Archive for the 'freedom of the press' Category

Why he threw the shoes.

Muntazer al-Zaidi is a hero in my eyes.  What he did was unarguably the most correct thing for anyone to do in his situation.  I loved to see what he did in throwing his shoes at Pres. George Bush Jr.  Now, in his own words, he explains why he did it:

I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

As soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies, while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the blood that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity came, and I took it.

I took it out of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother, every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop of an orphan.

I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.


Murder and torture and not done by the US! Stop the presses… oh forget it, it’s just Israel.

All people of conscience abhor the violence we see coming out of Iran, regardless of the electoral fraud issue.  It is easy to abhor it when it is splashed all over our newspaper front pages and making the headlines of the nightly news.  Iran is our enemy, part of the axis of evil, and thus it is easy for us to dig up their dirt and point our fingers.

However, there is a similar situation which has been occurring in the middle east for years and years (only it is much more brutal and damaging) and we are able to ignore it with great discipline.  Israel recently massacred 1400 people in Gaza and our nation, including our brave President Obama, was able to hold it’s tongue and keep the carnage off of the front pages.  The videos were not as visible.  There were exceptions, but in general, for all intents and purposes, the dead children were not seen except for in the alternative media. 

Israel has set up a regime of terror and torture and is so practiced at it that it occurs everyday.  One of the recent egregious incidents is the account of the Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer.  It has been over a year now that he returned from receiving the prestigious Martha Gelhorn award for journalism in England… only to be tortured by the Shin Bet at the border, and put into the hospital.  His ill-treatment was vehemently denied and lied about by the official Israeli lying apparatus.  However, his story continues to be told along with witness testimonies and medical records to back him up.  One year after the incident of his torture, he writes:

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine .

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain — and a search for justice.

One of the amazing recollections of his ordeal is this:

When Associated Press reporter Karin Laub called me on my cell phone for an interview after my ordeal, I detailed how I was stripped and held at gunpoint. Her reply? “Go on,” she stated. “This is normal about what we hear happening at Ben Gurion Airport . It’s nothing new.”

Nothing new.  Normal.  This is what happens all the time in the middle east and it doesn’t appear on the front pages or make the nightly news.  It doesn’t cause protest around the world.  It doesn’t get Obama up on his soap box, pontificating about human rights abuses and freedom.  (Of course, he’s too busy killing kids and the elderly at Pakistani funerals to be worrying about this sort of thing.)

Read the rest of Omer’s recollections here:

3 months late, the New York Times is released from big brother.

Now, 3 months after “we were all Georgians” according to McCain, and our press completely distorted the events of the short Russian/Georgian war… just today, finally, THREE WHOLE MONTHS AFTER CHEERING FOR THE “GEORGIAN UNDERDOG”, being beaten up by the big Russian bully, our amazingly propoganda driven press has finally come out with an article on the front page of the New York Times, doubting the official Georgian version of fighting a defensive war, and suggesting that Saakashvili may actually be a mass murderer, killing unarmed civilians in their sleep in South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. 

Three months later.  Unbelievable.  Truly we live in an Orwellian world.

Newly available accounts by independent military observers of the beginning of the war between Georgia and Russia this summer call into question the longstanding Georgian assertion that it was acting defensively against separatist and Russian aggression.

Instead, the accounts suggest that Georgia’s inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on Aug. 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm.

Human Rights Watch joins the demonization effort against Chavez of Venezuela.

Chavez’s government has been demonized by the US since he came to power and has been elected democratically numerous times by numbers that would be considered landslides in the USA.  He is a controversial leader with his in-your-face way of dealing with foreign powers, namely the USA, but is unarguably the popularly elected leader of his country, usually by over 60% of the vote in elections that put the US elections to shame in terms of fairness.

