The parliament of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has sent an official invitation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a mission to observe the referendum on the region’s future, slated for March 16.
The Supreme Council has handed over the invitation to Switzerland, the country that holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE. Crimean authorities invited observers from both individual OSCE member-countries and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to come to Crimea.
“I am confident that the parliament of Crimea will make it possible for them to be present at polling stations. This process is underway now and the referendum itself will be as transparent as possible,” Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov said, as quoted by Itar-Tass.
On Saturday, Crimean residents – about 60 percent of whom are ethnic Russians – will cast ballots to decide whether the region will “become part of the Russian Federation as its constituent territory.”
They will also decide whether Crimea’s 1992 constitution, under which the autonomous republic is part of Ukraine but has relations with Kiev defined on the basis of mutual agreements, should be restored.
Preparations for holding the referendum are in full swing.
Crimea will allocate up to US$2 million for printing ballots and providing technical support. A total of 1,550,000 ballots will be printed.
Some 1,500 Crimean troops will guard polling stations during the referendum, Prime Minister Aksyonov said.
“We will have about 1,500 armed troops by the time the referendum is held. They will be placed on duty at all polling stations,” he said. “The referendum will be guarded by armed people, primarily the autonomy’s self-defense units and Armed Forces.”
While Crimean authorities prepare for holding the referendum, radical groups plan provocations on the republic’s administrative border, according to unconfirmed reports from a Ukrainian Special Forces source, cited by RIA Novosti news agency.
“We are receiving information that Ukrainian radical groups are preparing provocations at the Crimean administrative boarder on the day of referendum, March, 16,” the source told the news agency.
The referendum has been brought forward twice from its original date of May 30 since it was appointed by local lawmakers last month.
The US has said it will not recognize the results of any referendum about the autonomous republic’s future, as Washington continues to consider Crimea a part of Ukraine, US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt stated.
Earlier, President Obama said that a referendum in Crimea would “violate the Ukrainian constitution and international law.”
This stance has been echoed by British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also stated that “any attempt by Russia to legitimize the results could bring more consequences.”
Speaking to Cameron and Merkel over the phone, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed confidence that Crimea’s upcoming referendum will reflect the legitimate interests of its people.
By Friends of Al-Aqsa November 7, 2013
The need to boycott Israel is growing
The call for boycotting Israel has grown significantly in recent years. The main purpose of this global campaign is to bring Israel to account for its human rights violations against Palestinians. The reason such civil action is necessary is because governments around the world with the power to intervene have repeatedly failed to utilise international legal apparatus in to hold Israel to account for its crimes.
However, successful boycott campaigns have revealed that ordinary people do have the power to act and respond to Palestinian calls for intervention. The destruction of Palestinian infrastructure through Israeli military assaults, routine demolitions of essential resources such as water wells, and blocking access to farmlands; means that Palestinians are unable to freely harvest their lands and bring their produce onto the markets. It is well documented that farmers are attacked by extremist settlers, and shot at by army personnel. Entire initiatives such as the Olive Cooperative have been built in response to these attacks, so that international solidarity activists can go to Palestine simply to help farmers harvest their crops and document the violent assaults some face on a daily basis.
Fishermen off the coast of Gaza face similar deadly assaults, this time from Israel’s naval vessels. Thus, peaceful farming or fishing is now a luxury for Palestinians, yet Israel is exporting its own produce globally and reaping the financial rewards for it. Its exploitation of stolen Palestinian lands in the West Bank should not be allowed to enter European markets and the boycott campaigns seek to highlight this.
The boycott of illegal settlement produce is becoming established. However, there is now also a move to boycott Israeli produce too, as Israeli companies have been found to breach EU food labelling regulations by labelling settlements goods as ‘produce of Israel’. By doing this, they mislead consumers into believing that the goods are legitimately farmed in Israel, instead of illegitimately farmed on stolen Palestinian land, often exploiting Palestinian labour.
Recent statistics reveal that illegal settlements profit from exporting their produce to Europe to the tune of 230 million Euros a year. When compared to Palestinian exports, this is fifteen times greater in value. Thus, the EU imports 100 times more produce per illegal Israeli settler than it does per legitimate Palestinian resident of the West Bank.
