WATCH: West’s Free Speech Threatened by Ukraine War

CN Editor Joe Lauria told a PEN International conference that press freedom is threatened as the West enforces a single narrative on Ukraine, barring discussion of the war’s geopolitical causes.

Update: The NHS’ Disinformation Governance Board was put on hold on Wednesday after fierce criticism, and its newly appointed director, Nina Jankowicz has resigned.

Consortium News Editor Joe Lauria addressed the 54th annual PEN International Writers for Peace Committee meeting in Bled, Slovenia last Thursday on the subject of growing censorship in the West.

Because of time limits imposed by the conference, Lauria’s remarks were not delivered in full. The complete text of his remarks is provided below. Uroš Lipušcek, a prominent Slovenian television reporter and author who was a Washington and U.N. correspondent, also spoke out at the conference on the repression of press freedom in Europe and the United States during the Ukraine war. The video of his remarks follows. 

54th annual PEN International Writers for Peace Committee

The Growing Censorship in the West

Joe Lauria

I am the editor of Consortium News founded in 1995 by Robert Parry, an Associated Press investigative reporter who broke the biggest Iran-Contra scandal stories in the 1980s. But AP spiked Bob’s biggest story about Oliver North’s role, which only went out inadvertently on the AP’s Spanish wire. After similar suppression of his work at Newsweek magazine, Parry started a consortium of journalists who had also had their stories suppressed. Consortium News came on line five days before and months before The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major media published on the internet. His aim was to report on crucial facts left out of corporate media that completely alters the story.

I was one of those reporters whose stories were suppressed at The Wall Street Journal and I began writing for Consortium News in 2011. I was a correspondent at U.N. headquarters in New York for 25 years for the Journal, The Boston Globe and other newspapers, and was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London.

Recently CN has become a target because we are reporting many of the facts about Ukraine that establishment media purposely and deceptively are leaving out. Powerful forces are trying to stop us from doing that.

PayPal has permanently shut us down, making it more difficult for us to receive donations from our readers and viewers, who alone fund us. We don’t take a penny from any government, corporation or advertiser. PayPal won’t tell us why it banned us. But buried in the User Agreement are restricted activities, including providing “false, inaccurate or misleading information.” As the only thing we trade in is information it’s a safe bet that’s why they shut us down. PayPal does not agree with our news coverage, and very likely especially on Ukraine, and are trying to hurt us financially.

There’s more. A private company named NewsGuard, on whose board sits a former C.I.A. and N.S.A. director, a former Department of Homeland Security director and a NATO secretary-general, also has partnerships with the Pentagon and the State Dept. News Guard has begun a “review” of our news site. 

In their initial contact, before we had a chance to respond, NewsGuard accused us of publishing “false content.” They are demanding we correct several of our stories. This came after three of our writers have been kicked off Twitter.

What’s going on here?

Many in this room might not agree with me. But this is the whole point about free speech and a free press. You don’t have to agree. But no one should try to shut someone down because of it.

What we’ve done is to report on the causes of this war. Historians agree that the onerous terms put on Germany at Versailles were a cause of the rise of Nazism and WWII. They aren’t making excuses for Nazi Germany, just trying to explain why the war started. I have written in CN that the Russian invasion was illegal in that it violated the U.N. Charter. There was no Security Council authorization for it. Unfortunately the meaning of international law has been degraded by serial violations of it by the U.S., through numerous invasions since WWII. An argument for the Russian invasion could be based on the pre-U.N. just war theory of Augustine and Aquinas, which is perhaps why the Pope saw that NATO provoked it. Are we going to try to take down the Pope now for “disinformation?”

I also wrote on Feb. 4 that the U.S. was setting a trap for Russia in Ukraine, the way it did for Saddam Hussein in Iraq and for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted in a French magazine article in 1998 that a trap was set to bring down the USSR. Two days after the Russian invasion in February, Hillary Clinton went on television and said the Afghan model of the 1980s is what people in Washington we looking at for Ukraine.

