Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reporter Adel Hussein pardoned

Yesterday's snapshot noted Reuters journalist Ibrahim Jassam who is wrongly being held by the US military despite the Iraqi court system ordering that Ibrahim be freed. Ibrahim is far from the only reporting suffering in the 'free' Iraq. Last Wednesday's snapshot included:

Now we're emphasizing the sections on journalists and freedom of expression. UNAMI's report notes: "Journalists and media workers remain one of the most vulnerable professional groups throughout Iraq being subjected to threats, targeted violence, kidnappings and assassination." The report then moves to the Kurdistan region:

UNAMI continued to receive reports of intimidation and/or arrests of media professionals in the Kurdistan region, in particular those who had reported on issues of public interest. Officials have also filed several criminal defamation complaints against journalists. During the same period of time, KRG human rights authorities have declared to work at imprvoing the situation of journalists.
A few journalists UNAMI was in contact with alleged tha ton 31 January and 1 February 2008, they were arrested, harassed and ill-treated by KRG police. They also reported that their photographs and notes were confiscated whilst attempting to cover the impact of Turkey's military operations on civilians and civilian properties along the border. Photographs provided to UNAMI showed a journalist being surrounded and dragged by security forces. Local journalist associations have condemned the conduct of the KRG authorities while other journalists were also prevented from covering the military operations.
On 4 February, the Editor-in-chief of an independent newspaper, was summoned to court in Sulaimaniya to respond to a complaint filed against him by President Jalal Talabani for publishing an article on the President's personal assets. He was released on bail and his case postponed indefinitely. On 10 February, Umar Ahmed Mahmood, journalist from Hawlati newspaper, was summoned to Kalar Court, Sulaimaniya, where the Head of the KDP Office in Kalar district filed a complaint based on an article Mahmood had written about conflicting loyalties of KDP politicians. The journalist was subsequently detained for three days and released on bail. On 16 February, a journalist and blogger was arrested by Kurdish Peshmargas in Talkif District, Nineveh, and was interrogated for four days at an Asayish facility in Dohuk. He was forced to sign a ltter whereby he agreed not to "defame" KRG leaders and Christian clergymen before being released. On 16 March, a Dohuk court issued an arrest warrant against Muhamad Salih Haji, Editor-in-chief of Rasan Newspaper (licensed to the Kurdistna Islamic Union (KIU) and another KIU member, for publishing an article charging the court's decision to arrest a number of KIU members for alleged involvement in terror activities last year as politically motivated. Both were subsequently released on bail.
On 9 February, staff members of Kurdistan TV received death threats and had their equipment damaged when they tried to film an attack on a traffic policeman by a group of armed men in Erbil. The Kurdistan Journalists' Syndicate has condemned the attack and requested the Minister of Interior to investigate. On 2 March, Nabaz Goran, a journalist received a death threat in a letter sent by Halo Ibrahim Ahmad, a relative of a high-ranking Iraqi official. It was reported that although Halo Ibrahim had apologized, he subsequently reiterated his threat on Kurdistan post web-site. On 17 March, UNAMI wrote to KRG authorities requesting justifications for the arrests and complaints filed against these journnalists and urged the KRG to investigate the death threat against Nabaz Goran. Srood Mukarram Fatih, a journalist arrested a year ago by the Asayish in Erbil has yet to be charged noting that he was accused of being involved in terror activities.

The lengthy excerpt is included because the close of last month saw another journalist targeted in the Kurdistan region. Adel Hussein is the journalist and he's been convicted to six months of prison for the 'crime' of "writing an article about homosexuality".
Reporters Without Border notes: "Sexual practices are part of the individual freedoms that a democratic states is supposed to promote and protect. Furthermore, Hussein did not defend homosexuality. He limited himself to describing a form of behavior from a scientific viewpoint. . . . We are astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under the criminal code. What was the point of adoptiong -- and then liberalising -- a press code in Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still be tried under more repressive laws?" The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for the immediate release of Adel -- "a doctor and a freelance journalist with the independent weekly Hawlati". CPJ's Robert Mahoney (Dept Director) states, "A judge of all people should know that ignorance of the law is no excuse. This is the second time in a month that a court in Iraqi Kurdistan has sent a journalist to prison in violation of the new press law. We call on the authorities to ensure that the new legislation is widely promulgated and enforced, and we urge the appeal court to overturn this conviction and free Adel Hussein immediately." The other reporter referred to was Shwan Dawdi whose conviction was overturned by the court of appeal. Yahya Barzanji (AP) quotes the Kurdistan Journalist Union's Zirak Kamal stating, "We will appeal this unjust verdict and we hope that Kurdistan officials intervene and solve the problem." BBC explains the Kurdish government is attempting to say that Adel "violated a public decenty law" by reporting.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that Adel was pardoned Sunday by KRG President
Massoud Barzani and quotes CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney stating, "We are relieved that President Barzani intervened to right this injustice. We call on the authorities to ensure that the new legislation is enforced and that Adel Hussein is the last journalist to be sent to prison in Iraqi Kurdistan because of his work." Reporters Without Borders notes:

