08 September, 2006

"freedom of speech and assembly"

parameters of debate:

Singapore and Indonesia are moving to restrict planned activities and a conference by civil society groups that oppose the economic policies of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the two financial powerhouses that will be holding their high-profile annual meetings in Singapore later this month.

Local authorities in Indonesia made a last minute decision to withdraw a permit to hold a gathering for anti-corporate globalisation groups on the island of Batam that would have discussed the World Bank and IMF policies towards borrowing nations.

About a thousand people were expected for the "International Peoples Forum vs the IMF & World Bank" on the tourist island of Batam.

Singapore, the official host of the meetings, has also singled out 20 activists on a blacklist and said they will be barred from entering the country and participating in the Sep. 19-20 official meetings, according to civil society organisers and a letter seen by IPS protesting the ban from the IMF and World Bank to the Singaporean government.

The individuals, whose names have not been publicly released, were already accredited by the IMF and the Bank, a process that normally clears participants for entry into the host country. [snip]

"The crackdown on civil society highlights the irony of the Bank's choice to hold its meetings in a place as repressive as Singapore while claiming to be a champion of good governance," said Manish Bapna, executive director of the Bank Information Centre, in a statement. "As authorities are denying public rights to freedom of speech and assembly, the Bank is commending Singapore as the world's most business-friendly country."

Shalmali Guttal of Focus on the Global South noted, "It is surprising that Indonesia, which was one of the worst hit countries during the Asian financial crisis, would be intolerant of public debates on alternative development and finance policies. In recent years Indonesia has made great strides towards popular democracy. We would hope that the government would continue this trend and appreciate the importance of freedom of expression and assembly." link


Hu Jia, a prominent Aids campaigner, has been arrested for the second time this year, in a crackdown on human rights activists.

And the outspoken website of Baixing magazine was closed, seemingly because of a report about a villager killed while trying to stop demolition of his home. Last month, the Century China website, the last remaining bastion of relatively free speech in China, was closed. link

Churchill effect?

A professor who has suggested the World Trade Center was brought down by explosives has been placed on paid leave by Brigham Young University while the Mormon church-owned school investigates his claims.

Steven Jones, a physicist who has taught at BYU since 1985, is co-chairman of a group called Scholars for 9/11 Truth.

BYU is ``concerned about the increasingly speculative and accusatory nature of these statements by Dr. Jones,'' the university said in Friday's Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City. ``BYU remains concerned that Dr. Jones' work on this topic has not been published in appropriate scientific venues.'' [snip]

The physicist published his views two weeks ago in the book ``9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out.'' link

propaganda files - freedom-writers:

At least 10 South Florida journalists, including three from El Nuevo Herald, received regular payments from the U.S. government for programs on Radio Martí and TV Martí, two broadcasters aimed at undermining the communist government of Fidel Castro. The payments totaled thousands of dollars over several years.

Those who were paid the most were veteran reporters and a freelance contributor for El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language newspaper published by the corporate parent of The Miami Herald. Pablo Alfonso, who reports on Cuba and writes an opinion column, was paid almost $175,000 since 2001 to host shows on Radio Martí and TV Martí. El Nuevo Herald freelance reporter Olga Connor, who writes about Cuban culture, received about $71,000, and staff reporter Wilfredo Cancio Isla, who covers the Cuban exile community and politics, was paid almost $15,000 in the last five years.

Alfonso and Cancio were dismissed after The Miami Herald questioned editors at El Nuevo Herald about the payments. Connor's freelance relationship with the newspaper also was severed. [snip]

Radio and TV Martí are U.S. government programs created to promote democracy and freedom in Cuba. Their programming cannot be broadcast within the United States because of anti-propaganda laws. Radio and TV Martí have received $37 million this year.

The payments to journalists were discovered in documents recently obtained by The Miami Herald as a result of a federal Freedom of Information Request filed on Aug. 15. link


"On the [USS] Kennedy, news agency 'pool' reporters [during Gulf war I] recorded how U.S. pilots watched pornographic videos in order to relax - or to become aroused - before their bombing misions. This was struck from their reports."
(Robert Fisk, The Great War For Civilization, p. 624)

Gall filed a story, on February 5, 2003, about the deaths of Dilawar and another detainee. It sat for a month, finally appearing two weeks before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. "I very rarely have to wait long for a story to run," says Gall. "If it’s an investigation, occasionally as long as a week."

Gall’s story, it turns out, had been at the center of an editorial fight. Her piece was "the real deal. It referred to a homicide. Detainees had been killed in custody. I mean, you can’t get much clearer than that," remembers Roger Cohen, then the Times’s foreign editor. "I pitched it, I don’t know, four times at page-one meetings, with increasing urgency and frustration. I laid awake at night over this story. And I don’t fully understand to this day what happened. It was a really scarring thing. My single greatest frustration as foreign editor was my inability to get that story on page one."

Doug Frantz, then the Times’s investigative editor and now the managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, says Howell Raines, then the Times’s top editor, and his underlings "insisted that it was improbable; it was just hard to get their mind around. They told Roger to send Carlotta out for more reporting, which she did. Then Roger came back and pitched the story repeatedly. It’s very unusual for an editor to continue to push a story after the powers that be make it clear they’re not interested. Roger, to his credit, pushed." (Howell Raines declined requests for comment.)

"Compare Judy Miller’s WMD stories to Carlotta’s story," says Frantz. "On a scale of one to ten, Carlotta’s story was nailed down to ten. And if it had run on the front page, it would have sent a strong signal not just to the Bush administration but to other news organizations."

Instead, the story ran on page fourteen under the headline "U.S.Military Investigating Death of Afghan in Custody." (It later became clear that the investigation began only as a result of Gall’s digging.)

Gall, who is British, chalks up the delay to reluctance to "believe bad things of Americans," and in particular to a kind of post-9/11 sentiment. "There was a sense of patriotism, and you felt it in every question from every editor and copy editor," she says. "I remember a foreign-desk editor telling me, ‘Remember where we are — we can smell the debris from 9/11.’" [snip]

The skepticism back in 2003 about Gall’s findings wasn’t limited to the Times. The evidence of homicides got only a short mention on CNN and a brief write-up inside The Washington Post. The biggest follow-up came not in any American paper but in the Sunday Telegraph of London.

"There was no great urge to follow up," Gall says. "Nobody went to the doorstep of the pathologist or anything like that, until of course Abu Ghraib. And I don’t know why."

Failures of Imagination - Eric Umansky


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