Sunday :: Dec 21, 2003

Extry! Extry! Read All About It - NOT!


by pessimist
"Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of achieving a free society." Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

Press Freedom Disappearing in Africa - Why Americans Should Care

Why indeed? Maybe because many of the same problems exist in their own country?

Remarks by Assistant Secretary Lorne W. Craner Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus April 17, 2002

[I]ndividual rights are considered subversive to the goals of the State and Party. The regime cites the concept of self-reliance to justify its repression of individual people. In the regime's interpretation, the State and the will of the people are manifested in the person of the supreme leader. There is no tolerance for criticism of the State or its leader and accordingly no freedom of expression, assembly or belief. The regime uses extreme repression and a pervasive surveillance network to intimidate and instill fear in the population. It maintains control through terror [and] threat of severe punishment. Information from the outside world is tightly controlled. Domestic media [self-]censorship is strictly enforced. Radios and televisions purchased within the country [can] receive only state-[friendly] programming. Visits by foreign journalists are carefully orchestrated by the State to ensure that only "authorized" information is released.

Here's a perfect example of how the "orchestration" is conducted:

A repressive embarrassment

Anyone who thinks the administration and its law enforcement chief, Attorney General John Ashcroft, aren't out to impede a free press need only hear how the federal government is treating foreign journalists coming to this country on assignment.

Without notification to foreign media outlets, the immigration and customs people are arresting, detaining, and deporting journalists arriving here without special visas. This is so even when they come from nations whose citizens can stay for up to 90 days without a visa if they are arriving as tourists or on business.

If that threatening form of registration is not enough, members of the press arriving without the visas, which no one told them they needed, are treated like criminals, handcuffed as they're marched through airports, photographed, fingerprinted, and their DNA taken.

Peter Krobath, chief editor for the Austrian movie magazine Skip, was held overnight in a cold room with 45 others who arrived without the visa. The room had two open toilets, a metal bench, and a concrete bench. He was here to interview movie star Ben Affleck and see the movie Paycheck.

Thomas Sjoerup, a photographer for the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet, was deported after a few hours during which a mugshot, fingerprints, and DNA sample were taken. A French journalist said he and five others from his country were marched across the airport in handcuffs, without belts or laces.

The International Press Institute in Vienna, a media freedom group, has complained not only about Mr. Korbath's treatment but also, and indeed more important, the fact that only foreign journalists need special visas.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists is about to launch a global campaign against the absurd and repressive rule that casts suspicion on working journalists who come to this country on business as valid as any other traveler's.

A U.S. embassy official in Vienna said visas have always been required. If that requirement existed, it was more honored in its breach and ought to be rescinded. It should not take a world media outcry to address this problem. It's a policy that puts these United States in the ranks of Third World dictatorships.

Members of Congress, regardless of party, who understand the absurdity of it all, even in these troubled times, should demand an end to this repressive embarrassment.

It's not likely President Bush ever will.

Here's another tale of repression of the press:

Coffee, Tea or Handcuffs?

An Australian journalist gets a taste of Department of Homeland Security hospitality

Sue Smethurst enjoys traveling. "It's one of the things about my job that I absolutely love," says the 30-year-old Australian, who works as an associate editor for the women's magazine New Idea. She doesn't even mind flying. But when her Qantas flight from Melbourne, Australia, touched down at LAX around 8 a.m. on Friday, November 14, Smethurst found herself nightmarishly annoyed - by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Smethurst was supposed to continue to New York and on Monday interview singer Olivia Newton-John.

Smethurst had honeymooned in Manhattan last year and was looking forward to a long, free weekend "having a good walk through Central Park, getting a decent bowl of chicken soup and going Christmas shopping - all those gorgeous New York things."

"Oh, you're a journalist," he noted. "What are you here for?"
"I'm interviewing Olivia Newton-John," Smethurst replied.
"That's nice," the official said, impressed. "What's the article about?"
"Breast cancer."

When Smethurst tells me this, she pauses and adds, "I thought that last question was a little odd, but figured everything's different now in America and it was fine." What she didn't know was that her assignment and travel plans, along with the chicken soup and stroll through Central Park, had been terminated the moment she confirmed she was a journalist.

The CBP agent who read Smethurst's traveler's questionnaire took her to a secondary inspection area 30 feet away and told her to wait, then left for half an hour. He returned with additional uniformed staff who, professionally and pleasantly enough, asked more questions. What sort of stories did she write? What kind of magazine was New Idea? Where was it published? What was its circulation? Does it print politically sensitive articles? When would her interview appear? Who would be reading it?

