Hajar Smouni on Listening Post
From: The Listening Post

Media they did not want us to see

How governments, the military and big business suppress and censor the truth.

Hajar Smouni from Reporters Without Borders

In this week’s global media show, The Listening Post we will be looking at media they did not want us to see – they being the military, the government, big business, or even big media. This is no imagined conspiracy. On this show they are all found guilty of hiding, suppressing, or censoring the truth to protect their own interests.

First up we take a trip to the US. World renowned for its free press, not many people know that in the last four years the US has dropped from 17th to 53rd on The World Press Freedom index compiled by NGO Reporters Without Borders.

We look at three examples of media suppression in the US.

The first story is about the US government’s ban on the media reporting images of fallen soldiers returning home (in caskets) from Iraq. In Canada, with the help of bereaved soldier’s families, the same ban was ignored by the media, and overturned.

In the next two stories, the crime is misinformation.

When the story of Jessica Lynch first appeared in 2003 the media told us that this female soldier went down fighting. But when a video from her Iraq hospital rescue appeared later on the internet a very different story emerged. There were no insurgent fighters to be seen, the main risk to Jessica Lynch’s safety was from her own troops.    

The reporting of US soldier Pat Tillman’s death in Afghanistan was similarly falsified, first by the US military, then by the US media who blindly followed along. It was reported that Pat Tillman, football player turned soldier, went down fighting at the hands of the Taliban. In fact he was killed in friendly fire, tragically shot down by one of his own comrades.

Sticking with the theme of military intervention we cross the Atlantic to Britain, interviewing Tom Newton-Dunn from the Sun newspaper. When the Sun got hold of the actual cockpit video from the US fighter plane that shot and killed UK soldier Matty Hull in Iraq, no-one was more pleased than Hull’s widow to find out what had really happened.

The ministry of defence intervened calling the Sun newspaper and asking them not to run the tapes. Common sense prevailed and the story came out the next day.
In the last section of part one we look at how new technology has transformed the media landscape, specifically how soldier blogs, camera phones, and sites like Live Leak.com have enabled public access to a whole range of media that was previously unavailable.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in looking at the footage (now widely available) of the Saddam Hussein execution. First we saw the official story, but when the mobile phone video appeared, taken by one of the guards present at the scene, a different story emerged. The Pentagon was forced to distance itself fast.

In part two we look at regimes where media suppression is achieved through heavy handed means starting with Egypt.
Blogger Kareem Ahmer was thrown into jail for his blog which dared to criticise the Mubarak government’s human rights record. Ahmer was also critical of how Islamic teachings have been used to justify violence, and posted criticisms of his university. For the sole ‘crime’ of voicing his own opinion, Ahmer was jailed on November 6th, 2006.

In the Soviet Union the situation is even worse for journalists and in our next story from Chechnya we meet Oksana Chelysheva who explains the untenable situation for reporters in her country. Just last year, her collegue, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead while completing a report on torture in the Soviet Union. Vladimir Puton, in this piece, emerges as one of the worst ‘predators’ worldwide to press freedom.

To finish this special programme on Media they did not want us to see we return to the US, and look at how corporate interests within big media tried to silence blogspot Spoko’s Brain. Spoko spoke out against what he perceived to be racist comments on radio station KSFO. The ABC corporation (that owns KSFO) had Spoko’s Brain shut down, but Spoko fought back and won … that is the kind of story we like to leave you on.

Watch this episode of The Listening Post here:

Part 1:

Part 2:

 This episode of The Listening Post aired from 27 July 2007.

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