Bahraini authorities have detained six people for allegedly defaming the country’s ruler on Twitter, according to the country’s public prosecutor’s office.
The six, who were not identified, join a growing list of anti-government activists caught up in an Internet crackdown by authorities in the Gulf nation.
Meanwhile, Arab interior ministers warned of the spread of extremism through social media networks at a security meeting in Riyadh Wednesday.
“Extremist thought… on social networks has resulted in a major increase in terrorist acts, political assassinations and sectarian conflicts,” Mohammed Kuman, head of the council of Arab interior ministers said in an opening speech.
The Bahraini prosecutor’s statement Wednesday said the activists, who were detained over the past couple of days, will be charged with misusing Twitter and insulting King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
The arrests come two days after a court acquitted rights activist Mohammed al-Jishi of spreading false news on Twitter. He is one of dozens to face charges for posting comments on social media.
Bahrain has detained thousands of activists who it frequently accused of “setting up terror groups to topple the regime” and spreading extremism.
Government forces have killed over 100 protesters and injured many more over the past two years.
Noticed a conspicuous lack of specificity in the reports on the French invasion of northern Mali? It’s not an accident, but rather part of a deliberate French military strategy.
Reporters Without Borders issued a statement today faulting France for imposition of its “zero image of the war front” goal, keeping private journalists from covering most of the invaded African nation and confining most of the foreign reporters to the capital city.
Even there, coverage is difficult and downright dangerous, as the Malian junta summarily detains journalists regularly, often confiscating their equipment and beating them if their reports are seen as unsympathetic to the regime.
It took a solid week of war before France even considered allowing “embedded journalists” into the northern two-thirds of the nation, and those journalists are exclusively from French state media, limiting their objectivity.
French troops have been quick to limit even that access, with reporters allowed into the conquered city of Gao only to be forcibly removed in an “emergency evacuation” when rebels ambushed troops and launched a suicide bombing on the city’s outskirts.
If you want a simple way to understand why America’s military tribunals have been such an unmitigated disaster since President George W. Bush first authorized them in the autumn of 2001, you need only consider what happened Monday in military court down at “Camp Justice” at the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base in Cuba.
In the middle of a hearing for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other terror suspects, men who have lingered in detention now for nearly 10 years without trial, as a defense attorney was arguing about getting brief access to the CIA’s “dark sites” where some of these men may have been tortured, the audio and video feed of the proceedings suddenly were blocked to the public. Journalists and others faced about three minutes of white noise before the feed was restored. Censorship! They cried.
Well, not exactly. A form of this secrecy happens all the time in regular civilian court—it’s called a sidebar—and it’s necessary in some cases to shield material information from the jury or the public. Federal trials involving sensitive or classified information also see accommodations made to keep certain information from public view inside the courtroom. And at these tribunals in particular the government has long established a broadcast monitoring procedure—including a 40-second tape delay—so that classified material (like, say, about how and where we tortured detainees) won’t inadvertently be released to the public.
But what was different about this episode—and what makes it such an important moment in the sorry history of the Guantanamo tribunals— was that even the presiding judge, Army Col. James Pohl, didn’t know who had blocked the feed on Monday— or why. He had lost control over his own courtroom. Later that day, in open court, he said: “If some external body is turning the commission off based on their own views of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.” That was on Monday. On Tuesday, after conducting an investigation into the episode, Judge Pohl declared that the feed should not have been turned off—the defense attorney had merely mentioned “the caption in a particular appellate exhibit that is unclassified”— but the judge did not disclose to the public who turned off the feed or why. Later, we learned that the feed was disrupted by the “original classification authority,” most likely the CIA.
