As information warfare becomes a hotter topic, journalists have become bigger targets for repression and even assassination, a troubling trend that is spreading across the globe, reports veteran war correspondent Don North.
By Don North
Amid a surge in violence against journalists, two Paris-based press-freedom organizations have launched a project aimed at securing information collected by endangered journalists and continuing their work if they are imprisoned or killed.
The Forbidden Stories project is the brainchild of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Freedom Voices Network as a counter-strike against repressive regimes and other powerful forces that engage in intimidation of independent journalists.
The project is a response to a global surge in violence against journalists, with 42 reporters killed this year and another 183 journalists in prison. More than 800 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past ten years.
“This project will send a very clear message to oppressive governments that if they touch a journalist anywhere in the world, many others will be ready to support and follow up their story,” said Can Dundar, a Turkish journalist supporting Forbidden Stories.
“The goal of this initiative is to use journalism to defend journalism and to guarantee access to freely and independently reported information,” said Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF. “Through Forbidden Voices, we send a strong message to press freedom’s predators throughout the world.”
Under the project, journalists who feel threatened will be able to use encrypted communications to protect sensitive information and put their ongoing investigations in a safe place. Their stories will be secured and not published without their agreement. However, if something happens to them, Forbidden Stories will be in a position to finish their investigative stories in accordance with the journalists’ instructions and to disseminate the information widely thanks to a network of media committed to defend the freedom to inform. In other words, the Forbidden Stories project seeks to ensure that reporters’ work will survive even if they do not.
Simultaneous to the launch of Forbidden Stories last week was the release of the “2017 Global Impunity Index” by the Committee to Protect Journalists, calculating the unsolved murders of journalists over the past decade. This year, new murders occurred in half the 12 countries on the index. Somalia leads the index list, which also includes Iraq, Syria, the Philippines, South Sudan, Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil, Russia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and India.
In the Americas, Mexico has become an exceptionally dangerous place for journalists, with 11 murdered in 2017. Forbidden Stories has taken a particular interest in the work of three Mexican journalists — Cecillio Pineda, Miroslava Breach, and Javier Valdez — who were killed while doing investigative reporting on drug cartels.
Investigations of drug cartels often cross paths with powerful politicians. For instance, Cecillio Pineda was murdered on March 2 after drawing attention to a friendship between the head of a criminal gang and a local legislator.
Miroslava Breach was murdered on March 23 after publishing the names of municipal election candidates who were secretly backed by drug traffickers. Her newspaper also was closed down.
Javier Valdez died on May 15, a few weeks after he interviewed Damaso Lopez, one of the contenders to replace Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman as head of the Sinaloa cartel, one of the world’s most powerful drug operations. Guzman’s arrest touched off a bloody internal war and Valdez apparently became a target because of the Lopez interview.
But the life-threatening predicament for journalists is global. The most recent killing of a prominent journalist who was investigating corruption was that of Daphne Caruana Galizia on the island of Malta.
Galizia had ceaselessly reported massive government corruption in this favored tax haven. The Times of Malta reported she had alerted the police two weeks earlier that she was receiving threats.
“There are crooks everywhere you look now,” she reported. “The situation is desperate.”
Less than 30 minutes after filing that statement, the car she was driving was blown to pieces.
For journalists around the world this danger appears to be the new normal. They are rounded up en masse and imprisoned in Turkey. In India, journalists were slapped with defamation suits when they reported on suspicious actions of the powerful. Others have been beaten by mobs or murdered.
In the Philippines, listed as the fourth most dangerous country for journalists, President Rodrigo Duterte alarmed the media community by publicly expressing his view that, for some journalists, killings were justified. Justice has come to a complete standstill for the 32 journalists slaughtered in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre. Not one of the more than 80 accused has been fully tried in the seven years since the massacre.
In the heart of Europe, Czech President Milos Zeman turned up at a press conference in Prague waving a replica machine gun which had “For Journalists” written on it. Zeman is reputed to hate the press, and in the past has described them as “manure” and “hyenas.” At a meeting with Russian President Putin in May, Zeman joked about how some journalists deserved to be “liquidated.”
The Trump Factor
The United States has seen its own growing tensions over the work of journalists, both those who have made clear their hostility toward President Trump’s administration and who have, in turn, drawn his hostility – and those who have questioned some of the State Department’s narratives regarding U.S. interventions overseas and who get accused of spreading foreign “propaganda.”
