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East-West Freedom of Press Under Attack

by Oui Sat Apr 28th, 2018 at 01:13:10 PM EST

World Press Freedom Index 2018: Europe turning into crisis region for journalists | DW |

The rise of populist politics in Europe has weakened press freedom in a region where it was once most secure, according to Reporters Without Borders. China, Russia and Donald Trump also pose threats to journalists.

Hostility toward journalists and media poses a serious threat to democracies around the world, including within Europe, the media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

As a region, Europe still ranks the highest on RSF's index, but its rating also dropped more than that of any other region this year.

 « click for world map 2017
Populism on the rise and journalists used by politicians as targets of discontent for the masses

More below the fold ...

Four of the top five countries where press freedom deteriorated the most are in Europe.

Malta, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Serbia all fell substantially. The watchdog voiced particular concern about the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, followed by the killing of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak just five months later in Slovakia.

With the rise of populist politics and "strongman" leaders, Europe's downward trend will likely continue, according to RSF. Last year, Czech President Milos Zeman showed up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov bearing the words "for journalists." Robert Fico, who resigned as Slovakia's prime minister in March, called journalists "filthy, anti-Slovak prostitutes" and "idiotic hyenas."

Draconian secrecy measures are being quietly ushered in. We must fight them

Under new proposals, journalists and whistleblowers could face 14 years in jail for handling government data. It's part of a trend towards the silencing of dissent.

Last year, suspicionless surveillance of the lawful activities of ordinary citizens was authorised on a scale unprecedented in any other western democracy. Those of us who warned that the Investigatory Powers Act's provisions in respect of the indiscriminate collection and retention of electronic communications were of dubious legality have already been vindicated by the court of justice of the European Union. The precise impact of the decision will now be confirmed by the court of appeal, which referred the matter to the court of justice.

Now, only months after the passage of the act, proposals that pose a further significant threat to civil liberties and freedom of expression have been quietly published by the Law Commission with no fanfare and not even a press release. The recommendations of the Law Commission of England and Wales are contained in a 326-page consultation paper entitled Protection of Official Data. Their proposals are extensive and could lead to a new espionage act replacing the Official Secrets Act.

While there can be no doubt that the law needs to be updated for the digital era, the need to simplify, clarify and modernise the law should not be used as an excuse to introduce draconian powers that fly in the face of the previous consensus that the "mere receipt" of official information should not be a criminal offence. Unfortunately, this is just what is proposed.

The changes in the law envisaged include criminalising obtaining and gathering as well as publishing government data - provided the UK government claims there would be damage. The previous requirement that the government should prove that there would be damage is to be dispensed with. The proposals put leaking and whistleblowing in the same category as spying for foreign powers. If enacted, they would criminalise hackers, leakers, elected politicians, journalists and NGOs.

There will be no definition of "national security". This is particularly problematic, because the courts tend to respond with considerable deference to government claims of national security, viewing them not as a matter of law, but as executive-led policy judgements. National security as a legal test is therefore meaningless.

UK Foreign Office threaten former Ambassador Murray over book on rendition and torture in Uzbekistan

From my diary at the time of the Ghouta chemical attack - perpetrators still unknown.

British MOD Issued DA-notice on Snowden

Defiance of the advisory could make British journalists vulnerable to prosecution under the Official Secrets Act.

The June 7 "DA-Notice," or Defence Advisory Notice, which was itself confidential, accepted that the U.S. National Security Agency was sharing information gleaned from the surveillance programs with its British counterparts, and said UK intelligence organizations were worried about revelations of their own roles in the programs.

    DA-Notice, June 7, 2013

    Private and Confidential: Not for publication, broadcast or use on social media.

    Defence Advisory Notice

    There have been a number of articles recently in connection with some of the ways in which the UK Intelligence Services obtain information from foreign sources.

    Although none of these recent articles has contravened any of the guidelines contained within the Defence Advisory Notice System, the intelligence services are concerned that further developments of this same theme may begin to jeopardize both national security and possibly UK personnel...