The idea that a trial judge has control over his courtroom is about as sacrosanct a notion in American law as you can find. And even though military judges traditionally have had to serve conflicting masters (the law, their superior officers, etc.) the idea that a litigant would have the power to control the courtroom without the judge’s knowledge or consent goes to the heart of the problem with our current tribunals. A trial judge who does not have the authority to control his own courtroom, who is subject to the whims of the very officials whose charges against the detainees must be fairly weighed, cannot be the sort of independent judge which the Constitution requires and which justice demands. It’s not Judge Pohl’s fault. By Congress, by the Pentagon, by the Obama Administration, by the CIA, he’s been dealt a hand no truly independent judge could play. That’s just another big reason why these tribunals are doomed to fail, in the court of world opinion if not before the United States Supreme Court, no matter how many convictions they ultimately gin up.
The military judge overseeing the prosecution of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, accused of aiding the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on Thursday ordered the government to disconnect the technology that allows offstage censors — apparently in conjunction with the Central Intelligence Agency — to block a public feed of the courtroom.
The order by the judge, Col. James L. Pohl of the Army, followed the interruption on Monday of a feed from the military tribunal courtroom in Guantánamo Bay of a pretrial motion in the Sept. 11 case that the public and the media view on a 40-second delay to guard against any inadvertent disclosure of classified information. The interruption brought to light that officials outside the courtroom were monitoring the proceedings and could block the public feed.
“This is the last time,” Colonel Pohl said, that any party other than a security officer inside the courtroom who works for the commission “will be permitted to unilaterally decide that the broadcast will be suspended.”
He added that while some legal rules and precedents governing the military commissions were unclear, there was no doubt that only he, as the judge, had the authority to close the courtroom. While officials may disagree about whether classified information had been improperly disclosed, he made clear he would not tolerate any outside party having control over a censorship button in his case.
“The commission will not permit any entity except the court security officer to suspend the broadcast of the proceeding,” Colonel Pohl said. “Accordingly I order the government to disconnect any ability of a third party to suspend broadcast of the proceeding, and I order any third party not to suspend proceedings.”
The 40-second delay in the closed-circuit broadcast from the high-security courtroom at Guantánamo Bay was instituted to allow a censor to block transmission of the proceedings to the public and reporters if classified information was inadvertently disclosed. But until Monday, there was no public sign that anyone other than the courtroom officer near Colonel Pohl could turn off the transmission. The feed is shown at Fort Meade as well as at a press room at Guantánamo. [continue]
Nowhere in Farago’s pro-censorship argument does he address, or even fleetingly consider, the possibility that the ideas that the state will forcibly suppress will be ideas that he likes, rather than ideas that he dislikes. People who want the state to punish the expression of certain ideas are so convinced of their core goodness, the unchallengeable rightness of their views, that they cannot even conceive that the ideas they like will, at some point, end up on the Prohibited List. That’s what always astounds and bothers me most about censorship advocates: their unbelievable hubris. There are all sorts of views I hold that I am absolutely convinced I am right about, and even many that I believe cannot be reasonably challenged. But there are no views that I hold which I think are so sacred, so objectively superior, that I would want the state to bar any challenge to them and put in prison those who express dissent. How do people get so convinced of their own infallibility that they want to arrogate to themselves the power not merely to decree which views are wrong, but to use the force of the state to suppress those views and punish people for expressing them?
An Egyptian satirist who has made fun of President Mohamed Morsi on television will be investigated by prosecutors following an accusation that he undermined the leader’s standing, a judicial source has said. Bassem Youssef’s case will likely increase concerns over freedom of speech in the post-Hosni Mubarak era, especially when the country’s new constitution includes provisions criticised by rights activists for, among other things, said the source on Tuesday, forbidding insults. … In a separate case, one of Egypt’s leading independent newspapers said it was being investigated by the prosecutor following a complaint from the presidency, which accused it of publishing false news.
Egypt cracks down on satirists and media
A military judge has ruled that statements made by defendants on trial for their involvement in the September 11th attacks could be censored if they make statements about how they were tortured or abused.
Judge Col. James Pohl ruled the government had “submitted declarations…from representatives of the CIA, [Department of Defense], and FBI invoking the classified information privilege and explaining how disclosure of the classified information at issue would be detrimental to national security in that the information relates to the sources, methods, and activities by which the United States defends against international terrorism and terrorist organizations.”
