A year after the start of democratic
uprisings in the Arab world, Reporters Without Borders
(RSF) takes stock of censorship and violations
of free speech during the “Arab Spring”. Journalists, especially photographers, have paid a
heavy price. Eleven media workers have been killed in
the performance of their duty, among them several
internationally known photojournalists. However, most of the
victims were local journalists.
In its report "Upheaval in the Arab World; Media as key witnesses and political pawns", RSF takes a look at the methods
used by the authorities to strangle the flow of information during the popular
uprisings in six countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen).
The political processes at work are far
from over, especially in Egypt, Yemen and Syria.
In each of the six countries RSF has compiled figures before and after January 14, 2011 in the following
citizens jailed for opinions expressed, and
media organizations attacked and websites censored.
The media played a critical role in these
revolutions, reporting on the protests and their suppression, and
maintaining momentum. In most cases new media such as
and Twitter were used to spread information, as a substitute for a traditional press at the beck and call of the ruling powers. Despite the variability of its coverage, especially in Bahrain, Al-Jazeera played an important part in allowing
opposition voices to be heard.
Ruling authorities have tried to impose
total censorship, with media staff, bloggers and netizens
bearing the cost of brutal and murderous repression. Every
its own ways of blocking or inhibiting the flow of information, such as Internet monitoring, cutting off access to the Internet and mobile phone networks, jamming satellite television stations, seizure of newspapers, assaults and arrests of media
workers, bloggers and Internet users, kidnappings and murders, expulsions of foreign reporters, visa refusals, etc.
In Syria, the government of President Bashar Al-Assad is increasingly isolated internationally. According to the report of the international commission of inquiry on Syria, published on 28 November, more than 3,500 people have been killed since the uprising began there in March. The U.N.'s top human rights official Navi Pillay puts the number at 4000 dead.
The RSF report covers the period
from 17 December 2010* to 17 November 2011, but also includes more recent events
in Egypt. The figures cited are conservative since it
has not been possible to compile an exhaustive list of abuses.
* 12/17/11 is the date a young street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set fire to himself in the town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia igniting a wave of popular anger against the security forces and providing the spark for the Arab Spring.
I don’t know if you want to call it a "psychosis,"
but it’s some sort of a fantasy land being built up here, as it was
with Iraq, the same sort of no lessons learned. In fact, the
latest (IAEA; International Atomic Energy Agency)
report that everybody’s so agog about also says that, once again, we
find no evidence that Iran has diverted any uranium that it’s
What you have is, in '04, ’05, ’06, ’07, even until the end of their term in office, Cheney kept on having the Joint Special Operations Force Command, JSOC— send teams inside Iran. They would work with various dissident groups—the Azeris, the Kurds, even Jundallah, which is a very fanatic Sunni opposition group—and they would do everything they could to try and find evidence of an undeclared underground facility. We monitored everything. We have incredible surveillance. In those days, what we did then, we can even do better now. They found nothing. Nothing. No evidence of any weaponization. In other words, no evidence of a facility to build the bomb. They have facilities to enrich, but not separate facilities for building a bomb. This is simply a fact. The big change was, in the last few weeks, the IAEA came out with a new report. And it’s not a scientific report, it’s a political document.
This new report has nothing new in it. This isn’t me talking. I talked to former inspectors. They’re different voices than you read in the New York Times and the Washington Post. There are other people that don’t get reported who are much more skeptical of this report, and you just don’t see it in the (mainstream) coverage...
The way it works, over the years a report will show up that will turn out to be spurious, turn out to be propaganda, whether started by us or a European intelligence agency—it’s not clear. This all happened, if you remember the Ahmed Chalabi stuff, during the buildup to the war in [Iraq], all about the great arsenals that existed inside [Iraq]. The same sort of propaganda is being used now.
And what you have is some sort of a hysteria that
we had over Iraq that’s coming up again in Iran. And as far as
sanctions are concerned, you know, excuse me, we’ve been sanctioning
Cuba for 60 years, and Castro is still there. Sanctions are not going
AMY GOODMAN: How would you compare the Obama administration to the Bush administration when it comes to Iran?
SEYMOUR HERSH: Same—a little less bellicose, but the same thing. I have every reason to believe that, unlike Mr. Bush, President Obama really is worried about an attack. He doesn’t want to see the Israelis bomb Iran. That’s the kind of talk we’ve been getting in the press lately.
What makes me nervous is Israeli defense minister,
Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu, are together on this. They’re not always
together on many things. They both agree, and that’s worrisome because,
again, it’s a political issue there. The country is moving quickly to
the right, Israel is, obviously.