Let’s not be fooled. The U.S. doesn’t really care about the Ukrainian people, as we all should, just like they didn’t care about Iraqis, Afghans, Panamanians, Yemenis, the list goes on. As writers we should stand with the civilians in all those countries attacked by the U.S. too.

The U.S. interest is to overthrow Vladimir Putin. Biden said as much in Poland and also in his Feb. 24 press conference when he said the sanctions were never intended to stop the invasion but to get the Russian people to rise up against Putin. The U.S. had a pliable president in Boris Yeltsin as Wall Street moved in after the fall of the USSR to asset strip the state-owned industries, enrich themselves and impoverish the Russian people.

Putin put a stop to that. He called out U.S. unilateral aggression in his 2007 Munich Security Council speech yet he still wanted to be partners with the West. He even asked Bill Clinton if Russia could join NATO. Putin became a marked man after that. Provoking him to invade Ukraine has allowed the U.S. to launch its economic, information and proxy war through massive weapons transfers.

Putin may have had dreams of reconstituting Novorossiya in Ukraine. But he couldn’t do it without the U.S. handing him the opportunity. How the U.S. did this, requires reporting on the causes of the war.

The first was NATO expansion eastward, despite promises to Gorbachev. The other causes were the U.S.-backed coup in 2014, the 8-year civil war against the coup resisters in Donbass, the non-implementation of the Minsk accords, the failure of the West to take seriously Russia’s treaty proposals in December for a new security architecture in Europe, and the last cause is the very influential role of Neo-Nazis, including the Azov Regiment, which is part of the Ukraine state military. Mainstream media reported on Neo-Nazism in 2014 but that has suddenly stopped. The Atlantic Council, probably the most anti-Russian think tank in the world, reported on the Neo-Nazi threat four years ago, saying their 2 percent vote in the parliament was misleading.

The U.S. has worked with Ukrainian fascists since 1949 when Mykola Lebed, a leader with Stepan Bandera’s fascists who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles in WWII, was brought to New York to conduct sabotage against the USSR in Ukraine. Today Bandera’s statues are everywhere in Ukraine.

Corporate media reported on the massing of Russian troops at the border in the winter, but not on the 60,000 Ukrainian troops on the Donbass contact line. It was like describing a chess board with only black pieces.

All these causes of the war are left out of Western media reporting on Ukraine. Like the playwright Harold Pinter — after which the PEN Pinter Prize is named– said, America’s “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, [is] a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Omitting key causes of the Russian invasion paints a totally different picture of what’s happening. It’s what Western leaders and media want you to believe. And if a media organization tries to report what’s omitted, to give a fuller picture, we now know that Western governments will go after you in violation of every tenet of free speech and press freedom.

Look what happened to Assange for reporting what the U.S. has done and what corporate media has failed to report? The mainstream routinely covers up the crimes of the U.S. empire, the very crimes that Assange has revealed. In no way in an equal manner, the establishment is now coming after smaller players like Consortium News, for daring to report what corporate media won’t.

The growing tide of censorship with Ukraine being used as the excuse is getting worse. Before the U.S. government pressured social media to shut down speech it didn’t agree with. Now it is directly involved, creating a Disinformation Governance Board under Department of Homeland Security law enforcement to police the media. Woodrow Wilson failed by one vote in the U.S. Senate in 1917 to legalize direct government censorship despite the First Amendment. Now his dream is coming true.

Before this dangerous new phase of official censorship, we were only smeared as Putin puppets and Kremlin stooges. But now efforts are underway to stamp out the smallest spark of dissent, lest it grow. The U.S. government is demanding total control of the narrative. The word total is in “totalitarianism.”

We in the West have to understand what is happening to us in the midst of this war hysteria. We have to rationally analyze this crisis. We cannot put up with censorship of the press, no matter what we think of the war in Ukraine. There are irresponsible people in the media who are calling for direct war with Russia and some who think a nuclear war can be won. The madness has to stop. And the press must remain free to tell a more complete story, no matter what governments think.