It warned British media not to publish information on "specific covert operations, sources and methods of the security services, SIS and GCHQ [the NSA's British counterpart], Defence Intelligence Units, Special Forces and those involved with them, the application of those methods, including the interception of communications and their targets; the same applies to those engaged on counter-terrorist operations."

British news organizations are concerned about the tenor of the advance warning.

NSL Gag Orders and the 1st Amendmant US Constitution

Judge quashes law, warrants authorizing RCMP raid on Citizen reporter

An Ontario Superior Court judge has struck down a law used to obtain search warrants that authorized controversial RCMP raids on Citizen journalist Juliet O'Neill's home and office in January 2004.

Judge Lynn Ratushny ruled yesterday that parts of Section 4 of the Security of Information Act are unconstitutional because they violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

She also found the RCMP abused proper process by using the warrants to threaten Ms. O'Neill with criminal prosecution unless she revealed the source of leaked information in a Nov. 8, 2003 story about Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen whom American authorities arrested and deported to Syria in October 2002.

Ms. O'Neill has never been charged, but the Crown had held out the possibility that charges could yet be laid. That evaporated, however, with yesterday's ruling.

In her judgement, Judge Ratushny quashed the two search warrants authorizing the raid and ordered the return of material seized from Ms. O'Neill. In a highly unusual move in a criminal case, she also ordered the government to pay the newspaper's legal costs, expected to run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The ruling was applauded as a vigorous affirmation of the importance of press freedom.

"It was a black day when they raided Julie's home and office," said lawyer Richard Dearden who, along with University of Ottawa law professor David Paciocco, argued the case for the Citizen. "Now the sun is shining again on the importance of free press in this country.

"The judge has said point blank that the RCMP can't threaten a reporter with criminal charges to try to uncover a confidential source. The judge has said point blank that you can't treat the media as an investigative arm of the police."  

My diary from August 2013, just days before the Ghouta attack ...

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, The Manning Trial Began on 9/11

(TomDispatch) - Close your eyes for a moment, think about recent events, and you could easily believe yourself in a Seinfeldian Bizarro World. Now, open them and, for a second, everything looks almost familiar... and then you notice that a dissident is fleeing a harsh and draconian power, known for its global surveillance practices, use of torture, assassination campaigns, and secret prisons, and has found a haven in a heartless world in... hmmm... Russia. That dissident, of course, is Edward Snowden, just granted a year's temporary asylum in Russia, a.k.a. the defender of human rights and freedom 2013, and so has been released from a Washington-imposed imprisonment in Moscow's international air terminal and the threat of far worse.

How we lost our Constitution somewhere in Iraq and came back without it to Try Manning

On July 30, 1778, the Continental Congress created the first whistleblower protection law, stating "that it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States to give the earliest information to Congress or other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds, or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states."

Two hundred thirty-five years later, on July 30, 2013, Bradley Manning was found guilty on 20 of the 22 charges for which he was prosecuted, specifically for "espionage" and for videos of war atrocities he released, but not for "aiding the enemy."

Days after the verdict, with sentencing hearings in which Manning could receive 136 years of prison time ongoing, the pundits have had their say. The problem is that they missed the most chilling aspect of the Manning case: the way it ushered us, almost unnoticed, into post-Constitutional America.

My earlier diary about Obama and the war on whistleblowers ... invoking the Espionage Act of 1917!

Cold War Rage Implementing Intelligence, PsyOps, Internet Troops | The Guardian - Aug. 2015 |
Obama Administration More Secretive Than Nixon's
Obama's abuse of the Espionage Act is modern-day McCarthyism | The Guardian Opinion - John Kiriakou |
Obama and the NSA Winning the War Against Journalists?

During Iraq War by the United States and ally United Kingdom, there were embedded journalists, advised for their own safety. A high number of journalists were targeted by US forces and twice the offices of Al Jazeera came under attack: in Kabul and in Baghdad. Bush and Blair even discussed the option to bomb the Al Jazeera HQ in Doha. The Americans have no shame ...


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