The success of the boycott campaigns reflects the feeling on the ground. Ordinary Brits do not want to be a part of Israel’s racist and illegal occupation policies, and they do not wish to support the illegal settlements by buying their produce.
British Politicians Oppose Boycott
Both the Conservatives and the Labour Party have both come out against boycott of Israel.
David Cameron stated in October 2012:
In a speech by David Cameron at the annual dinner of the United Jewish Israel Appeal, Cameron said on boycotting:
“And to those in Britain’s universities and trades unions who want to boycott Israel and consign it to an international ghetto, I say not only will this Government never allow you to shut down 60 years worth of vibrant exchange and partnership that does so much to make both our countries stronger but I also say this: we know what you are doing – trying to delegitimise the State of Israel – and we will not have it.”
The Labour Shadow Foreign Secretary, Douglas Alexander, recently stated ”it is not Labour policy to support boycotts. We would like to see even stronger economic ties with Israel’. His comments were reported on twitter following a London meeting on 7 February 2013.
European Consumer Labelling laws
The EU is considering making it illegal for Israel to sell produce from the illegal settlements labelled as ‘produce of Israel’. This would be a marked step towards obstructing settlements from profiting from the land they have stolen.
Produce to Boycott
Products to look out for are: dates, citrus fruits and herbs, and manufactured products including cosmetics, carbonation devices, plastics, textile products and toys.
Recently, Morrisons supermarket was found to be selling medjoul dates labelled as ‘Produce of Israel’ but which were in fact from illegal settlements.
1) Every time you go shopping, ‘Check the Label’ on the produce you buy. Ensure they are not from Israel, West Bank or Jordan Valley. If you do see produce from these places, take a photo and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org detailing the store and location.
2) If you find produce from Israel, West Bank or Jordan Valley ask to speak to the store Manager and explain that the produce are from illegal Israeli Settlements as they are grown on land that has been stolen from Palestinians. Ask for them to be removed from the shelves and for them not to be stocked again. Please also ask for the suppliers name if it is not clear as this is useful information. Email your experience to email@example.com
3) If you do not want to approach the Manager whilst you are shopping, contact the stores Head office on their customer service number/email explaining your concern.
Tesco Customer Service Centre, Baird Avenue, Dundee, DD1 9NF
08457 22 55 33
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd, 33 Holborn, London, EC1N 2HT
0800 636 262
0800 188 884
Customer service enquiries – 0845 611 6111
General or corporate enquiries – 0845 611 5000
By Post: Customer Service Department, Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC, Hilmore House, Gain Lane, Bradford, BD3 7DL
General Enquiries: 0800 952 0101
Write to: Customer Service, ASDA House, Southbank, Great Wilson Street, Leeds LS11 5AD
Holly Lane, Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 2SQ
0844 406 8800
0870 444 1234
|Cultural Boycott as a Political Tool; Impact and Importance|
The British government has admitted complicity in a deadly attack on Sikhism’s holiest shrine in India, the Golden Temple, almost three decades age.
Appearing in the House of Commons on Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague disclosed the findings of a government investigation into the level of British involvement in the June 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India’s northwestern city of Amritsar.
Hague acknowledged that a British officer from the Special Air Service (SAS) travelled to India in February that year and advised Indian authorities on planning one of the most notorious atrocities in Britain’s imperial history in the South Asian country.
The UK’s top diplomat, however, sought to play down the SAS role in the assault, as he insisted that the advice to the Indian Intelligence Services on their Operation Blue Star raid on the temple had “little impact” on the outcome.
“The nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage,” he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron launched the probe in January after newly-released documents showed that the government of former British premier Margaret Thatcher was involved in the Amritsar raid.
Cameron said in a video message that he hopes the report would give “reassurance to the Sikh community here in Britain and elsewhere.”
But Sikh groups criticized the scope of the Whitehall review, saying it failed to cover the British complicity during the time of the massacre.
In a letter to Cameron, Bhai Amrik Singh, the chairman of the Sikh Federation, said he was “hugely disappointed” with the probe’s “narrow terms.”
