Tag Archives: Freedom of the press

Killing the First Amendment, by Philip Giraldi

Governments hate free expression, especially when the expression consists of exposing governments’ depredations. From Philip Giraldi at unz.com:

When one travels nearly anywhere in Europe where Medieval government centers, including courts, remain, one will frequently see the personification of a sometimes blindfolded woman representing Justice holding a sword in one hand and a scale or a scroll in the other. As soon as human beings came together to form governments, one of the first demands has always for justice that is accessible to all and that is readily understood. That is not to say that governments have not corrupted the mechanisms that were set up to deliver justice to serve their own parochial ends, but it does demonstrate that the human desire for fair treatment under law has been strong for thousands of years.

Now, it seems, those who seek justice often find that justice is denied through various artifices that have been contrived to give the government greater control over what constitutes criminal behavior. It is an emphasis on punishment of those the government has decided to make an example of. One only has to look at the treatment of whistleblowers by the US government, most notably the cases of CIA veterans Jeffrey Sterling and John Kiriakou, where punishment was the objective to discourage anyone from exposing criminal behavior by those in charge.

Even though in theory whistleblowers are protected because they have come forward to reveal illegal activity by the government, in practice that protection is often notional. And then there are those instances where justice is deliberately perverted, as in the current case of Julian Assange, whom the United States government would like to extradite so he can be tried under the Espionage Act of 1917. But the actual charges against Assange are where things get murky. Assange is accused of having collaborated with Chelsea Manning to steal and publish classified material relating to clear evidence that atrocities were carried out by the US military in Iraq and then covered up. And perhaps more to the point in political terms, Assange is also being accused of having participated in the theft of the Hillary Clinton emails in 2016. It should be pointed out that the Federal government has not provided any actual evidence of either alleged crime.

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Featured Story U.S. Blacklists Strategic Culture Foundation in Attack on Independent Journalism and Political Dissent, by Finian Cunningham

Journalists should be able to publish in the U.S. regardless of who they work for. This is an absolute travesty. From Finian Cunningham at strategic-culture.org:

Washington’s real objective is to criminalize critical journalism and indeed any form of critical dissent.

In an audacious attack on free speech, journalists and writers based in the United States have now been banned by the U.S. federal authorities from publishing articles with Strategic Culture Foundation. We interview one of those authors affected by the ban, New York City-based journalist Daniel Lazare who shares his thoughts on the profound implications for free speech, independent journalism and political dissent.

Lazare is one of several U.S.-based writers who formerly published regular columns with Strategic Culture Foundation. Our online journal greatly appreciated their intelligent insights and analysis of U.S. and international politics. Sadly, we will no longer be able to publish their columns because of the threat levied on them by the U.S. federal authorities who accuse SCF of being an influence operation directed by the Kremlin. The allegations and threats are baseless and draconian.

If U.S.-based writers defy the ban, they have been threatened with astronomical financial penalties of over $300,000. The prohibition has only emerged in recent weeks. It follows earlier moves by the U.S. State Department and the Treasury Department accusing SCF of being an agent of Russian foreign intelligence. No evidence has been presented by the U.S. authorities to support their provocative claims. The Editorial Board of SCF categorically dismisses the allegations. In a statement, the editors said: “We reject all such claims by the U.S. authorities that the journal is an alleged Russian intelligence operation. We have no connection with the Russian government. We provide an independent forum for international writers to debate and freely critique major topical issues of world importance.”

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Chris Hedges: The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time

Press freedom is hanging by a thread as it is. If Julian Assange is extradited to the US, that thread is snipped and that freedom will only be a memory. From Chris Hedges at mintpressnews.com:

If he is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Scheerpost) – For the past two days, I have been watching the extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link from London. The United States is appealing a lower court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange not, unfortunately, because in the eyes of the court he is innocent of a crime, but because, as Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January concluded, Assange’s precarious psychological state would deteriorate given the “harsh conditions” of the inhumane US prison system, “causing him to commit suicide.” The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count of trying to hack into a government computer, charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years.

Assange, with long white hair, appeared on screen the first day from the video conference room in HM Prison Belmarsh. He was wearing a white shirt with an untied tie around his neck. He looked gaunt and tired. He did not appear in court, the judges explained, because he was receiving a “high dose of medication.” On the second day he was apparently not present in the prison’s video conference room.

Assange is being extradited because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes — including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints. He is also being targeted by US authorities for other leaks, especially those that exposed  the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7, which enables the spy agency to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.

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A Press Afraid to Be Free? by Andrew P. Napolitano

A Supreme Court decision made it very hard for public figures to sue for defamation. That’s hard on public figures, but they have platforms and it contributes to robust press freedom. From Andrew P. Napolitano at lewrockwell.com:

In a week, the Supreme Court will decide if it will consider diminishing long-standing protections for the freedom of the press. Here is the backstory.

In 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, the Supreme Court unanimously reversed a jury verdict by an Alabama state court and in doing so changed the law of defamation in such a manner as to enhance substantially and materially the freedom of the press.