Historically, the U.S. government has been viewed as a staunch advocate for press freedom, but that has changed amid the toxic environment that exists between Trump and many mainstream journalists, some of whom have been open in their contempt for him.
Trump, in turn, has made clear his hostility toward the mainstream news media, frequently making journalists the target of his stump speeches while some of his supporters chanted a term used by Nazis “Lugenpresse” (translation: lying press).
The day after his Inauguration in a speech at CIA headquarters, Trump said, “I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on earth, right?” Trump’s message resonates with autocrats around the world and can widely be viewed as encouragement for more assaults on journalists.
That is not to say that journalism is perfect – it surely isn’t – or that journalists can’t be annoying on occasion, but the profession and its practitioners play a crucial role in exposing wrongdoing and holding powerful people accountable. The Forbidden Stories project is a step in defense of that principle.
Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of Inappropriate Conduct, the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.
Doesn’t this signal the Alarm for
an impending death of pure journalism >
Which we ignore by design/ designations
of/for the digitally targeted,
Speakers of human kindness and truth
are hard to breathe in atmospheric
Gas-Chambers of inequality.
Speakers of human kindness and truth
are hard to breathe in atmospheric
Gas-Chambers of inequality
where annihilations of Peoples
are for Profits and Capital;
all Interest’s questions are valid from
Speakers of human kindness and truth.
Have a look here:
And ????, Maybe fake news
“The project is a response to a global surge in violence against journalists, with 42 reporters killed this year and another 183 journalists in prison. More than 800 journalists have been killed in connection with their work in the past ten years.”
Without wanting to belittle the seriousness of 42 journalists killed so far this year (that is nearing its end), but the numbers don’t seem to justify the characterisation of “a global surge in violence against journalists”. “More than 800 journalists killed in the past ten years”, means on average more than 80 per year. Compared to this, 42 journalists killed this year seems to indicate a “dramatic improvement” (about half as much journalists than the 10-year average) rather than a “surge in violence”.
So, is there something wrong with the factual numbers, or is “a global surge in violence” an overblown charactrization?
“The Forbidden Stories project is the brainchild of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Freedom Voices Network…” Will it be George Soros-funded?
The situation is desperate
Tom Duggan I was a follower of Reporters Without Borders (RWB) till I came to Syria ,I found them to be totally one sided ,not willing to even consider the effects of war on the civilian population of the government side of the Syrian war, the losses to western journalists killed taken hostage are minor when you compare the amount of journalists from Syria that have been killed assassinated or kidnapped ,during 4 years I have lived in Syria ,and its coming up to 5 years soon ,I have also witnessed a one sided reporting from RWB ,they are not willing to explore the other side of the coin, they offer no help to anyone who does not conform to the party line ,gas attacks in Syria ,even if you present evidence to them that the terrorists were responsible they ignore it ,they are very happy to show terrorists and activists in a good light ,take the case of east Aleppo happy to show activists stating this is my last video the Syrian Arab Army are going to kill us,none where killed none where captured ,because they were not in East Aleppo , ,they show MSM footage which was and is always supplied by terrorists organisations ,or Coventry’s terrorist PR Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , but not willing to support journalist foreign or domestic covering the war on the Government side, they preach free speech and support for journalist but in fact they don’t,
In this war in Syria I have survived an assassination attempt ,a bomb planted outside my front door ,one kidnap attempt ,been blown up 9 times in shelling ,and shot at deliberately ,targeted in battle , I have reported deaths of journalists and also people who have been listed by extremist groups in Syria and outside Syria for death ,I no longer support RWB for this one reason they are not protecting all journalists ,they only protect those who have the same views as themselves, Syrian journalist killed in action and the The Frontline Club based in London as the same one sided, one photographer western had his gear stolen while operating with terrorists both groups help raise funds for him ,they have never helped any journalist based in Syria with medical or financial help ,or offered any support to Syrian journalists or there family’s ,I find it remiss of them to not help all journalists in fact they should rename themselves Reporters With Restrictions RWR ,because they are so false,and do work with MSM promoting fake news
If you just look at who supports and finances RWB (namely Western newspaper *publishers*), the reason should be obvious…
Thank you for your dedication, Mr. Duggan. We all very much appreciate the work of journalists pursuing the truth, and we depend upon you.
I don’t have time to sort this out, but there seems to be a bunch of Ukrainian people who are busy publishing the personal information of journalists.
More recently, the US State Department was asked about them.
At first glance it looks as if Heather and her State Department buddies are OK with the death of unfriendly journalists. FREEDOM!
What are the Paradise Papers?