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21 comments for “WATCH: West’s Free Speech Threatened by Ukraine War

  1. michael888
    May 22, 2022 at 08:53

    Thanks Joe! Leaving out the history behind this Ukraine Civil War/ Russian “special military operation” totally changes its meaning. State Media self-censors to support the LIES that now are our truths, and articles from just five or ten years ago on the Ukrainian crisis are ignored or disappeared. I spend a lot of time on thegrayzone, theduran, and of course CN just to hear somewhat alternative views.
    “There are no NAZIs in Ukraine”– yet somehow NAZI collaborator glorification has spread across Western Ukraine: hxxps://
    Many Americans’ relatives fought against the NAZIs in WWII, and would be livid to know that the US Government is now supporting a NAZI-dominated regime. It is well known that the CIA under Allen Dulles continued supporting NAZIs against the Soviets immediately after that war. Western Ukrainians (from Lviv to Kiev) largely continued that fight into the 1950s, and the Galicians in particular have nursed their “superiority” against the untermenschen Slavs until today. The US started boosting this NAZI glorification after the Orange Revolution and the installation of their puppet Yushchenko (married to an American State/ CIA official). Yushchenko elevated Stepan Bandera to “Hero of Ukraine” (a CIA deliberate provocation to the Russians?)

  2. robert e williamson jr
    May 21, 2022 at 21:48

    As usual I see things a bit differently, regardless the the end result is the same. As surely as I sit here the truth is threatened by the censoring, intimidation and lies applied by those authoritarians prosecuting their own agenda.

    We often hear the reference to “actions that will lead down a slippery slope and falling into a disaster.

    Honestly, after the lies that lead to the Iraqi and Afghanistan war. Obama comes along and the dems do nothing to deter more of the same creative manipulation of the truth ,as in my opinion, the homeland security apparatus continued to lock down dissent by hiding the truth. Continuous misrepresentations by the Pentagon of the truth of events on the battle ground, see April 5th 2007 story of civilian shootings. for example. Although in fairness it is also my belief that his fellow dems had no stomach for such a fight.

    Then Trump and the focus of the public is blurred by far too many brightly lit conflicts owned by the Trump administration and ion my opinion the intelligence community. The truth continued to some of the brunt of more and more lies by all involved, Assange, Snowden, Chelsa Manning three of many dissenters who were brave enough to talk truth to power and took savage legal ass beatings. Our government failing as cowards do to take responsibility for their bad actors. That slippery slope continued to get slicker and slicker.

    I feel the result of these issues Biden & Co. decided to go all in with the intelligence community and go forth, having little fear of the truth. Their logic and tactics seem to represent just that.

    What we witness today is the bloody truth exposed by the resulting conflict in Ukraine. Which I’m thinking could be the third time since 911 our government has gotten itself into a world class jam because they fear no retribution for their lies that lead to blood bath after blood bath.

    Israel still committing cold blooded murder, starving millions, no baby formula here in the greatest country on earth, $ 5.75 gas, a very worrisome economy and the leaders of the corporate states of american could care less.

    Thanks to CN & Co.

  3. Japar
    May 21, 2022 at 17:46

    Joe Lauria, thank you for telling the truth and for fighting for freedom of speech.

  4. ks
    May 20, 2022 at 13:23

    Thanks to you for defending our right to know.

    From the pro-Russian Donbass Insider:
    “On 18 March 2022, I received a letter in my e-mail box from a certain Edward O’Reilly, an analyst for NewsGuard, a sort of international Decodex (which awards green or red stickers to news sites, i.e. justifies the censorship of such and such a site), linked to the CIA, NATO and the White House, concerning their analysis of the Donbass Insider site…Why does this site decide to attack Donbass Insider only now (we have been in existence since 2018 I remind you)? Well, simply because with the brutal heating up of the conflict in Donbass, then the launch of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, and following the violent censorship of international Russian media such as Sputnik or RT, our little website has seen its audience multiplied extremely significantly.”

    Arne Duncan, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Michael Hayden and Jimmy Wales are among the members of this self-appointed censorship board. It seems to have come to nothing, as the Insider is still around, so apparently intimidation was the point. hxxps://

  5. Guy St Hilaire
    May 20, 2022 at 09:50

    Thank you Joe for saying it so succinctly and truthfully .What is happening in the West is clearly an information /propaganda war
    on many fronts .I remember in my younger days reading from USSR citizens how their governance was based on propaganda .Are we so different today as it seems to me that the roles have been switch around completely .