“It appears the review has looked at a narrow period and not covered the period in the latter half of 1984 and may not have addressed some of the concerns raised by UK politicians in the last three weeks,” Singh wrote.
The death toll from the temple raid still remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thousands.
In February last year, Cameron visited the scene of the massacre in the state of Punjab at the end of his three-day trade trip to India but he stopped short of making a formal apology.
David Cameron Says Snooper’s Charter Is Necessary Because Fictional Crime Dramas He Watches Prove It
You may recall the stories from the past couple years about the so-called “snooper’s charter” in the UK — a system to further legalize the government’s ability to spy on pretty much all communications. It was setting up basically a total surveillance system, even beyond what we’ve since learned is already being done today. Thankfully, that plan was killed off by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
However, Prime Minister David Cameron is back to pushing for the snooper’s charter — and his reasoning is as stupid as it is unbelievable. Apparently, he thinks it’s necessary because the fictional crime dramas he watches on TV show why it’s necessary. I am not joking, even though I wish I was:
In the most serious crimes [such as] child abduction communications data… is absolutely vital. I love watching, as I probably should stop telling people, crime dramas on the television. There’s hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device.
What we have to explain to people is that… if we don’t modernise the practice and the law, over time we will have the communications data to solve these horrible crimes on a shrinking proportion of the total use of devices and that is a real problem for keeping people safe.
Yes, he just said that. Because fictional characters on crime drama TV shows make use of data, that’s somehow proof that it’s necessary. Perhaps someone can send Cameron a copy of Enemy of the State or any other fictional work showing how the government can abuse such information. Or, better yet, let’s have our side stick with reality, and we can just point to real historical events of governments abusing such information.
LONDON — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande agreed Friday to beef up the two countries’ cooperation in defense, nuclear energy and climate policy.
Britain and France inked the cooperation deals at the UK-France Summit 2014 held in British royal air force station RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire of southeast England.
The two countries issued a communique setting out plans for joint investment in the procurement of defense equipment, joint training of armed forces and continued development of the Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, an Anglo-French joint military training and operation program.
“Britain and France are natural partners for defense cooperation,” British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said, adding that the agreements reached at the summit would enhance the “interoperability” of British and French forces.
According to the agreements, the two countries are set to launch a two-year-long joint feasibility study program with an investment of 120 million pounds (about 197.4 million U.S. dollars) for a future Anglo-French combat air system.
Britain and France also agreed to invest in Britain’s major nuclear weapons base, the Atomic Weapons Establishment, to carry out safe testing of British and French stockpiles and achieve greater sharing of technical and scientific data for joint research.
The two nations pledged to join hands in tackling security issues, such as terrorism and drug and arms trafficking, in north and west Africa, as well as building on international peacekeeping missions in Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.
In addition, the two sides declared their commitment to developing safe nuclear energy, collaborating on new nuclear power stations, combating climate change and pushing for European Commission’s domestic emissions reduction agenda.
“We reiterated our resolve to work together towards achieving an ambitious and legally-binding agreement at the next COP (UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change) in Paris in 2015,” said Edward Davey, British Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.
In a statement marking the death of Ariel Sharon, British prime minister David Cameron said he was “one of the most significant figures in Israeli history and as Prime Minister he took brave and controversial decisions in pursuit of peace, before he was so tragically incapacitated.”
This sickening tribute will not go down well outside Israel. Sharon, real name Scheinermann, was the child of immigrants fleeing Russia to the British mandate of Palestine in the 1920s. At the tender age of 10 the boy joined the Zionist youth movement Hassadeh. At 14 he was a member of a paramilitary youth battalion and later joined the terrorist group Haganah.
Sharon made a name for himself in 1953 when his secret death squad, Unit 101, dynamited homes and massacred 69 Palestinian civilians – half of them women and children – at Qibya in the West Bank. His troops later destroyed 2,000 homes in the Gaza Strip, uprooting 12,000 people and deporting hundreds of young Palestinians to Jordan and Lebanon.