The Paradise Papers is a special investigation by the Guardian and 95 media partners worldwide into a leak of 13.4m files from two offshore service providers and 19 tax havens’ company registries. The files reveal the offshore financial affairs of some of the world’s biggest multinational companies and richest individuals, and set out the myriad ways in which tax can be avoided using artificial structures
Great article – I will take for granted that the reason American mainstream media have not been targeted in the world or M E is because they don’t go there. I think only one or two have died since the wars. And since they lie for the ” punishers” they will not be targeted here. Of course, any body with a H S diploma could be a so called TV commentator – ” just read this, don’t study it ” and you will have a great career. Thank God for alternative news professionals.
The unspoken and unsaid threats and danger to journalist is a result of their willing collaboration with the instrument of terror. In Somalia which is at the top of the danger list, MSM are embedded to such an extent they actually identify with the western sponsored rental states who are occupying and terrorizing the Somali populace. The mass killings and industrial rape by HIV infected mercenaries is given a free pass, fightback are termed terrorism ! I say this to all so called journalist both left and right, liberal and illiberal;
A plague on both your houses.
I was wondering if Don North would dare to mention the mysterious death of Michael Hastings in lieu of the wikileaks release that showed our intelligence agencies capable of remotely taking control of vehicles. I guess it was too “tin foil hat” for him.
Already mentioned by others, but glaringly obvious, is the lack of need for much skullduggery with our MSM journalists, since they are all bought and paid for shills. Here’s some real journalism about MSM journalists:
Skip,…thanks for the video, it adds a global dimension to the CIA’s sinister control over journalism.
DARPA has released videos, they are on (or were) YouTube explaining DARPA can control any computer controlled function of a vehicle, brakes,speed and in a self parking Mercedes steering.
Thru Bluetooth, Cell phone and even undetectable CD alterations.
Likewise microwaves may disable electronic controls in a aeroplane, think Paul Wellstone, the vote which would have prevented the Iraq invasion, and family.
Why is it we feel like we have to go around proving what is already known, that, as the late great I.F. Stone put it: “All governments lie.” Why do we need professionals telling us this? (no offense to Mr. Parry) I think that this is the bigger question. I think that it’s an issue of self-affirmation: that we should be so insecure to not trust our instincts as to long for someone else to tell us what we already know- that humans are deceptive…
The stories we tell ourselves…
I sort of skimmed the article after seeing the map of the “free west”.
There is more than one way to skin a cat and whilst being bribed with promotion is preferable to being disappeared, the result is the same.
Fringe conspiracy theorists? Oh, these days that must translate as the good guys. The careers that have arisen from 911 deniers who went along with the “official” 911 commission are disgusting… their income soaked in the red mist of innocent deaths. Do I have to name a few? Nah, people here know where to look. Other sites that are startups since Sept. 2001 are a clue. Also, advancements and raises at the main stream news sites fit right in with this real conspiracy.
Hold the presses! Josh Marshall declares William Binney and VIPS to be “fringe” conspiracy theorists after hearing of the Binney meeting with Pompeo.
Can’t see why Sweden deserves the light yellow “good” evaluation on the press feeedom map, considering the complete monophonic garbage on international relations that our msm put out.
As long as no media try to tell an alternative story, there’s no need to suppress them in a messy way. That’s Western press freedom in the 21st century.
“Historically, the U.S. government has been viewed as a staunch advocate for press freedom, but that has changed amid the toxic environment that exists between Trump and many mainstream journalists, some of whom have been open in their contempt for him.”
Ask Sami al-Hajj how supportive the U.S. government (and the establishment media) was of journalists even before Trump came along and ruined paradise on earth.
Look, if Forbidden Stories will try to protect reporters and journalism from illegitimate repression and intimidation by *anybody*, then it will be a worthy effort. And even if it falls short of that standard, and has some bias in where it looks, it can still do good as long as it respects the facts of a given situation.
But in this age of establishment NGOs that play ball with Western war-mongers, not to mention outright frauds like the White Helmets, I’m way past giving ostensible liberal do-gooders the benefit of the doubt.
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Freedom Voices Network as a counter-strike against repressive regimes and other powerful forces that engage in intimidation of independent journalists.”
Sorry but these [RSF, FVN] and many others are CIA/MI6 US/EU outfits that showed their true colors in Ukraine where journalists, Ukrainian, Russian, British , Italian etc., were tortured even especially targeted and killed via direct assassinations, car bombings or military assaults solely for what they were reporting about or even in what language they reported, many have been arrested and indicted and sentenced to prison as spies for Russia or other “enemies’.
