much of the past decade. But I’m not sanguine about where our efforts stand, especially on behalf of national security whistleblowers. Since I blew the whistle on the C.I.A.’s torture program in 2007 and was prosecuted for it in 2012, I think the situation for whistleblowers has grown far worse. In 2012, when I took a plea to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 for confirming the name of a former C.I.A. colleague to a reporter who never made the name public, I was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison.
The “Center for Countering Disinformation,” established in 2021 under Volodymyr Zelensky and headed by former lawyer Polina Lysenko, sits within the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine. Its stated aim is to detect and counter “propaganda” and “destructive disinformation” and to prevent the “manipulation of public opinion.” On July 14th it published on its website a list of politicians, academics, activists that are “promoting Russian propaganda” — including several high-profile Western intellectuals and politicians. Republican Senator Rand Paul, former Democrat Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, military and geopolitical analyst Edward N. Luttwak, realist political scientist John Mearsheimer and heterodox journalist Glenn Greenwald were all included on the list. The list does not explain what the consequences are for anyone mentioned.
There aren’t a lot of journalists that Americans can look up to these days, especially in the mainstream media. Edward R. Murrow and his “boys” are long gone. Americans don’t have a Walter Cronkite to set their minds at ease. Even the venerable 60 Minutes has had a carousel of unremarkable talking heads since the retirements of Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, and Harry Reasoner. Instead, many (most, maybe?) Americans get their news from “news” channels that fall under the auspices of their networks’ entertainment divisions. They get their news from the likes of Ken Dilanian, the NBC News and MSNBC intelligence journalist who in 2014 was exposed sending his stories to the C.I.A. for comment and clearance before he sent them to his own editor.
Yesterday, workers at the “Big Four” publisher HarperCollins went on a one-day strike, protesting the company’s refusal to agree to a fair contract. The workers, who have organized with United Auto Workers Local 2110, are demanding livable wages, better family leave benefits, and stronger commitments to racial equity. Even though management threatened to dock the pay of striking workers, and even though temperatures approached 100 degrees, the energy of the moving picket outside the company’s headquarters at 195 Broadway was vibrant, militant, and joyful. Of the 250 or so unionized workers —across the company’s editorial, publicity, sales, design, marketing and legal departments — 95 percent took part in the vote to strike, with 99 percent in favor.
On May 3 World Freedom Day ten international human rights and press freedom organizations (including the Committee to Protect Journalists and PEN America) expressed serious concern at the increasing assaults on journalists and media freedom in recent times. They called upon the Indian authorities to stop targeting journalists and critics, and more particularly to desist from prosecuting them under sedition and/or counterterrorism laws. This was just one among several several statements to emerge from international media and rights organizations to express concern regarding the fast deteriorating press freedom situation in India.
The British Parliament is debating a national security bill which could undermine the basis of national security reporting and ultimately throw journalists in jail for life. A person convicted under the new offense of “obtaining or disclosing protected information,” defined in Section 1 of National Security Bill 2022, faces a fine, life imprisonment, or both, if convicted following a jury trial. A review of the parliamentary debate on the bill makes clear that work by press outlets such as WikiLeaks is at the heart of Tory and Labour MPs’ thinking as they push to make the bill law.
Much of the world was horrified in early May when Shireen Abu Akleh, a renowned Al Jazeera reporter, was shot in the head by Israeli troops while on assignment in Jenin in the Occupied West Bank. Not long before, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Liz Shuler had been photographed with Labor Party Chair Merav Michaeli, a strong supporter of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, along with Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). None of the three raised any outcry subsequently after Akleh was killed. Shuler moreover sent a letter to the San Francisco Labor Council stating that its delegates could not discuss a boycott of Israel. The AFL-CIO’s current support for Israel fits a long historical pattern.