"I laughed," Smethurst recalls, "because we're a cross between Good Housekeeping and People magazine. The most political thing we'd likely print was Laura Bush's horoscope."

The polite interrogation continued. Who was her father? His occupation? Her mother's maiden name and occupation? What were their dates of birth, where did they live? The agents gravely nodded at Smethurst's replies and left once more, promising to return. When they came back half an hour later, one of the officers offered Smethurst a cup of airport coffee. "I thought at that stage something was quite wrong," Smethurst says, "so I asked the man with the coffee if there was some problem."

"I will tell you when there's a problem," he abruptly snapped, according to Smethurst. Then he pointed to a nearby sign: Your Silence Is Appreciated.

At about noon, CBP informed Smethurst she would be denied entry into the United States: While Australian tourists visiting the United States are visa-waived for 90 days, working journalists need a special I-Visa, which Smethurst had not been aware of and did not possess. She had, after all, flown into LAX on the same passport eight times previously without incident. Now she was being asked to raise her right hand and swear that her answers had been truthful, then was fingerprinted and photographed - every time she comes to America, her swiped passport will bring up this documentation of her rejection. As Smethurst's inked fingers were rolled onto the government form, she noticed its heading: "Criminal".

Fourteen hours later, she was escorted by three armed guards onto the 11 p.m. Qantas flight home. "I want to say right off that I adore America and love Americans," Smethurst says. Still, she remains perplexed and emotionally bruised by what followed in Terminal Four.

When Smethurst returned to Melbourne, camera crews were waiting - all major Australian media outlets reported her ordeal. The story was treated as an example of bureaucratic arrogance run amok, because many parts of the world are still outraged by what happens at American airports to foreigners - and to many Americans. (Last September, the CBP at LAX detained the Australian-born wife of a U.S. Navy sailor for five days, while also briefly denying her infant daughter food and medical attention.)

Smethurst says she's received hundreds of messages from fellow Australians claiming similar treatment at the hands of U.S. immigration officials and knows of two fellow journalists who were sent back to Australia. When Smethurst's editor, who planned to visit the United States on business, inquired about obtaining an I-Visa, she was told it would not be necessary. She is going to get one anyway.

Smethurst says U.S. ambassador Tom Schaeffer privately apologized to her for her treatment, but will not do so in public. Not that it matters much - the only U.S. press coverage of Smethurst's ordeal was found in an Atlanta Constitution squib culled from the Australian Associated Press.

Before November 14, she and her husband had planned to return to America to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary, but, as she learned, everything's different now in America. "We decided to stay in Australia and celebrate here," she says. "There was always the chance we could have got the same customs officer if we flew to America."

Could this really be happening in America? The Beacon of Liberty? Ronald Reagan's "Shining City on the Hill?" It could indeed, but don't take my word for it.

"Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mould the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations." - Joseph Pulitzer

Who Has A Free Press? (excerpt)

Costa Rica Better Placed Than the United States

The poor ranking of the United States (17th) is mainly because of the number of journalists arrested or imprisoned there. Arrests are often because they refuse to reveal their sources in court. Also, since the 11 September attacks, several journalists have been arrested for crossing security lines at some official buildings.

The highest-ranked country of the South is Costa Rica, in 15th position. This Central American nation is traditionally the continent's best performer in terms of press freedom. In February 2002, it ceased to be one of the 17 Latin American states that still give prison sentences to those found guilty of "insulting" public officials. The murder in July 2001 year of journalist Parmenio Medina was an exception in the history of the Costa Rican media.

Would that this were so in the United States. It seems not only that our journalists are murdered too often (see, for example, the odd tale of Danny Casalero's "suicide"), but that the Department of "Justice" under Attorney General John "Let The Eagle Soar" Ashcroft would love to be able to imprison as terrorists anyone who dares to utter something derogatory about George Warmonger Bush. Ooops! They already have!

"The force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure." - Thomas Jefferson

The disdain the current (mis)Administration holds for the media is exemplified by the lack of action on the investigation of this:

U.S. soldiers kill Reuters cameraman

Mazen Dana, a Reuters cameraman, was shot and killed by U.S. soldiers this weekend near a U.S.-run prison on the outskirts of Baghdad. The Pentagon says the soldiers mistook his camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Stephan Breitner of France 2 television, who was on the scene, said, "We were all there, for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists. After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was accident. They are very tense. They are crazy."