He was regarded as the patron of the settlers’ movement. He used his position as housing minister to encourage the establishment of a network of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to prevent the possibility of ethnically-cleansed Palestinians returning. Explaining his policy, Sharon said: “Everybody has to move, run and grab as many (Judean) hilltops as they can to enlarge the (Jewish) settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”
Chief of staff of the Israeli Defence Force, Rafael Eitan, remarked, “When we have settled the land, all the Arabs will be able to do about it will be to scurry around like drugged cockroaches in a bottle.” Sharon doubled the number of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. By the end of 2005 the total was 177.
In 1982 he masterminded Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, which resulted in a huge death toll of Palestinians and Lebanese, a large proportion being children. An Israeli tribunal found him indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila and he was forced to resign as Defence minister, but that didn’t stop him being appointed to other senior government posts.
In 2000, just before his election as prime minister, Sharon and an escort of over 1,000 Israeli armed police visited the Temple Mount, site of the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque, and declared that the complex would remain under perpetual Israeli control. It was a deliberately provocative move which triggered the second Intifada, although there are indications that the Palestinians had already planned an uprising and Sharon’s reckless move simply pushed the button.
He was also responsible for war crimes at Jenin in 2002 when, after the second intifada was declared, the Israeli army turned a variety of strategic weapons on the town. Accusations of a massacre were denied but many civilians living in the town and its refugee camp were killed in the street fighting and helicopter gunship attacks, and in sections of the town that were flattened by armoured bulldozers.
Israel prevented UN investigators gaining access but a Human Rights Watch report concluded:
Israeli forces committed serious violations of international humanitarian law, some amounting prima facie to war crimes. Human Rights Watch found no evidence to sustain claims of massacres or large-scale extrajudicial executions by the IDF in Jenin refugee camp. However, many of the civilian deaths documented by Human Rights Watch amounted to unlawful or willful killings by the IDF. Many others could have been avoided if the IDF had taken proper precautions to protect civilian life during its military operation, as required by international humanitarian law… Some of the cases documented by Human Rights Watch amounted to summary executions, a clear war crime… Throughout the incursion, IDF soldiers used Palestinian civilians to protect them from danger, deploying them as ‘human shields’ and forcing them to perform dangerous work … the IDF prevented humanitarian organizations, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, from gaining access to the camp and its civilian inhabitants, despite the great humanitarian need.
Sharon was the driving force behind the evil Separation or ‘Apartheid’ Wall which deviates wildly from the Demarcation/Green Line and effectively annexes 10 percent of the Palestinian West Bank’s choicest land and water resources, and cuts off villagers from their crops and livelihoods.
And there have been reports that Israeli death squads are authorised to enter “friendly” countries and kill those suspected of being a threat to the Jewish state wherever they are hiding. Targeted killings were pretty much restricted to Occupied Palestine but the appointment of a new Mossad director, Meir Dagan, in 2002 changed all that.
Sharon was said to have given his old buddy Dagan a mandate to revive the traditional methods of Mossad, including assassinations abroad, even at the risk to Israel’s bilateral relations. It is quite possible that Mossad hoodlums are at this moment prowling the streets of London, Bradford, Glasgow and Manchester – as well as major cities in Europe and the US – snuffing out plotters against their rotten racist regime.
The president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Vivian Wineman, paying tribute to Sharon, says: “He was among Israel’s greatest military strategists and a master of tank warfare, an art learnt at staff college in Britain… His final major act demonstrated his vision and political boldness in unilaterally withdrawing from Gaza in pursuit of the peace process with the Palestinians.”
The truth is that Israel continued to control Gaza’s airspace, air-waves, coastal waters and border crossings, and still does, creating, in effect, an open air prison camp. The idea that Sharon’s withdrawal was a peace overture is nonsense.
Former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, called him “a warrior who became a man of peace”. A poll by the Israeli news website Ynet voted Sharon the eighth greatest Israeli of all time.
One of Sharon’s must famous (or should that be infamous?) sayings was at an Israeli Cabinet meeting when he (allegedly) told Peres: “We the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.” Americans from now on should make damn’ sure they unshackle themselves from such people.
Sharon escaped earthly justice and belongs to the mega-criminal class that Cameron’s government changed our law of Universal Jurisdiction to protect. It is hoped others, however, will live to feel the teeth of justice chewing their sorry ass.