But the former head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, has been vehement about the foolishness of attempting to go after Iran, on the grounds that it’s not clear what they have. They’re certainly far away from a bomb. Israel has been saying for 20 years they’re six months away from making a bomb.
If you asked Israelis in the intelligence business — and there are many — "Do you really think, if they got a bomb—they would hit Tel Aviv?" and the answer was, "Do you think they’re crazy? We would incinerate them. Of course not. They’ve been around 2,000 years. That’s not going to happen."
an element rationality in the Israeli intelligence community that’s not
being expressed by the political leadership. It’s the same madness we
a slim chance of diplomatic victory, the United States is leading a
mostly Western attempt to block Palestinian membership in the U.N.
Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
Abbas is punished by $200 million cut in aid from U.S.
UK newspaper breaks story.
of children's art from Palestine was supposed to open today (Sat, 9/24) at the Oakland Museum of Children's Art
(MOCHA), but the show was canceled. Museum officials say community members raised
concerns about whether the art, depicting scenes of Israeli-Palestinian
violence, was appropriate for children.
Richard Gonzales: The exhibit of drawings and paintings was created by Palestinian
children who had witnessed the fighting during the Gaza conflict aka Operation
Gonzales: There are 50 drawings in all. Lubin says her group worked for six months to bring the pictures to the United States and arrange their showing at the Museum of Children's Art, or MOCHA, in Oakland. The exhibit is called "A Child's View of Gaza."
Barbara Lubin: (Director Middle East Children's Alliance [MECA] which organized the
Kids were encouraged to draw their feelings and what they had witnessed. And, you know, a lot of the pictures are very painful and very graphic because what they lived through was painful and graphic.
Gonzales: But what is art to some is propaganda to others.
Rabbi Douglas Kahn: First of all, we believe that the content of the exhibit, which is intended for children was extreme, was violent and it defamed an entire ethnic and religious group - both Israelis and Jews.
Gonzales: That's Rabbi Douglas Kahn, executive director of the local Jewish Community Relations Council. As Kahn speaks, he points to a photo of the one of the pictures. It shows the boot of an Israeli soldier, draped with the Israeli flag stomping on a Palestinian flag.
There's no attempt to provide a picture of the suffering on both the
Palestinian side and the Israeli side in the conflict.
Operation Cast Lead (12/27/08-1/18/09) resulted in approx 1400 Gazans killed, the majority civilians, and 13 Israels killed, 4 by "friendly fire" fire.
Kahn: This is a biased, one-sided perspective that was being organized by an advocacy organization; that really was trying to take advantage of the goodwill of this children's Museum.
Gonzales: Kahn and other Jewish leaders registered their concerns with museum officials who apparently agreed. Two weeks ago, Barbara Lubin got a phone call from museum officials saying the show, which had been approved and was scheduled to open today, would in fact be cancelled.
Barbara Lubin: We
were really, really shocked.
Gonzales: Shocked, in part, says Lubin, because seven years ago the museum showed a similar exhibit of art from Iraqi children. MOCHA officials were unavailable for an interview. The museum has been caught off guard by the controversy. It is typically a place where parents can leave their kids to finger-paint and enjoy arts education classes.
Museum board member, Randolph Belle said the museum would work with the sponsors of the Palestinian kids' art exhibit to re-schedule the show.
As I watch and read what feels like acres of print and hours of broadcast material in the run-up to the 10 year anniversary of those horrific attacks, the headlines say it all. "9/11's innocents". "The Unsung heroes". The list could go on.
However, the effects of 9/11 have been felt most acutely not in the West, but on the dusty alleyways of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Daily bombings, murderous intent and religious rhetoric have turned the events of that fateful Tuesday into a horrific reality.
Throughout my years of reporting from the frontlines of the so-called "War On Terror" -from the streets of London to the remote tribal regions of Pakistan and beyond - I have felt the disconnect between how the West feels and how the East feels.
The tragedy of the July 2005 bombings in London saw a massive outpouring of grief, and anger. Western politicians very eloquently articulated the feelings of their constituents and rightly so, in times of grief we look to them to do exactly that.
Yet for those innocent victims in Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan, politicians of all hues remain silent. In all of those countries the blood continues to spill daily on our television screens.
I shouldn't be surprised. The media dominates from the West. It's the West that has the money, and therefore the power. Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are, for many people, far off places. Places that harbour terrorists, that play a double game by taking Western aid, while sheltering those that would do them harm. It's an argument I have heard in the halls of Westminster, in Washington.