US troops 'crazy' in killing of cameraman

Journalists who were with a Reuters news cameraman shot dead by US troops while filming outside a Baghdad prison yesterday accused the soldiers of behaving in a "crazy" and negligent fashion.

They claimed the Americans had spotted the Reuters crew outside the jail half an hour before Mazen Dana was killed and must have realised he was not a guerrilla carrying a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

The chief executive of Reuters, Tom Glocer, said: "The latest death is hard to bear. That's why I am calling upon the highest levels of the US government for a full and comprehensive investigation into this terrible tragedy."

Dana, 43, is the second Reuters cameraman to be killed since the US-led force invaded Iraq. His death brought to 17 the number of journalists or their assistants who have died in Iraq since the war began on March 20.

The journalist was killed on Sunday when soldiers in two tanks opened fire while he was filming near Abu Ghurayb prison, which had earlier come under mortar attack.

The US army, which has launched an investigation, claimed its soldiers thought his camera was a weapon. But colleagues who were with the award-winning cameraman when he was killed told a different story.

Nael al-Shyoukhi, a Reuters soundman, said the soldiers "saw us and they knew about our identities and our mission. "After we filmed we went into the car and prepared to go when a convoy led by a tank arrived and Mazen stepped out of the car to film.

"I followed him and Mazen walked three to four metres. We were noted and seen clearly.

"A soldier on the tank shot at us. I lay on the ground. I heard Mazen and I saw him scream and touching his chest. I cried at the soldier, telling him 'you killed a journalist'. They shouted at me and asked me to step back and I said 'I will step back but please help, please help'."

He said they tried to help but Dana was bleeding heavily. "Mazen took a last breath and died before my eyes."

Stephan Breitner, of France 2 television, added: "We were all there for at least half an hour. They knew we were journalists. After they shot Mazen, they aimed their guns at us. I don't think it was an accident. They are very tense. They are crazy."

Dana's death has once again turned the spotlight on US soldiers and their shoot first, ask questions later tactics in Iraq. Numerous civilians have been killed by American troops at roadblocks, often without warning. The shootings have helped to undermine confidence in the US-led coalition among the Iraqi population.

And all of the "insurgents" are followers of Saddam, right?

Film that Dana was shooting as he died showed a tank driving toward him. Six shots were heard. The camera appeared to tilt forward and drop to the ground after the first shot.

The US army spokesman, Colonel Guy Shields, said: "Last night we had a terrible tragedy. I can assure you no one feels worse than the soldier who fired the shots."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which honoured Dana with an International Press Freedom Award in November 2001 for his work covering conflict in his hometown of Hebron in the West Bank, yesterday wrote to the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, asking him to conduct a full inquiry.

More on Mazen Dana if anyone cares to look: Google Search for Mazen Dana

"A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both." - James Madison

So why is the Bush (mis)Administration so anti-media? In the following excerpts, from a speech given By Lorne W. Craner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, note the many ironic statements:

Seeking Free & Responsible Media - Promoting Free and Responsible Media: An Integral Part of America's Foreign Policy

The right of the press to freely publish, editorialize, critique, and inform is a fundamental principle of American democracy. The first amendment declares that "Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Freedom of the press exists not merely because it is codified in law. It exists and flourishes today because the American people cherish it. They do so because the free press has had an important role to play in forging our great nation and in elevating it to the position of world leader in democracy and human rights.

Promoting freedom of the press is really about promoting human freedom. For people to play an active role in the politics of their country, they must be informed. Even something as simple as voting can be difficult without enough information. A free press transmits to the people information about their leaders, the policies of other nations, and even the practices of national businesses. American support of free press is grounded in the belief that with a full and complete understanding of the state of affairs in their country and in the world, people will choose for themselves those institutions, policies, and practices that best preserve and protect fundamental civil and human rights.

Sure - Once upon a time in a democracy far, far away, before Time, Faux News, or Rush and Sean and Bill, or ...

While freedom of the press brings a host of benefits to any country, American support for free and responsible media is best explained in four ways.

First, America supports the development of free and responsible media because the right to a free press, and the freedoms of thought and speech that free press entails, are fundamental and universal human rights that ought to be enjoyed by all people based on their humanity. This belief is displayed in the U.S. Constitution, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in the United States' history of combating censorship and media control domestically and abroad.

Which is why the Iraqi press is under U.S. Military control, right?

