Tag Archive: Journalists

Apr 02 2014

The War on the First Amendment Has Gone Global

The war on media was inspired by America and encouraged by Barack Obama. Obama rocks. Not

Egypt’s al-Jazeera trial was inspired by America’s global war on journalism

   From a War on Terror to a war on leaks, now comes America’s shadow influence on a media crackdown

   Ten years ago, the United States also justified its detention of al-Jazeera journalists by claiming a “national security threat”. These arrests could not be cloaked as mere collateral damage in a messy war. The US, then as Egypt does now, made leaping connections between the news network and militants, and specifically targeted those whose coverage did not serve the military’s objectives: Dick Cheney warned that al-Jazeera risked being “labeled as ‘Osama’s outlet to the world‘”; Donald Rumsfeld called the network’s coverage of the Iraq war “vicious, inaccurate, inexcusable”.

   Over the next several years, US forces arrested and detained al-Jazeera journalists like Sami al Hajj and Salah Hasan Nusaif Jasim al Ejaili. US military forces captured both in separate instances while they were doing their jobs, and tortured them while attempting to establish ties between al-Jazeera and al-Qaida. Neither al Hajj nor al Ejaili received justice for their wrongful detention. After seven years of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay, the US government released al Hajj to Sudanese authorities, without any reparations. Meanwhile al Ejaili, who was detained at Abu Ghraib, brought a case with other victims against the private military contractor at the prison, alleging it conspired to commit torture and war crimes. But the case was dismissed by the district court. The court perversely ordered al Ejaili and other plaintiffs to pay their alleged torturers for the cost of the suit. The case is pending on appeal.

   The reverberations of this misguided War on Terror continue, even if the war has shifted: the Obama administration has famously invoked the Espionage Act more than any other American president, attempting to control press leaks with tactics a report found to be “the most aggressive … since the Nixon administration“.

Dec 27 2013

Who the President Reads

At the end of each year Salon’s Alex Pareene gives us his list of his top ten journalistic hacks. This year Alex has ranked the columnists that are President Barack Obama top reads. As, he points out in the article, the Internet has made the conversation more “democratized” than in the past when everyone relied on the print media. Today it isn’t so much how many people read a columnist, it’s who.

But as a Politico editor could tell you, it’s not how many you reach, it’s who. Among Friedman’s readers: much of the nation’s executive class. Among Allen’s? Nearly everyone who works in any capacity for every member of Congress. That’s why it’s necessary to criticize them. They really do “drive the conversation,” to use a particularly odious Politico-ism. Both what is considered politically possible and politically desirable in this country depend in large part on what a handful of mainly older, mainly white and overwhelmingly male columnists and pundits say. Who is let into that conversation and who is left out of it has consequences for all Americans. That was made clear 10 years ago, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, which the nation’s premier political opinion makers (what we once called “Thought Leaders”) almost universally supported. The Bush administration was aware of this, too, and devoted more efforts to convincing them than to trying to win over what we vaguely call “the people.”

President Barack Obama. Barack Obama loves newspaper columnists. He reads them, because he thinks they offer smarter commentary than one hears on cable news, and he invites them to the White House regularly, so he can influence their writing.

There in lies the problem, as Alex lays it out. Of the columnists that Pres. Obama has said are his favorite reads and who he has invited to the White House, none are women, all but one is black, most are older than 50 and most supported the Iraq war in 2003.

These are the men whose opinions the president “favors”

12. Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

11. Jonathan Chait, New York magazine.

10. Josh Barro, Business Insider.

9. Ezra Klein, Washington Post.

8. E.J. Dionne, Washington Post.

7. David Brooks.

6. Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal.

5. David Ignatius, Washington Post.

4. Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg View.

3. Joe Klein, Time.

2. Thomas Friedman, The Davos Herald-Register.

1. Fred Hiatt, Washington Post Editorial Page editor.

Who do you think the president should be reading more? Why?

Sep 20 2013

Defining Journalism and Who Is a Journalist

First Amendment to the United States Constitution

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Bill to protect journalists clears Senate panel

by David G. Savage, The Los Angeles Times

The Senate Judiciary Committee approves a media shield bill to keep ‘real reporters’ from having to testify on their work.

Journalists and bloggers who report news to the public will be protected from being forced to testify about their work under a media shield bill passed by a Senate committee Thursday.

But the new legal protections will not extend to the controversial online website Wikileaks and others whose principal work involves disclosing “primary-source documents … without authorization.”

Senate sponsors of the bill and a coalition of media groups that support it hailed Thursday’s bipartisan Senate Judiciary Committee vote as a breakthrough. [..]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) insisted on limiting the legal protection to “real reporters” and not, she said, a 17-year-old with his own website. [..]

Feinstein introduced an amendment that defines a “covered journalist” as someone who gathers and reports news for “an entity or service that disseminates news and information.” The definition includes freelancers, part-timers and student journalists, and it permits a judge to go further and extend the protections to any “legitimate news-gathering activities.

But the bill also makes it clear that the legal protection is not absolute. Federal officials still may “compel disclosure” from a journalist who has information that could stop or prevent crimes such as murder, kidnapping or child abduction or prevent “acts of terrorism” or significant harm to national security.

At Esquire’s Political Blog, Charles Pierce argues that if we accept a shield law then we must accept who that law protects thus giving government the power to define who is a journalist. We have a shield law for the press, it’s called the First Amendment and whether Dianne Feinstein likes it or not, we bloggers are journalists and protected.

Jesus H. Christ on a 4000-euro claimer, I leave the country for a week and Dianne Fking Feinstein gets to redefine my profession?

Hey, Dianne, here’s the thing on that First Amendment business. I get to define what you do for a living. And if I decide to define what you do for a living is to be a mewling apologist for the national-security community and a lapdog for the surveillance state, I get to do that, and I get to do it in a newspaper, or video, or on-line, or on a pamphlet stapled to a telephone pole outside your door, if I so choose. You get to sit there, collect your government salary, raise money from plutocrats, and shut…the…hell…up.

Which part of “Congress shall make no law…” do you not understand? [..]

It has been argued — and, occasionally, by me — that the worst thing that ever happened to journalism was that it became the professionalized province of the educated. [..]

There are far too many people right now in Washington who are far too comfortable in being a de facto part of the country’s power structure. Their profession is not mine. Let me be quite clear. If you accept the Congress’s right to define what a journalist is, you are a miserable traitor to the profession you presume to practice. You have, quite simply, become something less worthy than an informer, something lower than a jailhouse snitch. I’ll leave it to my man Chuck Todd to take the king’s shilling. Me? I’ll stand with the 17-year old and his own website, and, with all the faith I ever have had in my constitutional right to do so, we both will tell Dianne Feinstein to fk off, thank you. Stuff your privilege. I have my rights.

Thanks Charlie and f**k you, Dianne.

(All emphasis in aerticle is mine)