Don’t worry. You can learn all about “sources, methods, and activities” that show how awesome torture really is in the CIA-Approved blockbuster smash Zero Dark Thirty.
I am a little journalist who partially misappropriates his role and betrays his mission. Granted, I do run around the south, between the sites of destruction and traumatized residents. On hearing a siren I lay on the ground and cover my head with my hands, or find dubious refuge in some children’s clothes shop. I even gaze at Gaza from the highest hilltop in Sderot, but to Gaza I do not go, about its suffering I do not report. And as it is with me, so it is with every Israeli journalist.
The last time I was in Gaza was in November 2008. I reported then on an Israeli missile that hit the children of the Indira Gandhi nursery and killed their kindergarten teacher in front of their eyes. That was my last story from Gaza. Since then Israel has banned Israeli journalists from entering the Strip, and the journalists accepted this with typical obedience and subservience. Over the years they turned out to be the most loyal (and admired ) public servants: They know the beast’s soul. They know that their readers and viewers don’t want to know what is really happening in Gaza, and joyfully fulfill their desire. Not a word of protest from the journalists, whose government prevents them from filling their essential role.
Not that all are devoid of courage: The daring among them reported over the years from sites of war or natural disasters around the world. Heroes that they are, they were in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and even little me was in Sarajevo under a bombardment, in Japan when the earth shook and in Georgia went it went to war. The government of Israel did not express any self-righteous concern for our well-being, and we fulfilled our role, even when it was dangerous. Only not in Gaza, an hour and a quarter’s drive from our homes, a place that affects our lives immeasurably more than Fukushima.
During Operation Cast Lead, my colleague Amira Hass managed to get into Gaza via Egypt, thanks to her dedication, determination and second passport. This time no one even tried.
That’s how it is that Israel knows almost nothing about what is happening in Gaza. Somebody is making sure of that. [++]
European Parliament votes to protect Wikileaks against financial blockade
November 21, 2012
European Parliament votes to protect WikiLeaks. In a landmark decision today the European Parliament initiated the drafting of legislation that would stop the arbitrary banking blockades against WikiLeaks and other organizations facing economic censorship. This is an important signal from the European lawmakers. It is a recognition of the seriousness of the precedents set in December 2010, still in force, when Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Western Union and Bank of America launched a unilateral, extrajudicial banking blockade against donations to WikiLeaks. The blockade has cost the organization more than US$50 million. The US Treasury formally found last year that there is no lawful reason why WikiLeaks should be placed on the US embargo list, but the highly political blockade continues. WikiLeaks welcomes the support of MEPs on this important issue and agrees with the European Parliament, which “considers it likely that there will be a growing number of European companies whose activities are effectively dependent on being able to accept payments by card; [and] considers it to be in the public interest to define objective rules describing the circumstances and procedures under which card payment schemes may unilaterally refuse acceptance.”
This underlines the claim by WikiLeaks that if the financial blockade against WikiLeaks is not stopped, US financial giants will be free to unilaterally decide which European companies and organizations live or die. As WikiLeaks has previously pointed out, this is an attack on fundamental rights that cannot be left unchallenged. The organization has already launched lawsuits in two European jurisdictions and is awaiting the final outcome in its complaint to the European Commission against the major credit card companies for violations of competition laws. The Commission’s decision is expected before the end of the year. WikiLeaks has been victorious in all court hearings about this issue to date.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “I welcome this response from EU lawmakers. European independence is important. But there is no sovereignty without economic sovereignty. Politicized US financial monopolies must not be able to censor European organizations with impunity.”
“The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak.” - Robert A. Heinlein
“Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself. It is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime.” - Potter Stewart
The style in which journalists lie at say, the BBC or NBC needed the might of an Edward S. Herman or Noam Chomsky to decode. Their “Manufacturing Consent” exposed the complexity of how systematic and deliberate misinformation is carried on the airwaves. That changed in the run up to the wars on Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan – maybe because journalists read the book. Now, we need an update. Not content with super-structurally being averse to the truth, broadcast media on the entire continent of Europe is avowedly censoring television news networks.