The UK Parliament is presenting itself as a complete joke. Rather than looking into controlling the GCHQ (the UK’s equivalent to the NSA), it has instead held a hearing to interrogate and threaten Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger for actually reporting on the Snowden leak documents and revealing the widespread abuses of the intelligence community. The hearing included the insulting and ridiculous question: “do you love this country?”
Committee chair, Keith Vaz: Some of the criticisms against you and the Guardian have been very, very personal. You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?
Alan Rusbridger: We live in a democracy and most of the people working on this story are British people who have families in this country, who love this country. I’m slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things.
Perhaps equally ridiculous: after UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the destruction of Guardian hard drives, urged the Parliament to start this very investigation and flat out threatened news publications for reporting on government abuse, folks in Parliament have the gall to suggest that it’s Rusbridger who broke the law in sharing some of the Snowden docs with the NY Times? Maybe if Cameron hadn’t done everything he could to try to stifle a free UK press, the Guardian wouldn’t have felt the need to share documents with a competitor.
Conservative MP Michael Ellis: Mr Rusbridger, you authorised files stolen by [National Security Agency contractor Edward] Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff to be communicated elsewhere. Yes or no?
Rusbridger: Well I think I’ve already dealt with that.
Ellis: Well if you could just answer the question.
Rusbridger: I think it’s been known for six months that these documents contained names and that I shared them with the New York Times.
Ellis: Do you accept that that is a criminal offence under section 58(a) of the Terrorism Act, 2000?
Rusbridger: You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I’m not.
And from there it took a turn to the bizarre as Ellis started talking about how Rusbridger might reveal that GCHQ agents were gay. I’m not kidding.
Ellis: Secret and top-secret documents. And do you accept that the information contained personal information that could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?
Rusbridger: The sexual orientation thing is completely new to me. If you could explain how we’ve done that then I’d be most interested.
Ellis: In part, from your own newspaper on 2 August, which is still available online, because you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group for staff and I suggest to you that the data contained within the 58,000 documents also contained data that allowed your newspaper to report that information. It is therefore information now that is not any longer protected under the laws and that jeopardises those individuals, does it not?
Rusbridger: You’ve completely lost me Mr Ellis. There are gay members of GCHQ, is that a surprise?
Ellis: It’s not amusing Mr Rusbridger. They shouldn’t be outed by you and your newspaper.
[Brief inaudible exchange in which both men are talking]
Rusbridger: The notion of the existence of a Pride group within GCHQ, actually if you go to the Stonewall website you can find the same information there. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ.
Ellis: You said it was news to you, so you know about the Stonewall website, so it’s not news to you. It was in your newspaper. What about the fact that GCHQ organised trips to Disneyland in Paris, that’s also been printed in your newspaper, does that mean if you knew that, information including the family details of members of GCHQ is also within the 58,000 documents – the security of which you have seriously jeopardised?
Rusbridger: Again, your references are lost to me. The fact that there was a family outing from GCHQ to Disneyland … [CUT OFF]
There was much more in the hearing, with multiple UK members of parliament making statements that suggest that they are ignorant of a variety of things, including how encryption works and the nature of a free and open press.
But, really, just the fact that they’re spending time investigating Rusbridger in the first place, rather than looking more closely at what the GCHQ is doing, makes a complete mockery of the UK Parliament.
The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”
The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.
“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.
Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.
He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.
Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.
A senior United Nations official responsible for freedom of expression has warned that the UK government’s response to revelations of mass surveillance by Edward Snowden is damaging Britain’s reputation for press freedom and investigative journalism.
The UN special rapporteur, Frank La Rue, has said he is alarmed at the reaction from some British politicians following the Guardian’s revelations about the extent of the secret surveillance programs run by the UK’s eavesdropping center GCHQ and its US counterpart the NSA (National Security Agency), it was reported in the Guardian.
“I have been absolutely shocked about the way the Guardian has been treated, from the idea of prosecution to the fact that some members of parliament even called it treason. I think that is unacceptable in a democratic society,” said La Rue.
Speaking to the Guardian La Rue said that national security cannot be used as an argument against newspapers for publishing information that is in the public interest even if doing so is embarrassing for those who are in office.