No word from those journalistic organizations condemning the crimes or just meager response that “incidents must be fairly investigated” when responding to blatant murder.
In fact we know that 90% of journalists are intelligence officers in the East and West or assets serving “hostile” power in the battlefields of open or clandestine civil/proxy wars like in Mexico to report what they are paid to report.
Those who actually die are those retaining a shred of objectivity in reporting, the rest of righteous are fired or forced to resign and often ended up creating their YT channels with few thousand followers most outside of reporting areas or even countries.
True journalists are as powerful in their work as public influence over state or corporate governments run by ruling elite, and nowadays the people power is almost non existent.
Being a fake “journalist” is totally safe, fun, and highly profitable.
For fun and profit, a gaggle of leading fake news purveyors and PropOrNot “Related Projects” banded together to produce a fake news documentary report about fake news
The March 2017 propaganda film, aptly named “Nothing But Lies”, was produced to celebrate the third anniversary of fake “fact-checking” project StopFake in Ukraine.
The film’s roll call of pro-NATO propagandist “experts” includes:
Eliot Higgins of Atlantic Council’s Bellingcat site
Ben Nimmo of Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab site
Simon Ostrovsky of CNN and VICE News site
Alastair Reid of Google-funded First Draft site
Edward Lucas of U.S.-based Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and senior editor of London-based The Economist
lga Yurkova, Ruslan Deynuchenko & Yevhen Fedchenko of Kiev-based StopFake
“Nothing But Lies” was funded by the British Embassy in Ukraine as part of the project “Using fact checking and Data verification for Tackling Propaganda” implemented by StopFake of the Mohyla Academy in Kiev
Mohyla Academy was an all-too-eager recipients of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) cash that poured into Ukraine in March 2014 after the coup d’etat in Kiev.
Registered in Ukraine on March 2, 2014 and allied with Bellingcat, Stopfake uses the same fake “fact-check” disinformation strategy that Eliot Higgins employs.
Michael Usher, fake “correspondent” for the Australian “60 Minutes”program on MH-17, is one of many media shills for fake “citizen journalist” Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat.
Simon Ostrovsky, fake “correspondent” for VICE News, obligingly performed his own “stand-upper” for Higgins and the Atlantic Council “regime change” think tank.
Ostrovsky bagpiped Higgins. and promoted Bellingcat-style “open source” shenanigans, in this blatant VICE News infomercial for an Atlantic Council’s “report” on Ukraine
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zssIFN2mso [see minutes 2:45 – 4:25]
The are no gaps in the coordination of propaganda efforts by “regime change” organizations and fake “journalists” like Eliot Higgins of Bellingcat and Simon Ostrovsky of Vice News.
On 29 September 2016, the Atlantic Council, Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia, and Bellingcat partnered for a media event in London, hosted by Ostrovsky.
In addition to Higgins and his Atlantic Council BFF Maks Czuperski, the discussion panel includes aviation attorney Jerry Skinner and Nataliya Gumenyuk of the Hromadske NGO.
An Internet television station in Ukraine that started to operate on 22 November 2013, Hromadske was funded in 2013 by the Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Embassy of the United States of America and by George Soros International Renaissance Foundation.
Prompted by opposition party Batkivshchyna faction leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called, via Twitter, for protests (which he dubbed as #Euromaidan) approximately 2,000 people converged in the evening of 22 November 2013 on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) to protest the decision of the Ukrainian government to suspend the EU association agreement. In the following days, Euromaidan, the biggest protests since the Orange Revolution, were being held in Kiev by opposition parties.
Mainstream media outlets are part of the densely woven disinformation network.
Newsweek competes with the New York Times for status as the Bellingcat-Atlantic Council propaganda press office.
On 28 September 2016, Newsweek published verbatim a screed that had first appeared on 27 September on the Atlantic Council website. Atlantic Council fellow Ben Nimmo shrieked that “The Kremlin has turned its disinformation machine on those who are investigating the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in July of 2014, using state employees, state-run media, and the state-run, though unacknowledged, “troll factory” […] The primary goal of the media attacks has been to undermine the credibility of citizen journalist group Bellingcat, an independent researcher into the crash.”
On 17 July 2016, Newsweek had published verbatim a self-congratulatory screed by Eliot Higgins that had first appeared on 13 July on the Atlantic Council website. Self-proclaimed “digital detective” Higgins effusively praised his “colleagues” at the Atlantic Council.