Yet the one brutal fact remains ignored by many: More people have died In Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan as result of Western intervention than died on 9/11.
Now a tragedy is a tragedy is a tragedy. No one's blood is worth more or less. Yet, as I read and listen to the anniversary speeches and editorials I can only be disheartened at what is in front of me - that Western lives are worth more.
In the weeks, months and years after 9/11 I found myself in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I wound up in Iraq. I saw people get on with their lives in the early days of both wars, not really understanding how long America's action would last, but hoping it would pass quickly. I wonder what those people would think now, and in my more reflective moments how many of then have witnessed death or mourn the passing of loved ones - perhaps as result of a drone strike gone astray, or even a raid that went wrong as a result of bad intelligence.
My problem comes when we forget those who have sacrificed their lives for a cause that they have little to do with.
Across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq I witnessed countless suicide bombings, a few that were too close for comfort. I have spoken to families ripped apart by US drone strikes that killed civilians. To mothers who have lost children when late at night American and British troops kicked down doors looking for terrorists. All of these incidents and people I met left one lasting impression - the tragic waste of human life.
What angers me even more is the empty platitudes Western governments give to those who die in the line of fire. How many times have we heard US presidents praise the security services of Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan? Praise the sacrifices they have made? Yet no apology on the loss of innocents who die every day.
I'd like to think that somewhere, someone will mention those Pakistanis, Iraqis and Afghans that have also died alongside the victims in America.Gaza Corner Headlines for 9/03/11:
Live blog coverage: Aftermath of Israel's flotilla raid via Ajazeera
Free Gaza Twitter Feed
Stream Aljazeera TV via Livestation
Aljazeera TV features outstanding indepth coverage. It is only available via free computer download in the U.S., as cable companies refuse to carry it.
Hurriyet Daily News (Turkish perspective)
Two article links follow - the opinion piece by Stephen Walt is an excellent read:
The Israeli propaganda line denying a humanitarian crisis in Gaza is almost as offensive as folks who deny the Holocaust.
Attacking an unarmed civilian vessel in international waters is in violation of international law. The occupation and siege of Gaza is already in violation of international human rights law.
Singer says he acted on 'conscience', as he joins
a list of performers including Gil Scot-Heron, Carlos Santana and
authorities prevented the Jewish American academic Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank on May
9th to give a lecture at a Palestinian university near Ramallah. Chomsky was
told that the Israeli authorities did not like his political
ISRAELI SOLDIERS SPEAK OUT ON GAZA
"A group of soldiers who took part in Israel's assault in Gaza say widespread abuses were committed against civilians under 'permissive' rules of engagement" according to a 7/15/09 BBC report.
"The troops said they had been urged to fire on any building or person that seemed suspicious and said civilians were sometimes used as human shields.
Breaking the Silence (click for full report) a campaign group made up of Israeli soldiers, gathered anonymous accounts from 26 soldiers."
ISRAEL AND IRAN
This article caught my eye: "Israel may have already started a war against Iran's nuclear program not with bunker busting bombs and cruise missiles, but with computers." (7/8/09)
Gazans 'Live In Despair' (June 29,2009 BBC article)
The International Committee of the Red Cross has described the 1.5 million Palestinians living in
Six months ago Israel ended its 25 day assault on Gaza in which at least 1,100 Palestinians died.
The Red Cross says residents lack adequate shelter after homes were destroyed. Building materials, pipes and spare parts are urgently needed. Basic medicines and reliable hospital equipment are in short supply. The water supply is patchy and sanitation is at the point of collapse.
Poverty is at what the Red Cross calls an "alarming" level with large numbers of children malnourished.
Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran. Seymour Hersh (New Yorker Magazine, July 7, 2008)
Seymour Hersh Audio
Secretly shot film reveals how Mugabe stole Zimbabwe's election
Guardian (UK) July 5, 2008
Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% - far more than previously estimated - according to a confidential World Bank report. Guardian (UK) July 4, 2008
Time to put the brakes on biofuels - Oxfam commentary Guardian (UK) July 4, 2008
Italy's compulsory fingerprinting of Roma (Gypsy)population is reminiscentÂ of Mussolini and Hitler.
Independent (UK) June 27, 2008
Guardian (UK) July 1, 2008
Esbjorn Svensson leader of tangential jazz trio EST dies in scuba diving accident
Guardian (UK) June 17,2008
Link for band member thoughts and book of condolences
Saban Bajramovic "King of Roma Music" dies
Independent (UK) June 12, 2008
Timesonline (UK) June 23, 2008