Now, the Human Rights Watch group has issued a scathing, but an apparently disingenuous, report on human rights in Venezuela.  Below, I cut and paste part of an article that answers some of the myths in the HRW report, but first think.   Is there any country that elects a leader by landslides that takes away their rights, or that commits human rights abuses?  Truly, only in the USA, under what has become an Orwellian society, do we continually elect leaders that abuse our human rights.  In the rest of the world that doesn’t happen in free and fair elections.  Check out the talking points below:

MYTH: “Discrimination on political grounds has been a defining feature of the Chávez presidency.”  

FACT: Human Rights Watch deems the 2002 coup against the elected government “the most dramatic setback” for human rights in Venezuela in the last decade, but criticizes President Chavez’s own public condemnations of the unconstitutional overthrow as examples of “political discrimination” against the opposition. On the contrary, President Chávez last year pardoned political opponents who backed a failed 2002 coup against his democratically elected government. “It’s a matter of turning the page,” Chávez said. “We want there to be a strong ideological and political debate — but in peace.”[i] In this spirit, the government has often welcomed input from the opposition, for example, inviting the leaders of student protests to address the National Assembly.

MYTH: The Chávez administration has an “open disregard for the principle of separation of powers – specifically an independent judiciary.”

FACT: Human Rights Watch wrote in an earlier report that “When President Chávez became president in 1999, he inherited a judiciary that had been plagued for years by influence-peddling, political interference, and, above all, corruption…In terms of public credibility, the system was bankrupt.” Under Chávez though, Human Rights Watch admitted that access to justice in Venezuela was improved by the expansion of the court system.[ii] Also, the World Bank found that “the [judicial] reform effort has made significant progress – the STJ [Supreme Court] is more modern and efficient.”[iii] Testament to the strength of democratic institutions in Venezuela is the ability of the National Electoral Council to uphold decisions unfavorable to lawmakers, such as the “no” victory in the December 2007 referendum on constitutional reforms.

MYTH: “[Chávez] has significantly shifted the balance of the mass media in the government’s favor… by stacking the deck against critical opposition outlets.”

FACT: As was true at the time of the 2002 coup against Chávez, Venezuela’s media is dominated by opposition voices. The “anti-government” media mentioned by Human Rights Watch still maintains the largest share of the nation’s public airwaves, and their frequently extreme criticisms of the government have included calling for the overthrow of elected leaders (as in 2002). There are no major pro-government newspapers in Venezuela. The new government-funded television and radio outlets, such as TVes – Venezuela’s first public broadcaster – and TeleSur – a regional network with support from multiple countries – have a much smaller reach than the private outlets. Furthermore, the government has never censored or “shut down” opposition media. The private channel RCTV faced a non-renewal of its broadcast license due to persistent legal violations including inciting political violence, but the station easily made the switch to cable.

MYTH: The Chávez government “has sought to remake the country’s labor movement in ways that violate basic principles of freedom of association.”

FACT: The Chavez government has actively promoted the formation of labor unions and bargaining by organized labor, but has not co-opted this sector. The National Workers’ Union (UNT) was founded in April 2003 by workers supportive of government policies. In 2008, the government responded to an ongoing labor dispute between steel workers and the foreign-owned firm Sidor by intervening to negotiate a settlement, and when this was found to be impossible, the government reasserted state control over the Sidor plant in response to worker demands. The steel workers themselves were also allowed to purchase a share of the business themselves and thereby assert more control over the company.

MYTH: The Chávez government has pursued an “aggressively adversarial approach to local rights advocates and civil society organizations.”

FACT: The Chávez administration has encouraged local leaders to create community councils that let localities identify and address their own problems – from garbage collection to school construction. The concept comes from the belief that local groups know what is lacking and know what they want for their communities. Community councils democratize local government and give people the funding and capacity to make decisions for themselves. Also subject to local decision-making are many of the social missions that are designed to help reduce poverty in the most marginalized areas of the country. Health clinics, educational centers, subsidized food markets and other initiatives rely on local volunteers and are accountable to these communities.