  6. Heinz Leitner
    May 20, 2022 at 08:06

    CIA and Swedish military conspire to bring down the elected Sweden’s PM

    Carl Bildt, former Swedish Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs: Majorities in Finland and in Sweden now support Nato membership. “There is no way back to a past of illusory neutrality,” the former Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has argued. “The choice now is between remaining in a slightly uncertain in-between or recognising a new reality and taking the step into full [Nato] membership.” Austrians too are thinking about their neutrality in a Europe forever changed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    Also look up WikiLeaks concerning Carl Bildt and Assange

  7. May 20, 2022 at 01:21

    Consortium News is what I term “world public interest journalism.” It is the antidote for the jingoist journalism we are experiencing as US Empire tries to weaken the Russian government and have Putin replaced. The US only pretends to be for “democracy.” Real democracy requires a fully and adequately informed public. Also, the US opposes allowing the 188 nations at the UN (General Assembly) voting rights. Indeed, the US mocks the UN, and has the worst international criminal felony rap sheet of all nations since post WWII.

    When President Biden accused Russia’s Putin of being a “war criminal,” a journalist colleague of mine wrote: “It takes one, to know one!”

  8. Zalamander
    May 19, 2022 at 22:14

    The US government won’t stop arming Ukraine until they “Win.”

  9. Cara
    May 19, 2022 at 20:38

    Thank you, Joe Lauria! Thank you for speaking the truth. Thank you for defending press freedom and free speech.

  10. CNfan
    May 19, 2022 at 19:24

    Many people argue that the various security measures (now including censorship of alleged “disinformation”) could potentially be a threat to democracy if a totalitarian government were to obtain power. The facts of blanket censorship in the corporate media, and the chorus of echoing voices in Congress, show that such a totalitarian power has already taken control of our country (and the other Western “democracies”). The job now is not to prevent such a totalitarian takeover, but to reverse it. We are at war.

    Follow the money. Start with the neocons. They censor us to cover up Israel’s crimes. They censored us to invade Iraq. Now they are censoring us to invade Russia.
    Silence is Zionism’s only defense

  11. May 19, 2022 at 18:10

    It’s probably worth noting that in the United States, freedom of the “press” has never been about accurate information. The two major legal decisions that underlie United States journalism are the Peter Zenger case in the Crown colony of New York in 1735 and the 1964 United States Supreme Court decision in Sullivan v. The New York Times. Both cases dealt with the inalienable right to slander with impunity. While that sounds terrible, and perhaps it is, the idea was that the interchange of ideas, whether right or wrong, was essential to functioning democracy, and that no one should be trusted as an arbiter of the truth, other than the citizenry itself. The ill-named Democratic Party in the United States has destroyed that concept in its efforts to attain and retain political power in the name of the Deep State and its conflict-based empire. Conflict internally through racial, gender, ethnic and religious polarization, and externally through the antithesis of Kant’s perpetual peace, our history of perpetual war. Only a few brave souls, real journalists like Julian Assange, the late Bob Parry, Chris Hedges, Joe Lauria, Caitlin Johnstone, etc., stand in the way, and they are being bled to death with a thousand small cuts, not all tiny. Among us, Julian Assange’s martyrdom at the hands of the United Kingdom and the United States stands out as the most egregious symbol of perfidy, but every citizen who votes for Deep State candidates, those villains or dupes who keep us in the dark, who have always kept us in the dark, … is an accomplice.

    It is impossible to be an accurate historian in this context and I now question everything I’ve been taught and which I in turn once taught, other than those things I experienced in real time. Things which, notwithstanding such experience, the corporate media and corporate historians, both nothing more than narrative managers specializing in destructive (as opposed to creative) fiction, assure us are too complex for you and I to deal with, so we should just trust them in the manner ridiculed by the old joke, “who are you going to trust, me or your lying eyes”?