Second, the presence of a free press is essential for true and full democracy to emerge. Only a free press can provide voters with the information they need to choose the best leaders. Too often, governments use state-controlled media to present a distorted set of facts. Likewise, without protections, governments can coerce private media into publishing or not publishing vital information. In short, free media ensure that governments will represent the interests of their citizens and that citizens can hold their governments accountable. In public discourse, a free press allows the expression of many editorial opinions and commercial advertisements. This environment is a "marketplace of ideas" where citizens and consumers choose and support those ideas that are better than others. Such a system ensures the best result without silencing any viewpoint.

Note the frequent use of "economic" in this next section - the only freedom that seems to matter to the author.

Third, a strong, positive relationship exists between open reporting and free, open, and effective economies. Economic growth results in improvements in standards of living, education, and health care -- in short, a better and freer life in a country that is generally more stable and peaceful. A recent World Bank publication, entitled The Right to Tell, documents the role open media play in supporting economic growth. The president of the World Bank Group, James D. Wolfensohn, wrote in the book's introduction that "to reduce poverty, we must liberate access to information and improve the quality of information. People with more information are empowered to make better choices." Free media promote the exchange of successful business practices, create trading partners, and can make economies more efficient by disseminating useful technology. Open reporting also preserves the support and trust of investors, both domestic and foreign.

"...improvements in standards of living, education, and health care..." - something that is NOT happening for most who live in the Land of the Free and the home of the Brave.

Now we come to the real reason the world's media is being terrorized out of doing its job:

Finally, America promotes free and responsible media because it is essential that American actions and intentions be reported accurately.

Define "accurately" and you have the crux of the problem.

There was a recent survey done in which a majority of respondents indicated that they found their news from foreign sources, and that the information was more likely to be accurate. This can't sit well with the powers-that-wannabe lurking about in Washington. The following is what the Bush (mis)Administration wants the world to believe. Ironies continue:

The United States strives to promote democracy and human rights, eliminate hunger and disease, and maintain security in the world. To combat anti-Americanism, to build trust, and to better educate people worldwide about America, it is critical that a free and responsible media accurately report U.S. actions.

Let's try a media responsible to Free Enterprise. Let's look at an example in a country known for human rights violations:

This spring, independent newspapers in Kyrgyzstan can look forward to the delivery of a new color printing press. In a program designed to promote free and dynamic media in the country, the U.S. Department of State has provided funding for that press and for training courses for Kyrgyz journalists.

He Who Has The Gold Makes the Rules - of Accurate Reportage.

In addition to physical investments such as the Kyrgyz printing press, the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) support freedom of the press by funding media training and management programs. As examples, in 2003 such funding will support programs by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) to train print and media professionals in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Participants in the programs will be instructed in professional ethics, investigating techniques, and how to maintain independence from state sponsors and interest groups that could impede editorial freedom.

"Editorial Freedom" - RIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHT! See this next:

In the eyes of Americans, every human has a right to receive accurate information about his or her government, other governments, and the state of the world. And equally important, free media serve as a check on powerful government, while preserving the integrity of a nation's economy and accurately accounting for U.S. actions abroad.

Calling the Ministry of Truth! Subversive Activity Suspected in Government Official's Statements! Oh - he didn't really mean it? Why didn't he say so?

So who is Lorne W. Craner?

BIOGRAPHY Lorne W. Craner

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Term of Appointment: 06/04/2001 to present

Lorne Whitney Craner was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor on June 4, 2001. In this position, he coordinates U.S. foreign policy and programs that support the promotion and protection human rights and democracy worldwide.

Prior to this appointment, Craner was President of the International Republican Institute (IRI), a position he had held since 1995. As President, Craner led IRI to new levels of program achievement, fundraising, financial accountability and news coverage. He joined the IRI, which conducts programs outside the United States to promote democracy, free markets, and the rule of law, in 1993 as Vice President for Programs.

From 1992-93, Craner was Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. Between 1989 and 1992 he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.

Craner was Senator John McCain's foreign policy advisor, from 1986 to 1989, serving concurrently as the Republican Staffer on the Senate Central America Negotiations Observer Group. He began his Hill career as the foreign policy advisor to Congressman Jim Kolbe.

Craner received his Masters degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Reed College.
[End]
Released on June 11, 2001.

