In an era where government opposition to a free press has become increasingly militant, AMERICAN FREE PRESS is raising its voice more vehemently than ever against those using the heavy-handed practices you’ll read about in this week’s issue. By doing so, this publication continues to be targeted by some extremely powerful forces that seek its demise.
By Victor Thorn
Governments around the world are at war with truthful, no-holds-barred journalists. This is most notable in the West where the United States and the UK have waged a campaign to marginalize, smear, arrest and even imprison those few journalists who report honestly about the most important issues of the day.
AFP contacted two independent journalists on August 22, who saw first-hand how the U.S. establishment has been cracking down on those who refuse to toe the line.
AFP first spoke with photographer Dan DeFelippi, who spent six months covering Occupy Wall Street (OWS) protests across the country. DeFelippi cited Zuccotti Park, ground zero for the OWS protests in New York City, where squad cars blocked off entire streets while police officers made a number of arrests—all because reporters refused to move from a sidewalk while covering the demonstrations.
AFP also talked to activist Holly Kearl, a United Nations consultant and founder of Stop Street Harassment. She referred to another intimidating technique: Rather than physical violence or arrest, a colleague of hers was unrelentingly persecuted by stalkers on the Internet who planted false stories about her in an effort to discredit her and smear her.
“I’m most fearful of enemies targeting me online and then trying to discover my physical address,” said Ms. Kearl.
Her alarm is justified. AFP’s ongoing coverage of Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings’s suspicious death took another turn on August 22. His neighbor, Jordanna Thigpen, revealed that the night before he perished, Hastings frantically knocked on her door pleading to borrow her car because he feared someone had tampered with his. Hastings spoke of helicopters circling his apartment complex. The next day his Mercedes exploded in a fiery crash.
Attacks on journalists are certainly not isolated to the West. During an August 22 interview, a spokesman for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) told AFP: “Last week, we passed the 1,000 mark for journalists who’ve been killed in the line of duty since 1992. What makes this figure so appalling is an 88% rate of impunity where the murderers of these journalists are never convicted.”
The CPJ spokesman added: “This year alone 35 journalists have been killed, over half of them in Syria. However, most of them don’t die in crossfire. They’re silenced because of their work: 30% by political organizations, 23% by government officials and 13% by criminal groups. Somebody didn’t like what they wrote, so they were taken out.”
According to CPJ, the imprisonment of 232 journalists worldwide last year broke every historical record, a figure four times that of 2000.
On August 22, AFP also spoke with Anastasia Kolobrodova, a public affairs specialist with the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency overseeing all U.S. civilian international media, including the Voice of America. Ms. Kolobrodova relayed this story:
“In Azerbaijan, the government targeted a female reporter named Khadija Ismayilova by planting hidden cameras inside her apartment. They then published videos of her on the Internet,” she said.
Due to her exposés on the murder of an investigative reporter, Ismayilova’s enemies tried blackmailing her with intimate, compromising photos.
“In Syria,” Kolobrodova continued, “a writer named Bashar Fahmi has been missing for over a year, while Americans Austin Tice and James Foley haven’t been seen since last Thanksgiving. Other newsmen have been roughed up after being pulled from their cars, while family members have received threatening notes.”
“Journalists and activists are running into trouble,” Kolobrodova told this newspaper, “because some places and countries don’t want a free press.”
UK Orders Newspaper to Destroy All Files Relating to Snowden
Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald and his associates have been targeted by U.S. and UK officials due to the role they have played in publicizing National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In May, Snowden leaked official U.S. documents to journalists revealing the fact that the NSA eavesdropped on nearly every formof communication, including what Americans post to the Internet.
First, on August 18, English authorities detained Greenwald’s boyfriend David Miranda for nine hours inside London’s Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 of the UK’s anti-terror statutes. At the time, Miranda had been transporting encrypted digital files relating to Snowden.
Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger described this law: “[In the UK, schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000] gives enormous discretion to stop, search and question people who have no connection to ‘terror.’ Suspects have no right to legal representation and may have their property confiscated for up to seven days.”
After taunting Miranda with criminal prosecution under the Official Secrets Act, UK intelligence operatives seized his cell phone, laptop and camera.