Truly, this must be part of the drive to demonize Chavez and his government and eventually overthrow him in a coup or civil war, much like Allende was overthrown in Chile in 1973.  This sort of move makes perfect sense if one is familiar with such works as “Deterring Democracy,” by Noam Chomsky, or “Confessions of an Economic Hitman,” by John Perkins (I think).

The US needs this sort of demonization in order to drum up domestic support for its future actions so that when it removes Chavez, it will be supported by the general populace of the USA.  My job is to let my little voice out so that some might see what our secret combinations are up to.

Democracy Now journalists arrested. The first ammendment is dead.

Here is footage of Nicole Salazar’s arrest by the brutal police crackdown at the RNC:

Amy Goodman discusses why they were arrested:

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

It was Labor Day, and there was an anti-war march, with a huge turnout, with local families, students, veterans and people from around the country gathered to oppose the war. The protesters greatly outnumbered the Republican delegates.

There was a positive, festive feeling, coupled with a growing anxiety about the course that Hurricane Gustav was taking, and whether New Orleans would be devastated anew. Later in the day, there was a splinter march. The police-clad in full body armor, with helmets, face shields, batons and canisters of pepper spray-charged. They forced marchers, onlookers and working journalists into a nearby parking lot, then surrounded the people and began handcuffing them.

Nicole was videotaping. Her tape of her own violent arrest is chilling. Police in riot gear charged her, yelling, “Get down on your face.” You hear her voice, clearly and repeatedly announcing “Press! Press! Where are we supposed to go?” She was trapped between parked cars. The camera drops to the pavement amidst Nicole’s screams of pain. Her face was smashed into the pavement, and she was bleeding from the nose, with the heavy officer with a boot or knee on her back. Another officer was pulling on her leg. Sharif was thrown up against the wall and kicked in the chest, and he was bleeding from his arm.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

The attack on and arrest of me and the “Democracy Now!” producers was not an isolated event. A video group called I-Witness Video was raided two days earlier. Another video documentary group, the Glass Bead Collective, was detained, with its computers and video cameras confiscated. On Wednesday, I-Witness Video was again raided, forced out of its office location. When I asked St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington how reporters are to operate in this atmosphere, he suggested, “By embedding reporters in our mobile field force.”

We live in a world where everything is turned upside down.  Bad is good and good is bad.  Those who are a part of the secret combination machinery are praised and looked upon as the salt of the earth, whereas the true salt of the earth are trampled beneath the feet of riot police.

Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman arrested at the Republican National Convention!

This is absolutely outrageous.  The American police state has stooped to new lows with the arrest of Democracy Now’s amazing Amy Goodman.  This is an absolute contradiction of the freedom of the press afforded us in the Constitution.  Amy is famous.  I’ve been following her stuff for years.  How can they do this?  Would they similarly arrest Oprah Winfrey?  Outrageous.

Update 9:20pm.  Alternet has a little information on the reason Goodman was arrested.  I still don’t have a clear picture of what happened though.

Update 9:30pm. has further information now.  Goodman’s two producers were arrested for “rioting” and Goodman was arrested for “obstruction” of a “peace officer”.  Here is an excerpt:

Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar have all been released from police custody in St. Paul following their illegal arrest by Minneapolis Police on Monday afternoon.

All three were violently manhandled by law enforcement officers. Abdel Kouddous was slammed against a wall and the ground, leaving his arms scraped and bloodied. He sustained other injuries to his chest and back. Salazar’s violent arrest by baton-wielding officers, during which she was slammed to the ground while yelling, “I’m Press! Press!,” resulted in her nose bleeding, as well as causing facial pain. Goodman’s arm was violently yanked by police as she was arrested.

On Tuesday, Democracy Now! will broadcast video of these arrests, as well as the broader police action. These will also be available on:

Goodman was arrested while questioning police about the unlawful detention of Kouddous and Salazar who were arrested while they carried out their journalistic duties in covering street demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. Goodman’s crime appears to have been defending her colleagues and the freedom of the press.

Stay tuned for more of this ugly situation.

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