President Bush to Nominate Seven Individuals to Serve in His Administration (excerpt)

The President intends to nominate Lorne W. Craner to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. He is currently President of the International Republican Institute. He served as Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council from 1992 to 1993 and was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the Department of State from 1989 to 1992. Before joining the State Department, he served as foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain. He is a graduate of Reed College and received a Master's degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.

More comments from Craner

"The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market....That, at any rate, is the theory of our Constitution." - Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

The Honorable Lorne W. Craner At a hearing Before the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee March 6, 2002

We also need to determine how best to help nations trying to consolidate democratic gains achieved through the ballot box. As we are learning around the world, political freedom alone is often not enough. In an era of globalization, we are examining our programs to determine how to ensure a good marriage between efforts to enhance political freedom and efforts - bilateral and otherwise -- to encourage economic liberalization. In some nations, winners in the democratic competition are many of the same forces that long resisted political and economic liberalization. In others, genuine political reformers don't have the strength or tools to stand up to entrenched economic elites. In such cases, the expected economic benefits of democratization do not materialize in an equitable manner. As a result, citizens become disenchanted with so-called "democracy" and yearn for days of economic stability, even if those days were far from ideal. In some cases, they are often willing to give up a large measure of political freedom to stabilize their economic situation.

This is process is already well under way within the United States if this next item is to be believed:

Legal Foundations of Press Freedom in the United States

Virtually all of the law that has defined press freedom in the United States is derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Is that freedom as "absolute" as the words would suggest? The U.S. Supreme Court has been trying to answer that question for more than 200 years.

Ask just about any American about freedom of the press in the United States -- and stand back! You're likely to get an earful about how "the media" are irresponsible. After all, they invade the privacy of individuals. They report lots of government secrets. And they do these things to sell more newspapers, or to get higher viewer ratings. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. A survey conducted by the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in 2002 reported that 42 percent of those polled thought that the press has "too much" freedom.

Let's take an example. Suppose the following article was written by a journalist about conditions in America:

Many of these prisoners of conscience faced charges of collaboration. They were called traitors for their courage in speaking to independent citizens: an activity hardly worthy of comment, much less alarm, in a free and democratic society but a direct threat to the iron control of information under a dictatorial regime.

{Only a totalitarian could tremble at the "threat" of library books and free access to the Internet, and call them subversion.} [A] reporter's office files, including envelopes of newspaper clippings, [can] become evidence of treason.

It can be no surprise to any of us that much of the evidence was provided by agents of the intelligence service who had successfully infiltrated the opposition. The fact that government agents successfully infiltrated the democratic movement is testimony to the regime's fear of this movement, and the resources it is willing to bring to bear in its efforts to intimidate its citizens, to control information, and to stifle freedom of thought and expression. The brave men and women confronted with these betrayals cannot have been surprised either, knowing the very real threat peaceful dissent and independent thought pose to an authoritarian regime. It is testimony to their true courage that this knowledge did not sway or intimidate them. Indeed, this action of the regime against its own citizens is a stark example of failure to silence dissent, to establish "revolutionary legitimacy" - legitimacy of any kind, for that matter. It is further proof of a failed and empty regime.

This egregious act of political repression is an admission of failure by the regime, an expression of fear directed at the most basic and peaceful expressions of independent thought - at journalists, librarians, even economists. The regime has sought to characterize members of this movement as the mercenaries of a foreign power, to call the natural demand for freedom "treason." It is the ordinary citizens who are finding the individual strength to look past years of repression, to strive for a democratic future and voice their desire for a peaceful transition and a better life. We must continue to support that effort wherever and whenever we can, whether through our outreach to ordinary [citizens] or in partnership with like-minded members of the international community.

These are actual comments from testimony by Assistant Secretary Lorne W. Craner At a hearing before the Committee on International Relations April 16, 2003. Certain specific national nouns and adjectives were deleted to make a point. A few [insertions] were added to improve readability. {Only one sentence was heavily altered by deletions.}

Considering that the USA Patriot Act allows for many of these actions to be taken by our "government" for reasons similar to those cited above, would this be something that BushCo would like to see published as accurately accounting for U.S. actions abroad?

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter." - Thomas Jefferson

This is why the world's media is under assault. They are reporting such things, most notably , but not exclusively by any means, the BBC and the Guardian. Many of the Australian media, including The Age are also notable in their coverage of the less-than-admirable antics of the Arbusto Posse. And if you can't get to the owners of the media to play ball, harass the help.