A month earlier, on July 20, technicians from the Government Communications Headquarters, under direct orders from UK Prime Minister David Cameron, ordered Guardian staff to destroy computers inside Guardian offices, which contained files pertaining to Snowden. Legal threats to shut down the newspaper’s entire operation were issued if they refused.
On August 20, reporter Julian Borger presented the details. “In a basement of the Guardian’s King’s Cross offices, a senior editor and computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverize the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored.”
Kirsty Hughes, a chief executive at Index of Censorship, complained, “The UK government is using, and quite likely misusing, laws to intimidate journalists and silence its critics.”
British Parliament member Keith Vaz voiced even more outrage. “This issue has reached the highest levels of government.”
Fortunately, Greenwald isn’t backing down.
“If the UK and U.S. governments believe that tactics like this are going to deter or intimidate us in any way from continuing to report on what these documents reveal,” he wrote, “they are beyond deluded. If anything, it will have only the opposite effect: to embolden us even further.”
Sources close to AFP have revealed some shocking news: during so-called hate training classes offered by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), law enforcement officials in the military, secret service and CIA are specifically being taught that this newspaper should be grouped in with some of the nation’s most radicalized extremist groups.
These reports cannot be dismissed, for the SPLC’s own literature states, “[We] regularly conduct in-person training sessions for local, state and federal law enforcement officers . . . [We] teach officers how to recognize hate groups, symbols and activity.”
Two publications listed by the SPLC as “Active U.S. Hate Groups” are AFP and THE BARNES REVIEW (TBR). Sadly, umpteen organizations such as The Catholic Forum and Democratic Underground directly link to this slanderous data.
Readers are well aware of these gutter techniques, especially this past summer when an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) propaganda campaign scared away speakers from the AFP-sponsored Freedompalooza 2013 festival by characterizing attendees as “white supremacists, anti-Semites, anti-government extremists and conspiracy theorists.”
This poison also extends to Wikipedia. On August 22, this writer lost an interview, probably the sixth this year, when reporter Dominic Holden of Seattle, Washington’s The Stranger newspaper looked at a libelous entry on Wikipedia posted by the SPLC. Although AFP was attempting to publicize his plight of being harassed by police officers for simply taking their pictures, Holden’s declined the interview because of the SPLC’s toxic vendetta.
AFP Web Editor Dave Gahary has been battling with Wikipedia for months to change their factually incorrect AFP entry. In response, Wikipedia administrator Doug Weller leveled this threat in May: “Your edits appear to constitute vandalism.”
Not giving up, Gahary told this writer on August 23 that “Wikipedia is hiding behind policies and guidelines to retain this damaging information.”
Obama’s War on Journalists Exposed
If anyone thinks President Barack Obama stands as a friend to freethinking journalists, they’d better reconsider their opinion. Not only has Obama enacted a war on whistleblowers, he also remained silent after UK officials contacted him before detaining David Miranda in London.
When he does take action, Obama invariably sides with his Big Brother cohorts. For example, in 2009, a Yemeni journalist named Abdulelah Shaye reported on an Obama-ordered cruise missile strike in his country that killed 21 children and 14 women.
Later, in August 2010, Yemeni lawmen kidnapped, beat and jailed Shaye. And when former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed to release Shaye, he received a phone call from Obama demanding that Shaye remain imprisoned.
Yemeni writer Farea al-Muslimi commented on Obama’s underhanded methods: “Only Barack Obama can compete with Yemen’s dictators in jailing journalists and killing civilians.”
American author David Sirota, writing on June 28, showed his contempt for Obama’s tyrannical practices. “The president’s move to criminalize the reporting of inconvenient facts is sadly emblematic of his administration’s larger war against journalism.”
He also fingered those in bed with our censor-in-chief. “In this unprecedented global war [on journalism], President Obama has been backed by the combined power of Justice Department prosecutors, FBI surveillance agents, State Department diplomats and, perhaps most troubling of all, a cadre of high-profile Benedict Arnolds within the media itself.”
Sirota referred to self-loathing, eat-thy-own reporters, such as NBC’s Chuck Todd and David Gregory, not to mention The New York Times‘s Andrew Sorkin. Despite fellow journalists being persecuted by the White House, these shills still run interference for Obama by attacking those who pursue the truth rather than covering it up.
Victor Thorn is a hard-hitting researcher, journalist and author of over 40 books.