UNITED NATIONS -- --
On the 14th Anniversary of World Press Freedom Day celebrated in May, UNESCO
hosted an event for journalists called �Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists
and Impunity.� Under Article 1 of its Constitution, UNESCO is the only United
Nations agency with a mandate to defend freedom of expression and press
Correspondent Association President Tuyet J. Nguyen spoke about the life --
threatening danger faced by journalists covering such war zones as Rwanda and
Iraq where the media is controlled by special interests or armed political
Georges Malbrunot of
France�s neocon Le Figaro spoke of newsgathering in various �vicious
surveillance� states -- -- all Arab and starting with Syria. In contrast,
Malbrunot�s embedding with American forces in Iraq was �not a bad solution,�
but opened embeddees to alleged Arab charges of being �a spy.� It�s one of the
major complaints of the foreign press today. Of course this is 99.9 percent
wrong, but in the minds of these people who suffer from paranoia this
accusation is �serious� and can cost a journalist his life.
�There is a lot of
work to do to convince these groups that the journalist is not a spy.�
Malbrunot added that it is the job of Muslim imams, scholars, leaders, etc., to
persuade their Muslim flock of this fact . . .�Only then will the fate of the
global war against terror be dramatically changed.�
This writer asked
the panel if journalists themselves could ever be partly responsible for such
suspicions? Citing CNN�s Anderson Cooper, who admitted spending his earlier
summers working for the CIA: �Doesn�t this kind of moonlighting put other
journalists at risk?�
response from the panel.
Representing a half --
million media professionals around the world on behalf of the International
Federation of Journalists was Judith Matloff, a professor at the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism and a member of the International News
Safety Institute. Professor Matloff implored the international community to
uphold UN Security Council Resolution 1738 which prohibits the killing and
targeting of media, and protects free speech and freedom of the press globally.
In a follow -- up
conversation by telephone on May 25, I asked Professor Matloff for her opinion
on how UNSCR 1738 applies to Lebanon�s Al Manar TV and the LMG communications
network (Lebanese media outlets bombed by Israel during the 2006 war, and
officially censored as a �terrorist organization� by the US Congress)?
unprecedented, landmark free speech/censorship law, Ivy League academic Matloff
said she was �unfamiliar with these situations� and refused to comment on
Middle East issues. �I am an Africa specialist.�
But wasn�t free
speech protected equally around the world under Resolution 1738? In the Middle
East, as well as in Africa? Being a media expert, could she comment on what a
law equating the media with �terrorism� could mean for freedom of the press?
Concurrent with Bush�s admitted deliberate bombing of Al Jazeera in
Afghanistan and Iraq?
�I never heard of
that,� Matloff said.
With her credentials,
shouldn�t such Katrina -- scale censorship have caught her eye?
Or perhaps she could
assess how the mainstream media�s advocacy of falsehoods promoted an illegal
war in Iraq? �The New York Times has apologized,� she said, referring to a full
page �mea culpa ad.� But isn�t the NYT repeating the same misleading tactics to
promote a war in Iran?
With this and
similar questions, Matloff responded like a true press �pro�: avoiding ethical
implications, defending her product, the status quo, and referring most answers
to �other supervisors� or experts. Her refrain of �I don�t know,� �don�t
remember,� �can�t comment� captured the essence of a White House Press
As a teacher of
America�s next generation of government �privatized propaganda contractors,� (tomorrow�s
�Mercenary Press�) Matloff diverted the subject, passed the buck, and expertly
earned her tenure . . .
On Press Freedom Day
I spoke briefly to New York Times correspondent Warren Hogue about the media,
Iraq and World Press Freedom Day.
Q: Its World Press Freedom Day and I just wanted
to ask if you have any comments about The New York Times and their reporting in
the run -- up to the Iraq war, and if you feel any kind of responsibility?
A: I can�t talk about that -- we�ve already
said everything about that to be said in the paper, and I really don�t want to
add to it. I mean, The New York Times -- more than most newspapers -- has
absolutely admitted what we thought was faulty and what was not. There�s just
nothing I can add to that at all. And I certainly don�t want to talk
about that on Press Freedom Day when our thoughts are with Alan Johnston and
other journalists that are being killed.
Q: Well my thoughts are also with the Iraqis.
There are half a million dead -- thanks in part to your newspaper . . .
A: Oh come on.
Q: Your newspaper was one of the primary
advocates for the war . . .
A: Oh come on, I can�t talk to you . . .
Q: Your newspaper was primary -- yes it was --
Judith Miller got a security clearance from Donald Rumsfeld, sir . . .
A: The New York Times is not responsible for any
dead Iraqis. I won�t listen to that . . .
Q: None of the other American journalists but
Judith Miller from your paper got a security clearance from the US defense
secretary himself. How is this different from working for the government?
A: You are defiling Press Freedom Day. Shut up!
This is about Press Freedom, this is not about defiling the Press. We�ve just
come back from a demonstration for Alan Johnston, for journalists being killed
and that�s what this day is about -- press freedom.
Perhaps BBC World
News Editor Jon Williams best summarized the outcome of shutting up
journalists: �We must not stand by and allow the intimidation of journalists --
wherever it happens. If we do, we will pay a heavy price . . . There will be no
eyes or ears telling us what�s going on. We won�t have the insight from those
able to make sense of it.�
But then, that may
be just how the Powers That Be really want it.
2007 Trish Schuh