The case was Times v. Sullivan, in which the police commissioner of Montgomery, Alabama, sued The New York Times for publishing a full-page advertisement that, he argued, though it did not mention him by name, had defamed him.

The libel law in Alabama and all states at the time permitted an aggrieved plaintiff to recover damages from a publisher for a defamatory inaccuracy in a publication by showing simple negligence.

In the advertisement about which Commissioner L.B. Sullivan complained, there were some inaccuracies, and so the Alabama Supreme Court upheld his half million-dollar verdict. The Times appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In reversing, the Supreme Court ruled that when a public official is the plaintiff in a defamation case, the First Amendment is implicated since the press is the eyes and ears of the public, and the public has the right to know what the public official is doing.

This was a radical and judge-made change in defamation law. The court held that, to safe-guard transparency about government and to protect free speech about public officials, a higher bar than simple negligence was needed. The court fashioned a bar called “actual malice.”

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Antony Blinken Continues to Lecture the World on Values His Administration Aggressively Violates, by Glen Greenwald

Freedom. As a general matter, the Biden administration clearly opposes it. It specifically abhors press freedom, especially the kind that exposes things they don’t want exposed, as Julian Assange did with the Obama administration. However, when talking to foreign nations, Biden’s lightweight Secretary of State has no problem extolling press freedom. From Glen Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:

How can you feign anger over others’ attacks on a free press when you imprison Assange as punishment for his vital revelations about U.S. officials?

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks on the importance of independence journalism, May 6, 2021 (Radio Free Europe); Julian Assange arrives at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London in his attempt to resist extradition by the Biden administration (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Continuing his world tour doling out righteous lectures to the world, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday proclaimed — in a sermon you have to hear to believe — that few things are more sacred in a democracy than “independent journalism.” Speaking to Radio Free Europe, Blinken paid homage to “World Press Freedom Day”; claimed that “the United States stands strongly with independent journalism”; explained that “the foundation of any democratic system” entails “holding leaders accountable” and “informing citizens”; and warned that “countries that deny freedom of the press are countries that don’t have a lot of confidence in themselves or in their systems.”

The rhetorical cherry on top of that cake came when he posed this question: “What is to be afraid of in informing the people and holding leaders accountable?” The Secretary of State then issued this vow: “Everywhere journalism and freedom of the press is challenged, we will stand with journalists and with that freedom.” Since I know that I would be extremely skeptical if someone told me that those words had just come out Blinken’s mouth, I present you here with the unedited one-minute-fifty-two-second video clip of him saying exactly this:

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House Democrats, Targeting Right-Wing Cable Outlets, Are Assaulting Core Press Freedoms, by Glenn Greenwald

The Democrats should just revoke the First Amendment and be done with it. From Glenn Greenwald at greenwald.substack.com:

Democrats’ justification for silencing their adversaries online and in media — “they are spreading fake news and inciting extremism” — is what despots everywhere say.

 
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) with other House Democrats at
the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip
Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Not even two months into their reign as the majority party that controls the White House and both houses of Congress, key Democrats have made clear that one of their top priorities is censorship of divergent voices. On Saturday, I detailed how their escalating official campaign to coerce and threaten social media companies into more aggressively censoring views that they dislike — including by summoning social media CEOs to appear before them for the third time in less than five months — is implicating, if not already violating, core First Amendment rights of free speech.

Now they are going further — much further. The same Democratic House Committee that is demanding greater online censorship from social media companies now has its sights set on the removal of conservative cable outlets, including Fox News, from the airwaves.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Monday announced a February 24 hearing, convened by one of its sub-committees, entitled “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.” Claiming that “the spread of disinformation and extremism by traditional news media presents a tangible and destabilizing threat,” the Committee argues: “Some broadcasters’ and cable networks’ increasing reliance on conspiracy theories and misleading or patently false information raises questions about their devotion to journalistic integrity.”

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Prosecution of Assange Is an Attack on Our Own Humanity, by Nozomi Hayese

Monday, one of the bravest men in history will have his fate decided by a pack of braying jackals. From Nozomi Hayese at antiwar.com:

On January 4, 2021 the London Court will release the hearing verdict of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange’s US extradition case. The indictment against Assange is politically motivated. Judge Vanessa Baraitser, who is presiding over hearings, has even acknowledged the political nature of this case when she decided not to rule until at least after the US Presidential election on November 3, 2020.

The verdict will not only determine the life of Assange, but also the future of journalism. The extra-territorial overreach involved in the US government charging a journalist who exposed their war crimes under the Espionage Act threatens press freedom everywhere. This is why all major media and human rights organizations have now stepped forward to oppose the extradition proceedings against Assange.

Their message is clear. Publishing documents that are verified to be authentic and are of public interest is not a crime. It is a central role of the press in a functioning democracy to defend the public’s right to know, and to help keep the government honest. WikiLeaks has done exemplary work in fulfilling this duty. This is journalism, and journalism is not a crime.