    Real historians would leave nothing untouched, regardless of how vile and horrible it may have been presented as being, and regardless of the purported “facts” we have been “ordered” to believe. The times in which we are living have taught me, as George Orwell once suggested, that yesterday’s monsters may be today’s saints, and tomorrow, who knows?
    What is left of those professions which purport to exist to glean truth from the chaff of the elitist propaganda which keeps the vast majority of us in a state of velvet lined slavery?

    Well, at the very least, if nothing else, to support those who oppose censorship of any kind, and oppose with all our might those who seek to silence dissident voices. And to do it now before it’s too late, although that Rubicon may already have been crossed.

    Something on which to ponder and deliberate, but most of all, on which to act.

    • Guy St Hilaire
      May 20, 2022 at 10:17

      So very well written . Thank you for your comment . Sometimes I find in the comment section , eloquence that is rare and noteworthy.
      Not to berate any commenters on CN but this one stands out.Cheers !

  12. Realist
    May 19, 2022 at 14:20

    It is essential that everyone retain their absolute right to publicly speak the truth as they see it. It was brilliant that the men who wrote the constitution of the United States were so perspicacious to formally protect this as an innate human right in that document. Whole societies and countries are tempted to believe that truth can be established based upon mere popularity, and so they would limit what can be said, by whom, and upon what subjects. Worse yet, many societies believe that the truth is strictly the province of a few privileged characters in high places of authority. They would not admit, even if they could foresee, that it is possible for everyone to be wrong and only a single voice correct on what may be a totally trivial issue or the survival of the entire race of sentient beings who call themselves human. Stifling that one voice from the wilderness may on some unpredictable day be the key to our long term survival.

    So, no one should ever be censored. If they have a case to make, it can only be entertained by letting them talk… or write. Then let the arguments and debates begin. After all, it’s not like history portrays a direct path to the truth on every issue. In fact, it’s not even like the truth itself is an unchanging immutable thing. Too often, what is more important is who proclaims the truth rather than the actual merits of the case, which, frankly are not always entirely clear. By way of example, until some day later this summer when the US Supreme Court declares that women do NOT have a constitutional right to an abortion the truth now stands that they do. After the justices speak and formally change their mind on the subject, the truth, or the reality of the matter, will change… because of who pontificated on the matter, not because the physical world changed in any way. If the truth can be so mercurial on such personally dire matters, to say nothing of matters that impinge upon life and death for the masses in human follies such as war, who should ever be allowed to permanently shut off debate and the influx of new facts and/or interpretations on anything, let alone on issues like the wholesale slaughter of our fellow beings, both innocent and as guilty of sin in venues near or far?

    The facts that Julian Assange released to the world, shamefully kept secret by the US government because of their heinous nature, should be cause for the world to honor him, since they can hopefully bring justice to bear and stop the wanton carnage. But that outcome has been definitively precluded to protect, not the innocent victims, but the perpetrators of the crimes! Clearly the value and purpose of a free press (evolved over time to the full spectrum media we have today) practicing free speech should be obvious. Clearly the importance of Joe Lauria’s work and CN’s mission becomes crystal clear. Make no mistake, there will be no quick and easy path to ascertaining the truth with free speech and a free press, but this goal should become more attainable, closer to the realm of possibility rather than precluded forever by personal power and selfish interests. Job well done, Joe. Eloquent presentation before the PEN Committee. Julian Assange can be proud of your defense of the profession he has now come to represent. You and/or CN should be nominated for the award the international community names after him some day.

  13. Vincent ANDERSON
    May 19, 2022 at 13:29

    Bravo, Joe! Glad they gave you more PEN space than your earlier preview. Well used!

    One fewer worry. WAPO just printed this: ‘How the Biden administration let right-wing attacks derail its disinformation efforts,’ subtitled ‘A “pause” of the Department of Homeland Security’s newly created board comes after its head, Nina Jankowicz, was the victim of coordinated online attacks as the administration struggled to respond.’

