Information Wars, Journalism and Net Neutrality

by lizard

A report by the Committee to Protect Journalists declared 2013 to be the second worst year for journalists getting jailed. At the top of the list for the second consecutive year is America’s pal, Turkey. Iran and China round out the top 3. Nothing surprising about any of that.

In Ukraine, the brief detention of Simon Ostrovsky nearly set things off in a bad way. Yesterday he was released, seemingly unharmed. From the link:

Pro-Russian armed gunmen in Ukraine have released an American journalist held hostage since Tuesday, his news organisation has confirmed.

Simon Ostrovsky, a correspondent for Vice News, had been covering the region’s unfolding crisis for several weeks and had recently followed the activities of masked gunmen as they seized government buildings in Ukraine.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the pro-Russian insurgents in Ukraine said Ostrovsky had been held on suspicion of spying for Right Sector, a far-right Ukrainian nationalist party, or for other possible “enemy groups”.

While going after journalists is indefensible, it’s clear there is an incredibly complex information war being waged across the globe. Even the words we use (or don’t use) are a part of it.

I wrote earlier this month about the attempt to define “covered journalists” with the Free Flow of Information Act. How this term is defined could impact who, for example, spends time in jail for reporting on acts of whistle-blowing. If some blogger is doing the reporting, good luck blogger.

The information war is nasty. For reporting on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye was sentenced to 5 years in jail.  Why?  Because President Saleh, a loyal lapdog of the US, knows how to please his master.

When Saleh was about to pardon this journalist, Obama called to express his “concern”.  What was Obama concerned about?  The truth of who was doing the killing in Yemen.

This excerpt is from an article Jeremy Scahill wrote for The Nation, titled Why is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?

While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

21 children killed.  That’s one more kid than was killed at Sandy Hook.

The information war is being waged on another front, net neutrality. Once upon a time candidate Obama was for net neutrality. But President Obama’s FCC appointment is of course going to try and do the exact opposite, as reported by The New Yorker:

In 2007, at a public forum at Coe College, in Iowa, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality. Specifically, “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint F.C.C. commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality?”

“The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” Explaining, he said, “What you’ve been seeing is some lobbying that says that the servers and the various portals through which you’re getting information over the Internet should be able to be gatekeepers and to charge different rates to different Web sites…. And that I think destroys one of the best things about the Internet—which is that there is this incredible equality there.”

If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

Speaking of virtual lanes, the road to the Moon of Alabama was recently closed due to a DDoS attack disrupting typepad service. Thankfully service has been restored, so go and read this post about how John Kerry is spreading lies first trumpeted by the NYT, and only later, feebly retracted.

This is how the American public was prepped for the war on Iraq.

Don’t worry, just in time for the midterms MSNBC has a new initiative called Growing Hope, and by initiative I mean marketing campaign. Watch the ad here, if you dare. For the empty words, there’s this:

As hope grows, so does the power of people. Growing Hope is a new initiative that invites Americans to share their hopes around issues that matter to them. We want you to share your hopes, contribute to the conversation, and find a way – large or small – to make a difference in your community. Explore, join in, and speak out about issues that matter to you.

Thanks MSNBC! That’s a great idea.

Oh, and poets, sharpen your pencils. It might not be a bad idea to keep multiple hard copies of your work.

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