Archive for the ‘Censorship and free speech’ Category

Pic: EPA/FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA

The following is the text of a talk delivered by veteran journalist and film-maker John Pilger at the British Library in London last Saturday (Dec 9).  His talk was part of a festival called “The Power of the Documentary” organised by the Library.  The festival was held to mark its acquisition of the archive of his written work.

by John Pilger

I first understood the power of the documentary during the editing of my first film, The Quiet Mutiny. In the commentary, I make reference to a chicken, which my crew and I encountered while on patrol with American soldiers in Vietnam.

“It must be a Vietcong chicken – a communist chicken,” said the sergeant. He wrote in his report: “enemy sighted”.

The chicken moment seemed to underline the farce of the war – so I included it in the film. That may have been unwise. The regulator of commercial television in Britain – then the Independent Television Authority or ITA – had demanded to see my script. What was my source for the political affiliation of the chicken? I was asked. Was it really a communist chicken, or could it have been a pro-American chicken?

Of course, this nonsense had a serious purpose; when The Quiet Mutiny was broadcast by ITV in 1970, the US ambassador to Britain, Walter Annenberg, a personal friend of President Richard Nixon, complained to the ITA. He complained not about the chicken but about the whole film. “I intend to inform the White House,” the ambassador wrote. Gosh.

The Quiet Mutiny had revealed that the US army in Vietnam was tearing (more…)

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Leila Khaled, a central leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and an icon of the Palestinian struggle, was deported from Italy on Wednesday (November 29).  She had only just arrived in Rome from Amman.  The following statement was issued by the PFLP in response:

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine strongly condemned the action of the Italian authorities in denying entry to Comrade Leila Khaled, member of the Political Bureau of the Front, canceling her visa and forcing her to board the next plane to Amman. She was invited to Italy for a series of political events organized by the Arab Palestinian Democratic Union in Italy to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the launch of the PFLP.

The Front emphasized that this action followed upon a racist campaign waged by the Zionist movement and the forces of the fascist right wing in Europe over the past months against the Popular Front and the Palestinian and Lebanese Resistance. This action by the Italian authorities is part of this ongoing campaign, which will only be met with more insistence on transmitting the voice of our people to the world.

The Front further considers that the leading role of the struggler Leila Khaled and her revolutionary and symbolic role on a Palestinian, Arab and international level has enraged the Zionist state and its allies in Europe, pushing the forces of the Zionist movement to demand her arrest or deportation. They have failed to prevent her from giving public talks and appearances in (more…)

Balcony Over Jerusalem: A Middle East Memoir by John Lyons with Sylvie Le Clezio, HarperCollins, (2017); reviewed by Rod Such

Of all the pillars that help hold up Israel’s special type of settler-colonialism and apartheid, one of the strongest remains the role of Western media in amplifying Israeli hasbara (propaganda). That pillar, however, is beginning to crack.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the reflections of prominent Australian journalist John Lyons in his book Balcony Over Jerusalem, an account of his and his filmmaker wife Sylvie Le Clezio’s six-year stint in the city, from 2009 to 2015. There, Lyons was based as the Middle East correspondent of The Australian, one of the country’s leading newspapers.

There is much that is noteworthy in this book, such as Lyons’ detailed analysis of Israel’s various attempts at “social engineering.” This includes the multilayered, bureaucratic permit regime designed to stifle Palestinian resistance to occupation and ongoing land theft, buttressed by closed military zones and other means of land confiscation that dwarf the West Bank settlements themselves.

But what ultimately stands out in Balcony Over Jerusalem is the (more…)

by Con Karavias

For more than five years, refugees have been subjected to horror and abuse on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. With the government’s decision to permanently close the detention centre on 31 October, the horror has descended into absolute barbarity.

Water, food and power have been cut off. More than 600 refugees have been reduced to filling bins with rainwater and mixing it with sugar and salt to sustain themselves. Sympathetic members of the local PNG community have been blocked from providing them with food. A protest sign in the centre in early November read, “If the air was in Australia’s hands it would cut it on us”.

