From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Sep 12 2011 - 08:51:44 EDT
How 'war on terror' unleashed a war on journalists
Ethiopia among top regimes to silence dissent
By Joel Simon | CNN
September 12th, 2011 at 10:22 pm | |
<http://www.ethiopianreview.com/articles/35831/print/> Print This Post
(CNN) - In the days following the 9/11 attacks, Attorney General John
Ashcroft asserted that criticism of the Bush administration "only aids
terrorists" and "gives
<http://www.zikkir.com/words/index.php?title=ammunition> ammunition to
America's enemies." White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer warned that
"all Americans . need to watch what they say, watch what they do."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told television executives
they should not air videos from Osama bin Laden because these could contain
These statements sparked widespread concern in U.S. media circles about
looming restrictions on local media. While there have been no sweeping
legislative attacks on the First Amendment, press freedom has eroded
domestically and globally.
President Obama's record as a zealous classifier of government documents has
institutionalized increased official secrecy. Legal efforts to compel
journalists to reveal confidential sources are prevalent, and without a
federal shield law, journalists facing a federal subpoena confront the
prospect of jail. Similarly, the U.S. Justice Department has sought to
imprison <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/us/02secret.html> government
employees for leaking classified information to the media. In its operations
in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has detained journalists without
charge for long periods, and failed to adequately investigate our
li.php> the killings of 16 journalists by U.S. forces' fire. The killings,
however, did not appear to be deliberate attacks on the media.
But whatever damage was done to press freedom domestically pales in
comparison to the devastating impact of U.S. post-9/11 policies on press
freedom around the world.
Anti-state charges and "terrorist" labels have become commonplace and are
used to unduly intimidate, detain and imprison journalists. Media blackouts
and limited access to war and conflict zones have become routine, along with
the uninvestigated killings of journalists.
To put it starkly, 81 journalists were in jail around the world at the end
of 2000. By the end of 2001, that number shot up to 118.
<http://www.cpj.org/imprisoned/2010.php/> Today there are 145, most held on
state security charges. Abusive use of national security was the single
greatest charge invoked to justify journalist imprisonments in 2010, the
Committee to Protect Journalists found.
In fact, a good part of the increase in the last decade is directly
attributable to the policies and rhetoric employed in the aftermath of 9/11,
which were eagerly adopted by repressive governments around the world.
The policies and rhetoric employed in the aftermath of 9/11 . were eagerly
adopted by repressive governments around the world.
In Central Asia, <http://www.zikkir.com/words/index.php?title=Despotic>
despotic regimes used their new strategic importance in the war on terrorism
to escalate their own wars on dissidents, bundling them with the media.
Since 2001, anti-terrorist rhetoric has become deeply entrenched in
Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. It is also a term of art in Russia,
where authorities routinely use the threat of terrorism to justify
repressive policies in the North Caucasus, including limits on the press.
Pakistan, of course, has leveraged its critical value as an ostensible U.S.
ally in the war on terror to justify the free hand given to the country's
brutal spy agency, which has
e/> been accused of involvement in the murder of several probing
In the troubled Horn of Africa region, Ethiopia's relative
<http://www.zikkir.com/words/index.php?title=Stability> stability is largely
maintained by repression of dissent and ever-increasing restrictions on the
press. Since 9/11, the country has been active in U.S. counterterrorism in
Somalia, but for Ethiopian journalists, reporting on terrorism without
risking jail time has become too perilous. Africa's second leading jailer of
journalists and notorious Internet censor routinely employs anti-terrorism
laws to suppress information and accuse journalists of providing rebel
groups with a <http://www.zikkir.com/words/index.php?title=platform>
Accusations are not leveled exclusively at local journalists, as seen with
the July detention of two Swedish journalists who were reporting on armed
separatists. They and two local journalists held incommunicado since June,
have just been
hp> charged with terrorism. Previously, the government has waged similar
accusations against the Kenya-based broadcaster Nation Television (NTV) and
against Al-Jazeera. In 2007, three New York Times journalists were detained
for similar reporting.
In Latin America, drug traffickers were re-branded as "narco-terrorists,"
first by former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and more recently in
Mexico. This repositioning allowed governments in both countries to portray
their efforts to crush the cartels as part of a global anti-terror campaign,
with explicit calls to the press to join the program. Uribe even labeled his
critics in the media "terrorists." There are documented cases of journalists
being detained, harassed and beaten by soldiers on patrol.
Over the past five years, Yemen, which has instituted a near-total blackout
on media reporting from the war-afflicted Saada region, has also silenced
news and opinion on the basis of anti-terrorism. Reporting and opinions on
Yemen's counterterrorism efforts customarily result in questioning,
intimidation and detention by security forces, as in the case of prominent
journalist Abdulelah Shaea, whose reporting on al Qaeda landed him in
prison. In Syria, CPJ research shows, at least 11 journalistic bloggers have
been found guilty of anti-state crimes under the emergency law in recent
Anti-terrorist rhetoric continues to provide political cover for anti-press
policies around the world, yet the actions of the U.S. military in
Afghanistan and Iraq have also changed the ways the wars are covered.
Although the embedding program that allows journalists to accompany the U.S.
military has provided new opportunities for coverage, it has also created a
dichotomy between embedded and "unilateral" journalists, whom U.S. forces
have often viewed with grave suspicion.
More than a dozen journalists have been detained by the U.S. military in
Iraq and Afghanistan and held for extended periods without charge or due
D:9&ie=UTF-8&q=> according to CPJ research. Al Jazeera correspondent Sami Al
Haj was held for more than six years as a prisoner at Guantanamo and never
charged with a crime. The U.S. also bombed Al Jazeera offices in both Kabul
and Baghdad, leading to the death of one reporter.
These actions sent a powerful message to militaries around the world that an
embedded journalist is the only acceptable way to cover their activities
.The Israeli military, for example, denied the media access during their
2008 Gaza invasion. Journalists were mostly forced to cover that event from
The Sri Lankan government used the same approach during its brutal final
offensive against Tamil separatists in 2009. The absence of any independent
media gave government forces a free hand, which they used to carry out
massive human rights abuses including indiscriminate fire
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/25/world/asia/25lanka.html/> that killed
thousands of civilians.
The global fallout from 9/11 is a stark reminder that while the U.S. failure
to uphold democratic standards has obvious implications domestically, the
greatest long-term impact is likely to be in the many places where
governments are always seeking justifications for unrelenting repression.
Ten years on, it's clear that the anti-terror rhetoric and policies
developed by the United States after 9/11 have provided effective and
enduring cover for the erosion of civil liberties around the world -
including press freedom.
Editor's note: Joel Simon is executive director of the
<http://www.cpj.org/> Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based,
independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom
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