The attempted prosecution of Assange is already creating chilling effects on journalists, with a dangerous precedent having been set. One Turkish journalist has now been sentenced to more than 27 years in prison for allegedly supporting terrorism and engaging in political espionage. As we now face a critical moment for our democracy, it is important for us to think about what this war on journalism means and what WikiLeaks represents to all of us.

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Reps. Tulsi Gabbard & Thomas Massie Introduce Bipartisan Resolution Defending the Free Press & Call For Charges Against Julian Assange To Be Dropped, from a press release

Tulsi Gabbard is a Democrat, but unlike the rest of her party, she has courage and integrity and her heart is usually in the right place. From a press release at gabbard.house.news:

Washington, DCToday, Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) and Thomas Massie (KY-04) introduced H.Res.1175, a resolution that defends the freedom of the press, noting that newsgathering activities and news organizations ability to acquire and publish information are protected under the First Amendment. The resolution calls for the United States to drop all charges and efforts to extradite Julian Assange.

“Freedom of the press is a vital function of a free democracy in which the government is accountable to the people. Julian Assange published information that exposed lies and abuses of power at the highest levels of our government. His indictment under the Espionage Act sends a chilling message to every member of the media and all Americans,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. “U.S. government prosecutors now claim that any journalist or news organization that publishes classified material is liable to prosecution under the Espionage Act — which would have led to the indictment of the Washington Post for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. The Federal government’s prosecution of Julian Assange sets a dangerous precedent.  All extradition efforts and charges under the Espionage Act against Julian Assange must be dropped now.”

“At a time when government officials claim the right to perform warrantless surveillance upon all American citizens, there is an urgent need to zealously guard freedom of the press and to demand government transparency and accountability.  The ongoing attempts to prosecute Julian Assange threaten our First Amendment rights, and should be opposed by all who wish to safeguard our constitutional rights now and in the years to come.  I join my colleague, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, in calling for an immediate end to all charges against Mr. Assange,” said Rep. Thomas Massie.

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The Murder of the First Amendment, by Paul Craig Roberts

If Julian Assange is extradited to the US and then convicted, the First Amendment is a dead letter. From Paul Craig Roberts at paulcraigroberts.org:

The illegal and unwarranted prosecution of Julian Assange by the US Government in a British court, if court it is and not a Star Chamber, is in fact the prosecution of the First Amendment. It will prevent journalists in the future from informing the public of criminal activity by government. This is already the case in a number of countries, and the US and UK are about to join them.  Washington, working through a British judge and a British prosecutor, is murdering the First Amendment and, thereby, accountable government.

The US government’s case for Assange’s extradition to the US that is working its way through a CIA-suborned British court redefines journalists who hold government accountable as spies.  In other words, journalists who reveal criminal actions of governments are quilty of espionage.  If this were in fact the case, the New York Times would have been prosecuted for publishing the Pentagon Papers.

Once upon a time when law still ruled a person had to spy on his own country in order to have committed a crime.  Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, but he is accused of  committing espionage against the United States while living in Europe.  If this were a crime under law, all the Israeli Mossad spies spying on the United States would be arrested and treated as Assange.  Indeed, all spies of all countries spying on other countries, including the CIA and the British MI6, could be arrested and tried for espionage in the countries that they are spying on. Generally speaking, countries prosecute their own citizens who spy on their own country for foreign governments, but send foreign spies caught spying on them home ( https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2010/07/why-doesn-t-the-fbi-prosecute-more-spies.html ).

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Confiscating Books in Sweden, by Judith Bergman

The government of Sweden has the time and resources to go after authors it doesn’t like, but not violent criminals. From Judith Bergman at gatestoneinstitute.org:

  • The confiscation of books and the upcoming case against author and comedian Aron Flam has ignited a debate in Sweden about the value of freedom of speech. As Flam has pointed out, a Swedish writer who happens to be Jewish having his books, critical of Swedish-Nazi collaboration during the war, seized by the Swedish state is a bit ironic.
  • Uppsala, once a picturesque and peaceful university town, is now the town in Sweden with the most shootings per capita. “The gangs have been allowed to grow” Manne Gerell, a criminologist at Malmö University told SVT Nyheter in December 2019, adding that the police had “woken up” a little too late.
  • Perhaps it is time for Sweden’s government to spend fewer resources on prosecuting the speech crimes of pensioners and comedians, and more on fighting violent crime.
Perhaps it is time for Sweden’s government to spend fewer resources on prosecuting the speech crimes of pensioners and comedians, and more on fighting violent crime. (Image source: iStock)

In June, four armed Swedish police officers seized and confiscated the entire stock of the book Det här är en svensk tiger (“This is a Swedish Tiger“), written by Swedish author and standup comedian, Aron Flam. The book tells the story of how Sweden’s claim of neutrality during World War II covered up a reality of Swedish collaboration with the Nazi war effort and the profits that the Social Democratic government made from the war.

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