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian refugee on Manus, talks of “a mood of death, climate of (more…)

This year is the 50th anniversary of the partial liberalisation of anti-gay laws in Britain.  The reform applied to England and Wales, but not Scotalnd or the part of Ireland still incorporated in the ‘United Kingdom’ – nor to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.  The reform also did not extend to the armed forces or the merchant navy.  In the article below, a longtime British marxist and former activist in the gay liberation movement looks at the significance of the law change – then and now.  

by Mike McNair

Under the 1967 Sexual Offences Act homosexuality between consenting adult males in private was no longer an offence. ‘Adult’ was defined as someone over the age of 21; and ‘in private’ was subsequently defined by the judiciary: homosexual acts were only permitted in private property and there had to be only two people present. In a public place like a hotel it would still be an offence. Given the limits of the 1967 act, I did not expect anything like the scale of celebration there has been around its 50th anniversary.

In addition we have had a brief rush of publicity around a group of LGBT anarchists forming a fighting unit alongside the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Islamic State. Rather startlingly, the Daily Mail on July 25 ran the headline, “These faggots kill fascists” – a photo showed them raising the rainbow flag in Raqqa.1

This story of a very small group of volunteers has been all over the mainstream media. There has been, I think, a valid argument, presented on Al Jazeera by a Syrian-Palestinian woman activist, that this group was in substance holding up the flag in favour of the general frame of western intervention in Syria, rather than having any realistic expectation that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) will display strong and persistent solidarity with lesbian and gay rights.2

But the coverage demonstrates that this summer’s celebration of gay rights is very broad. The story is that our modern liberal society has liberated lesbians and gay men from the chains of medieval oppression. Alongside this celebration, LGBT issues, just like women’s issues, have been made into an instrument for the justification of dropping bombs on foreign countries.

In this context it is worth looking a little bit further at what has been celebrated: the 1967 Act, what followed it and what went before it. As I have said, it decriminalised homosexual conduct between consenting males over the age of 21. Even though the ‘age of majority’ was reduced to 18 in 1969, as far as homosexual acts were concerned, it remained at 21 until 2000.3

The 1967 Act had an interesting consequence, in that it initially led to a substantial increase in prosecutions! Roy Walmsley, a member of the Home Office Research Unit, reported in 1978 that offences for ‘indecency between males’ recorded by the police had doubled since 1967, and the number of persons prosecuted trebled between 1967 and 1971. Most of the additional prosecutions involved two males 21 or over, so it was not primarily about consent, but about the ‘in public’ issue. In 1978 there were wide variations between police areas in respect of this.4

This is by no means the only instance of law reform leading to an increase in prosecutions. The same was true of the reforms of street prostitution (introduced under the Street Offences Act 1959), of the 1959 Obscene Publications Act, and of the 1967 Abortion Act. Nearer to the core of criminal law, it was also true of the various offences under the Theft Act 1968. The replacement of laws which are understood to be ancient, unfair, technical and difficult to understand by new legislation incentivises the police to prosecute – and makes it easier for them to do so. And it makes it easier for magistrates and juries to convict.

I might add that the ‘gross indecency’ offence, which had previously been triable by jury, became, as a result of the Act, triable before magistrates. That increased the number of prosecutions, as magistrates have always been more willing to convict than juries.

Resistance

This is not the whole story, however. There has also been a good deal of judicial and prosecutorial resistance to (more…)

by John Pilger

Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice and should be prosecuted. Her obsession with Assange not only embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary but exposed the Swedish state’s collusion with the United States in its crimes of war and “rendition”.

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit Chelsea Manning had to endure.

This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. “It’s a laughing stock,” said James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers. “It is as if they make it up as they go along”.

Serious purpose

It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally.

The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

Perhaps this was understandable. WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians and the contempt for sovereignty and international law.

These disclosures are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistle blowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

In 2012, the Obama campaign boasted on its website that Obama had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had publicly pronounced her guilty.

Few serious observers doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate (more…)

by Yassamine Mather

The Iranian presidential election campaign started last week with a televised debate between the six male candidates who had been approved by the country’s Islamic Guardian Council. They are Mostafa Agha Mirsalim, Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, Es’haq Jahangiri, Hassan Rouhani, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Ebrahim Raisi.

Those who managed to watch the entire three-hour event should be given a medal for perseverance, since within the first few minutes it became clear how the debate would progress. The current president, Rouhani, and his deputy, Jahangiri, defended the administration’s record on the basis that they had averted a military attack, while their opponents, mainly from the conservative factions of the regime, talked of (more…)