Reporters Without Borders welcomes yesterday’s release of physician and freelance journalist Adel Hussein from prison in Erbil (330 km north of Baghdad) under a pardon granted by the president of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan at the start of every religious festival.
Hussein had been in prison since 24 November, when he was found guilty of offending public decency under article 403 of the criminal code for writing an article about homosexuality for the independent Kurdish-language weekly Hawlati.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq report referred to above, by the way, came out last week and was their thirteenth "Human Rights Report" [PDF format warning, click here]. If you wonder why it got so little attention, you've missed the fact that we're yet again in another wave of Operation Happy Talk. Little Davy Petraeus is telling the press violence is at a low and like good little leashed pets, neutered and spayed, they go along. Which, for the record, explains the embarrassing daily violence round-ups offered by ____ for nearly two weeks. Can't bother including bombings in Mosul all the sudden? Can't bother or know not to? There's a difference, a big damn difference. And they're far from alone. But it is especially appalling to watch their reports on the daily violence (once so exhaustive) include only one or two items a day while others manage to offer so much more. But when you've got an illegal war to sell, you toss in your own integrity at bargain basement prices apparently. Related noted, did you hear about the embed who translated it as in-bed and was sleeping with the top military brass in Iraq? No? Well you may because the rumors continue to dog her even after her outlet pulled her from Iraq. The rumors go along way towards explaining her continued (even once in the US) coverage of Davy Petreaus. (The easy i.d. on that blind item is incorrect. If, for example, you read some anti-woman sites -- I can think of two 'media critics' who trash all women regularly -- you'll be quick to run with one woman and she's not the one referred to. This woman has not been the source of non-stop, public speculation -- which is how she's reportedly carried on several torrid affairs with top brass she's reported on. Were this the seventies and she reporting for the music press, she'd be called a "groupie" and not a "reporter.") (And for any 'delicate types' offended by the blind item, if your outlets would cover Iraq, I really wouldn't have to unpack industry chatter here, now would I?)

Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London) reports:

The Prime Minister is expected to make an announcement in the New Year laying out the timetable for the pull out after more than six years in the country.
While a replacement brigade of another 4,000 troops is already training to replace the current force, no decision has been made yet on whether any elements will be sent to Afghanistan.
But it is understood that the fleet of half a dozen medium list Merlin helicopters and a number of reconnaissance drones will be sent to help the fourth in Helmand almost immediately.

This has been expected (and the expectation noted in the British press) for some time now. Like Barack, Gordon Brown wants more troops to die in Afghanistan and that's where the focus will be. Unlike Barack, Brown reportedly will pull all of his country's troops out of Iraq.

Paul Street tells the truth in "Advance Betrayal" (ZNet) and, unlike some in recent weeks, he managed to do that during the lead up to the general election as well as throughout the primaries. It wasn't hard to do, it wasn't difficult. You just had to value honesty and be able to utilize it yourself. As easy as that should have been, he is among the few who was able to pull it off. (Others include John Pilger, Glen Ford, Doug Henwood, Bruce Dixon, Noam Chomsky and Margaret Kimberley.) Because he was able to stand (and not cower) when it was apparently difficult, he doesn't have to have a light-bulb moment today. From his latest essay:

The Times was wrong to suggest a significant change in Obama's concept of "reality" in regard to Iraq. Those willing to look seriously beneath the "antiwar" campaign imagery his marketers crafted for liberal and progressive voters can easily determine that there is no fundamental discontinuity. Obama voted to fund the illegal occupation without conditions in 2005 and 2006. He worked to support pro-war over antiwar Democrats in the 2006 congressional primaries. He distanced himself from U.S. Congressman Jack Murtha's (D-PA) early and courageous call for withdrawal from Iraq in 2005. He lectured progressives on the alleged need to not be seen as "working against the president" on Iraq (after the Democrats' 2006 congressional victories) and on how Democrats shouldn't "play chicken with the troops" (a preposterous conservative smear) by calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. He voted against a troop withdrawal proposal by Senators John Kerry and Russ Feingold in June 2006, arguing that setting a firm date for retreat would "hamstring" diplomats and military commanders. .
In the fall of 2006, Obama told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that "The American people have been extraordinarily resolved [in support of the Iraq occupation]...They have seen their sons and daughters killed or wounded in the streets of Fallujah." This was a remarkable comment in light of the two massive assaults (notorious across the Middle East and Muslim world) the Pentagon launched (indiscriminately slaughtering civilians in large numbers) on that Iraqi city in April and November of 2004.
Obama's heralded "antiwar speech" of October 2002 (given when he was still a state senator) opposed the planned invasion of Iraq on pragmatic, not principled grounds. It criticized the imminent invasion as a strategic mistake (a "dumb war"), neglecting to mention its criminal and immoral nature, its petro-imperial motivations, and the large number of Iraqis it would kill and maim.
Consistent with those omissions, Obama has never criticized the ethics or legality of Operation Iraqi Liberation (O.I.L.). He has always refused to significantly note Iraqi casualties (including more than 1 million civilian dead) and he denies the broader Holocaust the U.S, has imposed on Iraq. He told CNN's Candy Crowely last July that the United States should not apologize to anyone for any of its foreign policies under Bush and he has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. invaded the Iraq with "the best of intentions" (democracy- and freedom-promotion). He even told Wisconsin autoworkers last February that that the U.S. must "stop spending billions of dollars a week trying to put Iraq back together."
Obama's 2002 "antiwar speech" came down from his Web site in 2003 because he decided to run for the U.S. Senate that year. He was nowhere to be seen around downtown Chicago when two nights of massive demonstrations took place there against Bush's invasion in March of 2003. And during the 2004 Democratic Convention, where he made the Keynote Address that made him an overnight celebrity (a "BaRockstar"), Obama told the New York Times that he might have voted (like Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and John Edwards) to authorize Bush to invade Iraq if he had been in the U.S Senate and had access to the same "intelligence" as other U.S. Senators in the fall of 2002.
Obama's spokespersons have been consistently mushy and deceptive about his Iraq withdrawal plans, making it clear to serious investigators that Obama will continue the occupation indefinitely. He told FOX News thug Bill O'Reilly this summer that "the Surge" had "succeeded beyond our wildest imaginations" and he has refused to sign on to legislation seeking to ban private "security" contractors like Blackwater from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Street's latest book is Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics. And Sabina reminded me in an e-mail about public libaries. Not only can utilize your library system to check out the book, either from them or some other branch or library that is part of their system, you can also encourage them to purchase the book (as Sabina did last week with her local branch). You could also gift your local library with the book so that others could enjoy it.

By the way, Street's in a forgiving mood with those who lied and I'm not. I'm thinking in particular of one man who rightly called out Barack's hideous 2004 speech at the DNC convention for the War Hawk claptrap it was (called it out in print -- the feature wasn't available online) but hopped on board the Cult of St. Barack in 2008, embarrassing himself constantly and either becoming seriously mentally ill or willing to lie. When you use one day's front page photo (NYT) as your "proof" of bias and you're not only allegedly a journalist, you're also an editor and a publisher, then you've got some serious problems. (And, for those who remember this in real time, one day Barack had a photo that didn't show a huge crowd -- because there wasn't one -- it was snowing when the photograph was taken at the outdoor, uncovered, open to the elements event. That cover photo ran in period where Hillary was often either not with a crowd or often not even on the front page. But the idiot just knew that it was NYT's bias against Barack showing -- that an outdoor, mid-day, workday event, on a snowy day, didn't attract tens of thousands.)

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adel hussein
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