The announcement first came from EUTELSAT, a French-based company that runs satellites which broadcast news over Europe as well as the Middle East, Africa, India and parts of Asia and the Americas. Without warning, the company informed Iran’s Press TV, the English-language 24-hour news channel, that it was not allowed to beam its TV shows to Europe. I should add that I once anchored for the channel and now make an independent production for them. (I’ll get to the ban being a precursor for media-management of another terrible war, later.)
Press TV rang a spokesperson at EUTELSAT who explained it wasn’t their fault: they said they had been told to ban the channel by the European Commission. And Press TV, wasn’t the only one – the continent that cradled the Enlightenment also thought eight more television channels were too dangerous for Descartes, Locke, and Voltaire to watch.
continue reading about this sad state of affairs.
I’m accused with some frequency of focusing my critiques on the US - the reason I do so is set forth here in reasoning I adopt in full - but vibrant free speech protection is a core liberty which the US, though very far from perfect, still safeguards better than most countries.
What has always driven repression of speech are the same universal human traits that are now flourishing as part of this latest effort: the tyrannical thirst for the power to silence ideas one dislikes, the self-regarding belief that one can apply objective principles of decency, “community” and Goodness to decide which modes of expression and which ideas should be barred, authoritarian trust in leaders, and – worst of all – the refusal to understand that endorsing repression of ideas leaves one with no principled grounds to object when one’s own ideas end up on the prohibited list.
Throughout history, it has often been the case that today’s “hate speech” becomes tomorrow’s enlightenment. Today’s “incitement” becomes tomorrow’s righteous subversion of unjust authority and flawed orthodoxies.
Add to all that the ignoble tendency to object to - or even recognize the existence of - repression only when it affects one directly (a dynamic I described here when writing about the inability of many passive, obedient western citizens to acknowledge the repression of their own governments because such citizens are never the ones targeted for repression), and it’s clear that the opposition to free expression is grounded in the worst of human attributes.
In sum, it takes a staggering amount of hubris to believe you’re in any position to decide which ideas are so objectively and permanently wrong that they should be barred. It takes an equally staggering amount of childishness to want some central authority to protect you from ideas that you find upsetting. And it takes extreme historical ignorance not to realize that endorsing the maintenance of a list of prohibited ideas and then empowering authorities to enforce it will inevitably lead to abusive applications of that power and, sooner or later, will likely result in the suppression of your own ideas as well.
As reporters vie for access to politicians, they’ve increasingly given veto power to campaign communication staffs over what quotes appear, how they appear and to whom they are attributed.
And so it goes with Michael Lewis’ new article in Vanity Fair about President Obama.
Via the New York Times:
Like other journalists who write about Washington and presidential politics, Mr. Lewis said that he had to submit to the widespread but rarely disclosed practice of quote approval
During a discussion at Lincoln Center on Monday night with Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair, Mr. Lewis volunteered to the audience that as a condition of cooperating with his story, the White House insisted on signing off on the quotes that would appear.
Mr. Lewis said that ultimately the White House disallowed very little of what he asked to use. And he described having access to the president that was unusually unfettered. About 95 percent of what he witnessed was on the record, he said.
Don’t want something to appear? Take it off the record. But that news organizations continue to play by these rules is troubling.
Let’s, for a minute, remember William Randolph Hearst’s simple adage: “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.”
The value of what CNN is trying to do to be this consensus news product around the world – not just in the western economic club but around the world – has many serious consequences. One of the consequences is that it puts you into business with ruling regimes in order to get on the air. Of course, there’s a relationship between what you broadcast, what you put out as news, and the likelihood of getting accepted by regimes. The nature of this business leads directly to harmlessness in news. That’s the way to understand CNN.