The Guardian as well as other major world media organizations including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Der Spiegel began disclosing details about the US and UK’s mass surveillance programs in June, after receiving leaked documents from former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.
The publications have sparked a huge global debate on whether such surveillance powers are justified, but in Britain there have been calls for the Guardian to be prosecuted and the editor, Alan Rusbridger, has been called to give evidence to the home affairs select committee.
The Prime Minister David Cameron has even warned that unless the newspaper begins to demonstrate some social responsibility, then he would take “tougher measures” including the issuing of D notices, which ban a newspaper or broadcaster from touching certain material.
While on Friday the New York Times wrote an editorial entitled “British press freedom under threat”. It said, “Britain has a long tradition of a free inquisitive press. That freedom, so essential to democratic accountability, is being challenged by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government of Prime Minster David Cameron.”
The op-ed added that Britain, unlike the US has no constitutional guarantee of press freedom.
“Parliamentary committees and the police are now exploiting that lack of protection to harass, intimidate and possibly prosecute the Guardian newspaper,” the leader read.
Frank La Rue’s intervention comes just days after a delegation of some of the world’s leading editors and publishers announced they were coming to Britain on a “press freedom mission”.
The trip is being organized by the Paris based, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), and will arrive on UK soil in January. WAN-IFRA says it will include key newspaper figures from up to five continents and that this is the first mission of this kind to the UK ever.
The delegation is expected to meet government leaders and the opposition, as well as press industry figures and civil society and freedom of speech organizations. Their discussions are expected to focus on the political pressure brought to bear on the Guardian.
“We are concerned that these actions not only seriously damage the United Kingdom’s historic international reputation as a staunch defender of press freedom, but provide encouragement to non-democratic regimes to justify their own repressive actions,” Vincent Peyregne, the Chief of the WAN-IFRA, told the Guardian.
newspaper posed a threat to the UK national security.
Also in October, British Prime Minister David Cameron called on The Guardian and other newspapers to show “social responsibility” in the reporting of the leaked NSA files to avoid high court injunctions or the use of D-notices to prevent the publication of information that could damage national security.
La Rue’s remarks come as an international delegation is set to visit Britain over growing concerns about press freedom in the country and a government crackdown on media reporting leaks and scandals.
Organized by the World Association of Newspaper and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), the delegation, which includes publishers and editors from five continents, will arrive in January.
The team will reportedly meet with government, opposition figures and media representatives.
The US government has explicitly ordered Britain not to publish the contents of the four-year-long inquiry into the Iraq War carried out by Sir John Chilcot.
The administration of US President Barack Obama insists that certain parts of the Iraq Inquiry, known as the Chilcot Inquiry, could not be released as it is focused on the pre-war conspiracy hatched by the former US president George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Independent has revealed.
Tony Blair led Britain into the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 on the false pretext that the country’s Ba’athist regime possessed ready-to-use weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). No such arms were ever found in Iraq, but hundreds of thousands lost their lives following the invasion.
According to some leaks from the inquiry, Bush and Blair began conspiring for the Iraq War only weeks after Bush was inaugurated as the US president in 2001.
Now, the US government claims that Bush-Blair conversations and even those comments made by Blair to the inquiry are the property of the US government and has therefore decided to keep them classified.
“The US are highly possessive when documents relate to the presence of the President or anyone close to him. Tony Blair is involved in a dialogue in many of these documents, and naturally someone else is at the other end – the [US] President. Therefore this is not Tony Blair’s or the UK government’s property to disclose,” said one high-placed diplomatic source.
According to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “Chilcot, or anyone in London, does not decide what documents relating to a US President are published.”
This comes as Prime Minister David Cameron has told Chilcot in a letter that some documents needed to be “handled sensitively.”
Elaborating on Cameron’s statements, the Cabinet Office told The Independent: “It is in the public’s interests that exchanges between the UK Prime Minister and the US President are privileged. The whole premise about withholding them [from publication] is to ensure that we do not prejudice our relations with the United States.”
Therefore, the authors of the inquiry’s final report, including Chilcot and his team, are under heavy pressure not to hurt the so-called “special relationship” between Britain and the US.