Mr. Craner seems to be dangling a carrot for the owners next to the Big Stick for the help, for as he tells Eurasianet:

http://www.eurasianet.org/departments/qanda/articles/eav011002.shtml">Q&A with US Assistant Secretary of State Lorne W. Craner: 1/10/02

Economic and political change go hand in hand, and if the economic change does not come about prosperity does not come about. And in a world that is increasingly open economically but is increasingly inter-linked, it's necessary for countries to reform their political and economic systems if they want to take full advantage of that.

Of course, the rest of the world is waiting to see if the carrot is for real, because with the drop in the value of the dollar being cited as a reason for OPEC to alter the pricing of oil to the Euro, that carrot must be mighty small indeed!

Let's say that a country decides the offered bonus vegetable is worth the price. How do they know the method by which they can earn it? Here's a clue, provided By Frederick W. Schieck, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development. Note that the irony switch is still on:

Independent Media's Role in Building Democracy

Independent media can contribute to the betterment of nations and societies. In order to do so, however, they must often undergo their own self-improvement process.

Independent media around the world have emerged as some of the most powerful forces in the struggle to change closed, repressive regimes into open and productive societies.

It would be nice if we could count on our own media to fulfill this role in our own country.

The move towards democracy and free markets is being carried out in earnest across the globe, especially since the end of the Cold War, but the outcome is not at all predictable as dark forces emerge after surviving for decades under the mask of repression.

Racists, terrorists, ethnic tribalists, criminal syndicates, drug gangs, and political strongmen have emerged or reemerged in too many countries. They test whether the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union and the developing nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America will adopt democratic, representative forms of government that provide education, health, security, opportunity, and a sound economy promoting investment and trade.

"...democratic, representative forms of government..." - Like the one that BushCo wants to install in Venezuela? With the demise of the Soviet Union, the question is begged: who puts these bad boys into power?

In the midst of this struggle, the United States attempts to help these countries move toward democracy by helping in the formation, training, and protection of free and independent newspapers, radio, and television. We believe independent media can be helped to carry out two major roles: being a "watchdog" over government and educating people about the issues that affect their lives.

Maybe the real reason for this "generousity" is for the media in these countries to be a propaganda tool of their governments for the benefit of the multi-national corporations that own the U.S. Government? Perish the thought!

American journalists and editors are sent overseas to teach the basic principles of the free press such as objectivity, accuracy, and fairness - not to defend American foreign policy. In fact, one of the greatest lessons they teach is that the role of a working journalist in a free society is to criticize government policy and that even the president of the United States is not immune from the barbs of a free press.

I wonder if we could hire away some of the graduates of this program! I think we might find them quite useful!

To get away from government control, media outlets need to be able to earn their own way, pay decent salaries, and cover production costs from newsprint to transmitters. In some poor countries, reporters are paid so little that some accept "brown envelopes" with cash payments from sources or when they attend press conferences. U.S. programs teach media owners and managers about advertising, marketing, and financial management so they can stand on their own. The programs also assist with feasibility studies, business plans, and creating audit bureaus to certify circulation to determine advertising rates.

And once this is done, then someone like Rupert Murdoch steps in and buys up the media outlets. Some benefit - for Rupert!

U.S. media support is helping local groups of journalists, publishers, human rights advocates, or legislators draft laws that protect the press's ability to cover government and other topics without fear of harassment. U.S. funds also go to educate media lawyers and support legal defense of media outlets.

Notice how there is no mention of supporting the legal defense of reporters???

The fourth aspect is helping in the formation of professional associations of journalists, editors, and media owners. Such bodies become a force for protection of individual members while they carry out typical association functions such as setting standards; encouraging members to improve quality and reliability; and pushing for greater access to public documents, meetings, and interviews with public officials.

Instead of the government being the repressive organization, why not have the professional organizations do the dirty work? This provides the government with Nixon's "plausible deniability" should anyone suffer some kind of harassment or retribution. After all, the organization is merely "supporting the standards" of the membership!

While the primary U.S. aim is to assist private, independent media, in some cases assistance does go to train staff and managers at state-owned media as well. However, the long-run goal of this assistance is to make state media more independent, more professional, and possibly to become privatized. When state-owned media follow professional standards, they are more likely to serve the public interest rather than prop up the current government.

And I'm sure that the management of FAUX News believes this as well!

U.S. support for independent media faces some controversy. USAID remains committed to this activity. Building an independent and responsible media is an evolutionary process that will take decades in countries that have not had a tradition of tolerance for a wide range of competing views.