    But, aside from predicting just this result, John Kiriakou has a dispiriting profile of Joe’s malefactors on NewsGuard, here: hxxps://

    Leaving their ‘scoring’ details to others, I will quote his cast of characters: ‘NewsGuard is a private company created and run by Steven Brill and L. Gordon Crovitz. Brill founded CourtTV, as well as a number of publications. He is also a former columnist at Newsweek and Reuters. Crovitz is a former editorial writer and later publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and the former vice president for planning at Dow Jones. These men have fine journalistic credentials. But that’s not where my complaint lies. My complaint is that NewsGuard issues what it calls “trust ratings” for news. The company brags on its website that these ratings are “produced by humans, not AI” (Artificial Intelligence.) It offers something called “Misinformation Fingerprints” to tell you when you are consuming what the company has determined to be disinformation. They market this as a “journalistic solution to online misinformation,” and they claim “partnerships” with the Departments of State and Defense, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech giants, although the nature of those partnerships is not clear. We do know, however, that the Pentagon last year gave NewsGuard $750,000 for access to its “Disinformation Fingerprints” project, which it described in the contract as “a catalog of known hoaxes, lies, and disinformation stories spreading online.”

    I have no particular insights on Brill or Crovitz. But State and Defense? One ‘Guard’ does stand out, for Kiriakou: ‘Michael Hayden. The name should ring a bell. Hayden is a retired four-star general who was the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) on September 11, 2001. He was the guy who immediately implemented a massive program of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, all in the name of “national security.” Hayden later became director of the CIA, where he oversaw the agency’s illegal, immoral, and unethical torture, kidnapping, and secret prison programs. He’s also a former principal deputy director of National Intelligence, as if he hadn’t already done enough damage to the country. More recently, Hayden was a signatory on an open letter full of disinformation and outright lies that indicated that the Hunter Biden laptop was a “Russian intelligence operation.” That was laughable even before Hunter Biden stated publicly that the laptop was his.’

    Even more odiously, if that is possible, were Hayden’s ‘team’ that regularly ‘gauged’ with apparent NewsGuard accuracy that Russiagate was a hoax. Their collective wisdom made them regulars on ‘liberal’ MSNBC. An epigram on their collective performance was Chris Hayes’ heartfelt query to John Brennan, ‘Are you doing OK?’ after their mutual suffering of all that Team Trump backlash. Having detailed the lucky legal fortune of the real perp, Christopher Steele, in my Comment to Joe’s earlier short take on PEN, I’ll stop here!

  14. renate
    May 19, 2022 at 12:26

    As always, Mr. Lauria, many, many thanks to you and all the CN real journalists and contributing Journalists. You are protecting the credibility and integrity of real Journalists.

  15. renate
    May 19, 2022 at 11:53


    Is this for real or just a joke? Nothing in MSM or anywhere as far as I know. It is plausible, I tend to believe it is true. True, the man is retired, but he did invade Iraq based on lies only.

  16. LeoSun
    May 19, 2022 at 11:02

    “Freedom of Speech has to be universal. If, only, SOME speech is protected NONE of it is.” Joe Lauria (5/18/22)

    “Wisdom hidden in the heart is like a light in the jug.” Thank you, Joe Lauria, for keeping it lit!

    “All these causes of the war are left out of Western media reporting on Ukraine.”

    Agreed. with “i’s” dotted. “t’s,” crossed. Harold Pinter “Calls It!” (SCAMdemic), perfectly:

    “America’s “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, [is] a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was
    happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.” Harold Pinter, Playwright

    The Nobel Prize in Literature 2005 was awarded to Harold Pinter “who in his plays uncovers the precipice under everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression’s closed rooms.”

    Harold Pinter, Joe Lauria “where there are two people, there is double wisdom.”

    Kudos!!! “54th annual PEN International Writers for PEACE Committee” TY.

  17. Drew Hunkins
    May 19, 2022 at 10:44

    Good job Joe.

    The groupthink around this is unconscionable and repugnant.

    • CNfan
      May 19, 2022 at 19:14

      The groupthink is enforced.

  18. peter tusinski
    May 19, 2022 at 08:13

    A big thank you Joe for your passionate defense of press freedom and the power of speaking truth to power.We all must resist the fear of not doing so.

    • Me Myself
      May 19, 2022 at 12:57

      I second that!

Comments are closed.