It’s also expected that they will publish a neutral report in spring next year which will lack evidence to charge Blair with serious policy failures, and it may also be such a redacted report as to be meaningless and a waste of almost £8 million of British taxpayers’ money.
- Lord Owen calls for release of Blair and Bush Iraq evidence (theguardian.com)
“The following report contains disturbing images”
This is how the BBC website introduces a report by its BBC Panorama’s Syria correspondents Ian Pannell and Darren Conway on August the 30th, 2013. The story contained a video, ostensibly shot near Aleppo, Northern Syria, by an anonymous school headmaster, and documenting the aftermath of a napalm attack on his school, supposedly perpetrated by the Syrian armed forces on August 26th. According to the story, the “evil” forces of Bashar al-Assad, at a time when they had just about established their strategic advantage over the anti-government rebel forces and the foreign mercenaries they had been fighting for over two years, had found nothing better to do than attack a school, a target which presented no military interest whatsoever, with napalm – no less – just so the international media, and BBC Panorama in particular, could pick the story and broadcast it to Western audiences, in perfect timing to coincide with the British Parliament’s vote on the so-called “humanitarian intervention” in Syria, which was being pushed for by Prime Minister David Cameron, ostensibly to prevent precisely this kind of atrocities.
Were Assad’s forces really that stupid? Of course not.
It did not take long before several international commentators and observers pointed out the many implausibilities in the video and the story in general. Among them, Italian author Francesco Santoianni, showed how incongruent the whole story was, sparking the suspicion that the entire video might have been a fabrication. What follows is his analysis.
First of all, Napalm is a substance which generates temperatures between 800 and 1,200 degrees Celsius: in other words, no one has ever survived direct exposure. These physical characteristics mean that when Napalm was utilised in theatres of war, it was primarily used to defoliate areas covered with thick vegetation, and not urban areas, where white phosphorus is more often used, as the United States Armed Forces did in Falluja in 2005, and the Israeli Defence Forces did in Gaza in 2008. Nevertheless, the BBC expected its viewers to believe that Assad’s forces had employed the obsolete napalm on a school. Of course, a school with no teaching resources in sight, but somehow a swimming pool in the back. Oh, and a swing. Case closed: it MUST be a school. Although, we are told by our sources in Syria that the school year did not start until September 15: so what exactly were all those people doing in a locked-up school?
In the video, we were also shown a pair of winter shoes – not clear how they ended up there: it was after all August – and a woman’s shoe. Was all this footwear worn by the victims? How did it remain intact?
Almost every British newspaper which reported the story informed us that “The attack killed more than ten pupils and left many more seriously injured”: and yet, despite the warning against graphic images, we are not shown the bodies, or the grieving parents.
There is – to be sure – a child, seeing shaking in one scene. His skin is actually intact, and so is his hair: certainly not consistent with napalm, or anything like it. And what is the white stuff on his body? Surely, it cannot be the chemical fired from the fighter jets – that wouldn’t have left his hair intact – therefore we must assume that it’s some kind of first-aid ointment, of sorts? Whoever administered it could not even be bothered to remove the watch from the kid’s wrist. In fact, no one seems to be attending this child: the only person with some kind of interest is the cameraman.
Somewhat less convincing is a couple, seen in the video going through the well-rehearsed motions of cursing in Arabic. There is a problem though: the woman’s face is covered in that same white stuff: and the couple has just arrived to the so-called hospital, so it cannot be “some kind of first-aid ointment”. It must be the “napalm-like chemical”. We are expected to believe that a “napalm-like” chemical, fired from a fighter jet, somehow ended up sprayed on this woman’s face leaving her veil intact?
We also see what is supposed to be a makeshift hospital. On the floor, five adult males are shaking – three of them still have their clothes perfectly intact, of course – although one of them at some point stands up and walks off, having presumably decided that he’s had enough.
By the way, we keep seeing paramedics from the so-called charity Hand in Hand for Syria supposedly handling chemical burns victims without any gloves on – but wearing gas masks, for some reason. And even a dust mask: what’s that? The woman in question is of course Dr. Rola, the star of this video [segment introducing Dr. Rola]
Then, of course, we get the obligatory segment showing a distraught local, venting his powerless rage at the International Community, invariably denounced as inefficient and perennially locked in futile negotiations. The Public Relations rules dictate that such a character must be somehow connected with the tragedy (no details given), and that, when he addresses the camera, he must not speak in the local language – which would only sound like terrorist gibberish to most Western audiences: rather, he has to produce an impromptu speech in an impeccable English, so impeccable to the point of sounding scripted and well-rehearsed, or even read off a prompter. After all, these PR rules did work for Libya.