Of course, one has to have competing views in the first place, something an "independent and responsible media" will be used to prevent. To whit:

In 13 countries moving towards democracy such as Afghanistan, USAID's help for media goes through the Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which operates in regions of recent or ongoing conflict. OTI's support to independent media - in addition to the provision of training and development of infrastructure - includes programming messages of peace, tolerance, and democratic participation. This attempt to spread positive news and information supportive of democratic values and processes is quite different from straightforward support for independent media, which seeks only to support responsible journalism and not promote specific messages.

Once again, the truth slips out.

One of the lessons learned by USAID after running media programs for more than a decade has been that rather than trying to create entirely new media outlets, it is better to assist existing ones, even if it means buying transmitters and newsprint through direct grants.

So much for independence for the media. How long before they get the Corleone Option? "You will do this thing that I ask because I once did something that you asked?"

Another lesson is to try - when governments forbid direct criticism of the ruling authorities - to support critical reporting in less threatening areas such as local reports on roads, health, and the environment. Journalists have used such reports as a starting point to begin critical reporting on government issues, long before they were able to tackle more serious issues such as the need for free elections and an independent judiciary.

There is a lesson here for what's left of the democratic media here in the United States. BushCo certainly has a lot to be criticised about.

U.S. assistance also trains journalists to try and forge positive relations with government officials, to carry out investigative reporting, and to cover terrorism.

The "positive relations with government officials" immediately cancels out the other two actions of the media. Such is how it works in America, no?

The power and influence of the media have never been more important than they are today.

Wait until I stop laughing. No, not yet. Not yet, OK - now!

Satellite communications and the Internet make it possible for small groups of extremists to spread messages of hate and intolerance widely to millions with the click of a button.

Some people around the world would suggest that the label "small group of extremists" could apply to the Bush (mis)Administration - especially the fine folks of newly-Saddam-free Iraq!

U.S. assistance in the creation of balanced, fair media continues to be an important priority, especially after the September 11 attacks, as we search to create a more informed and tolerant world.

More informed about the products and services of the multinational corporations who seek more tolerance, no doubt.

So who is Frederick W. Schieck?

Biography of Frederick W. Schieck

President Bush's nominee for Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Frederick W. Schieck has been confirmed by the Senate and was sworn in on Jan. 31, 2002. For more than 40 years, USAID has been the lead government agency providing economic and humanitarian assistance to transitioning and developing countries.

Schieck has had a long and successful career in international development both at USAID and other institutions. Schieck was a USAID Foreign Service Officer for more than 25 years before retiring in 1990 with the rank of Career Minister. He also held a number of senior positions at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in Washington, D.C., from 1990 to 2000, including Deputy Manager of the Bank's Operations Department, which was responsible for over $5 billion a year in lending to 26 Latin American countries.

He has also served as a member of the Board of Trustees and Vice President of the Executive Committee of the Pan-American Development Foundation.

During his Foreign Service career at USAID, Schieck held senior positions in Washington, D.C., including Acting Assistant Administrator and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Program and Policy Coordination; and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia. Overseas, Schieck served as USAID Director in the Philippines and in Guatemala; he also worked in Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador.

Schieck has a bachelor's degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School. He has served in the U.S. Army Reserves. Schieck is fluent in Spanish. Schieck and his wife Sara have one daughter, Sara.

I promise no more BushCo prevaricators, but I do have one more article (which actually has a lot of useful information about motives for muzzling the world's media) to present from a quasi-governmental organization on this topic:

Steps to a Free, Financially Viable Media
By Tim Carrington and Mark Nelson
World Bank Institute

The existence of a free and functioning media, long associated with any successful democracy, turns out to have equally strong links with market economies capable of growth, job creation, and poverty alleviation. The link of a functioning media to economic progress has lifted questions of media freedom and viability out of a purely political sphere of discussion.

However, the interaction between the media and the surrounding economy isn't simple. The media contribute to economic activity, but the state of the economy itself impacts the health of the media, most directly by affecting the audiences and advertisers that news organizations look to for their financial independence. Advertising often comes mostly from the state. Even independent companies may be sufficiently concerned about government reprisals that they are reluctant to advertise in publications critical of the government.

Behind the often passionate debates over media rights and responsibilities is a simple fact too often overlooked by the international organizations shaping media support projects: The media is a business. Like any business it is profoundly affected by surrounding economic realities. But it must do more than ride waves of GDP growth and contraction up and down. Rather, media successes arise from strategies for building readership, reputation, and profits in a variety of economic conditions.

