Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No free press (in Iraq or the US)

Dahr Jamail explains "No free press in Iraq" (Al Jazeera):

On September 8, 2011, Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi was shot in his Baghdad home by assailants using pistols with silencers. Mahdi had hosted a thrice-weekly radio show covering social and political issues, including government corruption, bribery and sectarianism.
On his Facebook page, Mahdi had regularly organised pro-democracy demonstrations and publicised threats he had received. Having become afraid for his safety, two months before his murder, Mahdi had stepped down from his radio show.
Adnan Hussein received a death threat that read: 'If you are in Baghdad we will kill you and throw you in the garbage like the dogs'
"The killing of Hadi Mahdi created an atmosphere of fear," Hussein said of the death of his colleague.
He explained that the Maliki government claimed to have recently passed a law that provided greater protections to Iraqi journalists, but that instead "the law limits our work and does not guarantee our rights".
"Journalists here are now working in the streets naked," he said. "They have no rights and no protections. Journalists cannot work and cover what needs to be covered because they are too exposed."

In the US where there is supposed press freedom, Jack Healy makes you wonder at the New York Times with a hastily cobbled together and bad (as in incorrect because it's woefully low) report on yesterday's violence. While Healy can only find 16 people killed yesterday, Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) is able to find 44 deaths and eighty-two people injured. On the topic of the Iraqi dead, Susie Day pens the essay "Dead Iraqis Occupy Wall Street" (Monthly Review):

With the war in Iraq now officially over and the Occupy Wall Street movement less visible, life in New York was expected to return to normal. Instead, several recent passersby in Manhattan's financial district have reported seeing thousands of deceased Iraqi civilians taking up residence at Zuccotti Park. The park served for two months in the fall of 2011 as a protest base for thousands of OWS activists.
Although the Iraqis remain largely silent and immobile, some witnesses claim to have seen individual deceased mothers, students, and the elderly holding up the backs of old pizza boxes, on which have been scrawled the English words, "Remember Me."
Public reaction has been mixed. Some say the dead are "occupying" the park in nonviolent protest; others accuse the Iraqis of faking their own deaths in order to flout U.S. immigration laws. The Bloomberg administration, having evicted hundreds of living protesters from the park in mid-November, has thus far maintained a wary tolerance.

Meanwhile John Robles (Voice of Russia -- link is text and audio) interviews Debra Sweet. Excerpt.

John Robles: My first question regards the National Defense Authorization Act, under which an Indefinite Detention Clause was passed, also censorship under the SOPA act. Starting with the PATRIOT Act, it seems like human rights have been stripped away one after the other in the US. Would you characterize the US as a police state?

Debra Sweet: I don't know that I would characterize the US across the board as a police state. Certainly, in many other countries and historically there are places where people can't even gather, not to mention US-backed states, where protesters have been shot and killed during the Arab Spring with impunity. A lot of that comes back to the US backing of very authoritarian governments around the world. One can say that, since 9/11, since the Bush regime used the attack on the World Trade Center as a pretext to unleash an endless war on the world, apparently it's been continued by the next administration. Civil liberties and the protection of the first ten amendments have been, which are known in the US as the Bill of Rights, has been severely restricted and now we see that what the US instituted 10 years ago, on January 11th 2002, when it opened its illegal prison in Guantanamo, it allowed the US for years to hold men with no access to Habeas Corpus right, no charges against them. And, in fact, there have been very intense court battles within the US to try to get those men any rights at all. And, in fact, 171 are still being held indefinitely. All this has become a model, as a way that the US can keep people indefinitely without charges and now, as you are mentioning, under the law that Barack Obama signed last Saturday, on the last day of the year, there is a situation where the US now, through the President, can hold people indefinitely under custody of the US military. And this definitely includes US citizens, as well as anyone else. This is under charges "suspicion of involvement with terrorism". You may call it a police state -- and it has a real fascist tinge to it, because it's setting out a situation where people can be grabbed based on what the President thinks you are thinking about and presumably held by the military forever either in this country or outside of it. And we understand that the US has employed "black sites", third-country prisons, in addition to what it's done in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Guantanamo.

Debra Sweet is with The World Can't Wait which is not only noting the 10th anniversary of the opening of the illegal prison in Guantanamo but is also calling for actions this week including Wednesday January 11th:

Sign up for Washington DC action

Andy Worthington's Appearances Around the Country
Protests in NYC, Chicago, San Francisco and More

January 11, 2012 is the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo. A broad coalition of groups: Center for Constitutional Rights, Code Pink, No More Guantánamos, Pax Christi Physicians for Human Rights, Torture Abolition and Survivors Network, Voices for Creative Non-Violence, War Criminals Watch, War Resisters League, Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International USA and World Can’t Wait - is calling for a major demonstration in Washington, DC and solidarity actions elsewhere to ensure accountability for torture, unlawful detention and other human rights violations committed by the US government in the name of national security. And to demand:

• the closure of Guantánamo by ending indefinite detention and military commissions;
• the end of torture and impunity for torture;
• the end of unlawful detention at Bagram and all US facilities;
• the end of Islamophobia and discrimination;
• and support for all detainees either being charged and fairly tried, or released to countries that will respect their human rights.

The primary action in DC is a human chain of 2,771 people in orange jumpsuits representing the people still detained without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo and Bagram stretching from the White House to the Capitol. We will chant, we will hold signs, we will not be silent.

Find out more about Guantánamo, Bagram, indefinite detention and torture.

Scroll down to read some of the stories of the people still languishing in these hellholes.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.