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Listening Post

The Washington Post: Conflicts and interests

Can this bastion of US journalism, now owned by a tech baron with defence contracts, still hold the government to task?

Last updated: 22 Feb 2014 16:59
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Washington DC is a city of conflict, special interest and, for the journalists who work there, conflicts of interest.

The Listening Post previously reported on the US capital’s penchant for a concept commonly referred to as the ‘revolving door’, the seamless transition from the world of politics to the world of media, and often back again.

Now, we bring you a feature on a potentially more worrying trend, that of the supposed ‘cosy relationship’ between government security and surveillance agencies, and the mainstream media that are meant to hold those very agencies to account.

Jeff Bezos, the tech billionaire who made his fortune with the Amazon corporation is not only the single largest stakeholder of that company, but since August 2013, the sole owner of The Washington Post, one of the oldest papers of record when it comes to politics in America.

Then in October last year, Amazon, a company that is all about data, won a $600m contract with the Central Intelligence Agency for cloud computing services.

For many in DC, namely an online initiative called RootsAction.org, this has set alarm bells ringing over whether this presents the Post with a conflict of interest when it comes to rigorously reporting on the country’s most secretive agency.

Some say the paper that famously took down a president is a shadow of its former self, and that while the Post made its name speaking truth to power, it has now merely become a function of it. And it is by no means the only mainstream media organisation tarred by this brush.

As President Barack Obama recalibrates US government surveillance activities, Flo Phillips looks at The Washington Post, its recent coverage, and the implications of a potentially dangerous merger between the journalistic state and digital surveillance.

Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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