As more analysts recognize a functioning media to be a "development good," capable of contributing to improved accountability, efficient markets, and information-rich societies, it is important to recognize that all these benefits are derived from the media's financial independence. And that independence, in turn, is a function both of the surrounding economy and a particular media company's ability to turn a given economic environment to its advantage.

The quest for financial independence is seldom easy. Financial pressures may push news organizations toward rescuers who assure their solvency, but exact a heavy price in terms of their independence. Financially weak media in fragile democracies are vulnerable to absorption by political or economic interests inclined to operate news organizations less as businesses than as propaganda units.

[W]orsening economic pressures often push news organizations to seek a safe harbor, which can mean turning to politicians or special interests for support. Doing this, however, may damage their editorial independence. The paper or broadcaster might be chalking up business losses, but if it is helping to swing an election, or locking in a desired legislative or regulatory advantage, the proprietor would likely conclude that the media unit had earned its keep.

This has to be a major worry for those who run the media outlets of FAUX.

It was a formula for failure. Not only have the payments from government authorities been too small to assure the creation of modern media companies, but the continued dependence on partisan sponsors has done little to create quality journalism or to convince readers of the value of the media in the new environment.

Think PBS here. Anyone still remember the days before the 'P' in the logo was reversed to look to the Right?

One analyst of Russian media patterns, Ellen Mickiewicz of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University, finds that typical media consumers have adjusted permanently to these distortions: Russian readers and viewers, she says, have little expectation of accuracy and reliability, and hold to an understanding that "information isn't in and of itself a stable commodity." From this vantage point, Russians look at media output as a multiplicity of slanted reports, offering in combination a mosaic of information from which consumers must extract their own versions of what's true and accurate.

Would that the same could be said of American readers and viewers.

[O]nline opportunities are helping some journalists sidestep state controls imposed on traditional media. One of the world's more interesting media evolutions has occurred in Malaysia, an Asian tiger economy where the Mahathir government enforces a law barring "malicious" news and permitting the government to shutter "subversive" publications. All news publications must be licensed annually. A Sedition Act and Internal Security Act further restrict criticism of government policies.

Wipe that drool off your chin, Ashcroft!

However, the new media platforms of online services and the Internet enjoy a highly protected status in Malaysia, which sees itself emerging as a high-tech power and wants to avoid ensnaring the emerging information technology sector in the same tangle of constraints that surround the mainstream news media.

Read this as the business interests that operate the Internet in Indonesia want no governmental interference in the harvesting of their profits. I'm sure they have promised to "self-censor" anyone who gets out of line.

Those countries that have made the most rapid progress - such as the fast reformers in Central and Eastern Europe - have made the creation of an effective news media an integral part of the public sector and economic reform agenda. Not only have these countries insisted that the media be privatized and taken off the budgets of the national and regional authorities, they have pursued economic and regulatory policies aimed at creating an environment in which the media business - and an information-based economic system - can take hold. They have also learned to live with the criticism that the news media are inevitably directed against public authorities, recognizing that such criticism is in itself one of the ways that governments adjust their policies and correct their mistakes.

Did I mention that the irony switch is still on?

Tim Carrington is a senior public information officer at the World Bank Institute. Mark Nelson is a program manager for the World Bank Institute's operations in Paris. Both are former writers for the Wall Street Journal. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views or polices of the U.S. government.

Sure - and I am Albert Schweitzer.

I suppose that I should summarize this: The U.S. Government has begun a campaign of harassment and intimidation of foreign media representatives in an effort to establish a "New World Media Order" designed to serve the interests of the U.S. Government in providing a fertile ground for the growth of (American) multinational corporations through the "education" and "assistance" of the world's media outlets. Said outlets will be "taught" to operate like "a real business" using the same management methods that have made the once-envied American Business leave the country in search of greener pastures. Such altruism is merely the camel sticking its nose into the tent of foreign economies with an eye toward acquisition for the benefit of the owners, who speak platitudinally about how it will also benefit the citizens of a specific country.

Welcome to the New World Order World Edition. I wonder if it's too late to book a cave on a deserted tropical island?


Copyrighted source material contained in this article is presented under the provisions of Fair Use.

FAIR USE NOTICE

This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to advance understanding of democracy, economic, environmental, human rights, political, scientific, and social justice issues, among others. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes.

pessimist :: 11:54 AM :: Comments (6) :: Digg It!