The feeling appears to be mutual. The Atlantic Council just can’t stop flogging its “partner” Higgins.
It’s one big circle jerk.
In fact, Higgins was listed as a Research Associate of the Department of War Studies at King’s College, and was principal co-author of the May 2015 Atlantic Council “report” on Ukraine.
Damon Wilson, Executive Vice President of Programs and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, a co-author with Higgins of the report, effusively praised Higgins’ effort to bolster anti-Russian propaganda:
Wilson stated, “We make this case using only open source, all unclassified material. And none of it provided by government sources. And it’s thanks to works, the work that’s been pioneered by human rights defenders and our partner Eliot Higgins, uh, we’ve been able to use social media forensics and geolocation to back this up.” (see Atlantic Council video presentation minutes 35:10-36:30)
However, the Atlantic Council claim that “none” of Higgins’ material was provided by government sources is an obvious lie.
Higgins’ primary “pieces of evidence” are a video depicting a Buk missile launcher and a set of geolocation coordinates that were supplied by the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) and the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior via the Facebook page of senior-level Ukrainian government official Arsen Avakov, the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Higgins and the Atlantic Council are working in support of the Pentagon and Western intelligence’s “hybrid war” against Russia.
The laudatory bio of Higgins on the Kings College website specifically acknowledges his service to the Atlantic Council:
“an award winning investigative journalist and publishes the work of an international alliance of fellow investigators using freely available online information. He has helped inaugurate open-source and social media investigations by trawling through vast amounts of data uploaded constantly on to the web and social media sites. His inquiries have revealed extraordinary findings, including linking the Buk used to down flight MH17 to Russia, uncovering details about the August 21st 2013 Sarin attacks in Damascus, and evidencing the involvement of the Russian military in the Ukrainian conflict. Recently he has worked with the Atlantic Council on the report “Hiding in Plain Sight”, which used open source information to detail Russia’s military involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.”
While it honors Higgins’ enthusiastic “trawling”, King’s College curiously neglects to mention that Higgins’ “findings” on the Syian sarin attacks were thoroughly debunked.
King’s College also curiously neglects to mention the fact that Higgins, now listed as a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s “Future Europe Initiative”, was principal co-author of the April 2016 Atlantic Council “report” on Syria.
The report’s other key author was John E. Herbst, United States Ambassador to Ukraine from September 2003 to May 2006 (the period that became known as the Orange Revolution) and Director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center.
Other report authors include Frederic C. Hof, who served as Special Adviser on Syrian political transition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2012. Hof was previously the Special Coordinator for Regional Affairs in the US Department of State’s Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, where he advised Special Envoy George Mitchel. Hof had been a Resident Senior Fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East since November 2012, and assumed the position as Director in May 2016.
There is no daylight between the Atlantic Council’s “regime change” initiatives, US/NATO hybrid war efforts against Russia and Syria, and the work product of fake “journalists” like Higgins and Ostrovsky.
The author says journalists play a crucial role in wrong doing. Well, some may do so but they are few and far between In the MSM of America. I’m still waiting to hear one of them challenge the NIST report on building seven of the 9-11 farce. At the present moment the MSM journalists are working hard with the US government to ban news outlets like RT and Sputnik as well as on line blogs like this one which they call fake news. Good journalists are seldom heard on MSM and excellent journalists are the ones who are dead or in prison.
Countries controlled by the rich like the US simply buy the entire mass media and thus avoid having to kill dissenting journalists, thus getting a high score on press freedom despite a complete lack thereof. The formula for reporter risk would account for market share as well as number and severity of criticisms of oligarchy, and gang resources.
Actually, only editors need to be bought off.
I was wondering why all of America’s alleged “enemies” were colored in black or the deepest reds, while her “allies” take up all the light colors connoting pure goodness. Thanks for the quite logical explanation.
Realist,…yes, Sam’s explanation rings true; see the link provided by Skip below for yet another dimension.
Your astute comment regarding the bogus 911 NIST report is important as even online news like Consortium won’t go there. Dr. Judy Wood challenged those NIST’s findings in court and essentially won. I ‘ve yet to see an article about Dr. Wood’s research into 911 with an honest assessment of her work. Included in the research is the infomation about NIST’s incorrect and dishonest accounting of the 911 event. Living in the State of fear along with ignorance could be part of the problem.
I should say John Wilson’s astute comment on NIST’s incorrect and dishonest reporting about the 911 event.
Exactly. None of that was addressed in this article. The article is interesting nonetheless.