Posts Tagged ‘Freedom of the Press’

Julian Assange: enemy of the state

April 26, 2017

Power corrupts, the saying goes, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  If a government has the power to commit crimes in secret, and to punish people for revealing its crimes, what limit is there on its absolute power.

That is why Julian Assange, the founder and leader of Wikileaks, is a hero.  He has sacrificed his freedom and risked his life to make known crimes and abuses by the U.S. and other governments.

Here’s what he said about his aims back in 2006—

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in its leadership and planning coterie.  This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive “secrecy tax”) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaption.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are non-linearly hit relative to open, just systems.  Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, mass leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

Only revealed injustice can be answered; for man to do anything intelligent he has to know what’s actually going on.

Source: IQ.ORG

Of course this is inherently dangerous.  Making powerful immoral people paranoid about having their crimes revealed will reduce the effectiveness of those powerful immoral people, either by damaging their reputations or making them afraid to communicate with each other or both.   But it’s a given that if you keep it up, these powerful people will use their power against you.

∞∞∞

CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a recent speech that Assange’s Wikileaks should be suppressed because it is a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”  In other words, Wikileaks gathers information that governments don’t want it to know, and publishes it—just like any other muckraking news organization.

The difference is that Wikileaks, like other publishers, gathers intelligence on behalf of the public and not a foreign government.   If you say the distinction doesn’t matter, then freedom of the press does not include the right to tell the truth; it means nothing except the right to express mere opinion.

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Why do reporters accept being penned up?

March 18, 2016
Reporters covering Hillary Clinton's participation in a Fourth of July parade in Gotham, New Hampshire

Reporters covering Hillary Clinton’s participation in a Fourth of July parade in Gotham, New Hampshire

For decades, reporters who travel with Presidential candidates have been denied the right of ordinary spectators to move about freely at campaign events.

The Secret Service and the candidates’ own security people deny them the right to mingle with crowds.  Instead they restrict them to observing campaign events from special roped-off or fenced-off areas.

Such restrictions apply only to members of the national press corps traveling with the President.  The local press is usually free to sit in the audience and take notes.

This has no logical relation to protecting the candidates from threats, except to the degree a candidate regards free reporting is a threat.  Any restrictions that were necessary to the personal safety of a candidate would logically apply to everyone, not just members of the national press corps.

What is the legal basis for this?  Why don’t newspapers and broadcasters protest on Constitutional grounds?

The basis for it is that broadcast and print journalists depend on the candidates to provide them with transportation and the communications facilities they need to do their jobs.  Without that help, they or their employers would have to buy their own airline tickets, find places to recharge their computers and cameras and set up their own communications for writings and pictures.

More importantly, the candidates control access.  Reporters need to be able to talk to the candidates and the candidates’ staffs, and they won’t get this access unless the candidates see some benefit in giving it.  If you’re a reporter, you don’t just need access.  You need as much access as your main competitor.

So candidates have many means of punishing reporters they consider hostile or even out of line.   Some keep the press on a tight rein, some on a loose rein, but the reins are always there.

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Ecuador’s president versus the U.S. embassy

May 23, 2012

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has closed the U.S. base in Ecuador and expelled the U.S. ambassador, while inviting Chinese investment.  According to U.S. embassy cables published by WikiLeaks, he is the most popular president in Ecuador’s history.

He survived a 2010 coup attempt.  Interviewed on Julian Assange’s The World Tomorrow program, he told Assange that the United States is the only country in the world not in danger of a military coup because it doesn’t have a U.S. embassy.  He said the U.S. embassy directly paid units of the Ecuadorian national police force, who reported to the U.S. ambassador and not to him.

He said he would welcome a U.S. base in Ecuador provided that Ecuador could establish a military base on Miami.  And he said Ecuador is actively looking for investment by China, Russia and Brazil.  If the United States depends on Chinese financing of its budget and trade deficit, he said, it can’t be wrong for Ecuador to look for Chinese financing.

The most controversial thing he has done is his crackdown on the Ecuadorian press.  When President Correa was elected in 2007, the government only operated on TV station.  His administration seized two TV stations in 2008, and has sued various journalists for defamation of character.  Journalist Emilio Palacio, along with three owners of his newspaper, El Universo, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay a $40 million fine early in 2011.  Palacio fled the country and was last reported living in Miami.

This kind of thing is not unique to Ecuador.  Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez also has cracked down on the right-wing adversarial press in his country.

Correa defended his action to Julian Assange by saying that five of the seven newspapers in Ecuador are controlled by the big banks, and are working to undermine his administration.  They don’t tell the truth, he said; by arrangement, none of them published any of the U.S. embassy cables, revealed by WikiLeaks, that related to Ecuador.

Assange said the media companies in the United States, Britain and other countries are equally corrupt.  The solution, he said, is to break up the big media companies and make it easier for independent voices to publish, not to use the power of government to suppress freedom of the press.  I think he’s right.  I also think he could have been tougher in his interview on this issue.

I watch Assange’s The World Tomorrow because he interviews Interesting people who would never appear on American network television.  Assange is not an adversarial interviewer – more like Charlie Rose than the late Mike Wallace – and I sometimes have to do some follow-up to get the complete picture, as I did with this interview.

Click on Digital Journal for links to previous episodes and a summary of the latest episode.

Click on President versus the media in Ecuador for a critical Al Jazeera report on President Correa’s struggle with the Ecuadorian press.

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Julian Assange at the Oslo Freedom Forum

December 13, 2010

Click on OsloFreedomForum’s Channel for access to YouTube videos of all the Oslo Freedom Forum’s speakers.

Click on Signing OFF on Human Rights for background on the Oslo Freedom Forum and its even-handed approach to human rights.  As a long-time contributor to Amnesty International, I agree with the writer’s criticism of Amnesty and its loss of focus on freedom of conscience.

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Question for readers

December 9, 2010

If the publisher of a small website dedicated to the dissemination of the state-secrets of the Chinese government were operating their publishing outfit out of the United States and published a bunch of leaked Chinese state secrets (both on their website and through various larger media organizations) and the Chinese government declared that a violation of Chinese law, should the US government arrest and detain and possibly extradite that person to China?

Let’s assume for a moment that this person is a United States citizen. Is he guilty of treason against China? Let’s assume he is Canadian. Would it be reasonable to say this person was violating Chinese law and should be tried and possibly executed in China? Does Chinese law trump civil rights and civil liberties for non-Chinese citizens? Do China’s legitimate security concerns outweigh the civil liberties of non-Chinese citizens? Of American citizens?

One last question: Should all the media outlets who published the material they received from Assange be punished in kind? If not, why are they held to different standards? If so, what does this say about freedom of the press?

via League of Ordinary Gentlemen.

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