All these absurdities were exposed almost immediately after the release of the video on the BBC’s channels. So why talk about them again now?
Well, one reason is that the BBC itself, presumably after receiving dozens of complaints from viewers who didn’t appreciate their intelligence being insulted, decided to salvage what little they could from the story, and delete the biggest blooper of all. And this is where it gets creepy. Because what follows leads one to believe that this was not the case of the BBC naively buying into a story packaged and sold to them by the anti-Assad PR machine (it wouldn’t have been the first time), but rather that the BBC itself actively created a product that was intended to steer the public opinion towards a more interventionist position. For such a product, there can only be one definition: propaganda.
What happened was that Human Rights activist Craig Murray, among others, realised that, between the first and the second release of the video, something was different in the lines spoken by Dr. Rola. Listen to the original one, containing references to napalm.
The reference to napalm has disappeared in the redacted version.
Both audio clips have the same identical sound quality: of course, there is very little that cannot be accomplished with the kind of technology that’s available to the British Broadcasting Corporation, thanks in part to the fact that Dr. Rola was wearing her exaggerated dust mask, which conveniently did away with all the challenges involved in dubbing, lip-synch, etc. However, the redacted audio clip must have been added at a much later stage, for reasons we have just explored, which prompts us to ask: how can we even be sure that the original audio clip was not scripted and recorded in a studio? Also, Robert Stuart, writing on the Media Lenses Forum, points out that Dr Saleyha Ahsan, featured in the new version of the video, is a filmmaker with a military background: a former Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps and a freelance current affairs journalist. Was she involved in packaging this product?
Also of interest is the fact that the Charity Hand in Hand for Syria, where Dr. Rola supposedly works as a volunteer medic, happens to sport a flag of the French colonial era on its logo – a flag now adopted by the Anti-Assad Coalition. This is an affiliation which the BBC did not see fit to disclose to its viewers.
For those who still believe in whatever is left of the BBC’s reputation for upholding the mediatic standards of fair and balanced reporting, here is some useful information about another so-called “charity”. The BBC Media Action (formerly the BBC World Service Trust), with its catchy slogan: “Transforming Lives through Media around the World”.
In an interesting report available on its website, BBC Media Action explains: “In 2008, BBC Media Action launched its three-year project ‘Socially Responsible Media Platforms in the Arab World’ with funding from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Syria News was the official Syrian partner, endorsed by the Ministry of Information on behalf of the BBC. The project aimed to set up an interactive online training platform, the Ara2 [opinions] Academy, for Syria’s journalistic and blogging communities, creating networks between the two. This reflected the changing status of bloggers in the regional media and responded to their aspiration to be seen as credible social commentators. The project also supported Syria News as an example of a sustainable independent media organisation, with managerial staff taking part in study tours in London and in business development training. BBC Media Action did not work with a local partner on blogger training, as this could have alienated and excluded parts of the blogging community. Instead, the BBC collaborated with an informal network of bloggers from across the country and recruited mentors for the distance learning system (the Ara2 Academy) who were trained at workshops in London and Damascus”.
One could not have wished for a clearer description of a Trojan horse, funded by one government in order to destabilize another. Just to go over the timeline again: the three-year BBC Action Syria Project started in 2008. The “Syrian uprising” began in February 2011.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a veiled threat against the Guardian and other media organizations, calling them to stop publishing the reveals leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden.
Mr Cameron said that UK lawmakers have not yet been “heavy handed,” but if media does not stop such publications soon the government may employ D-Notices, official requests asking editors not to publish news items for national security reasons.
“I don’t want to have to use injunctions or D-Notices or other tougher measures. I think it’s much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility. But if they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act,” – Cameron told the House of Commons Monday, adding that The Guardian, in particular, has made “this country less safe.”
The Guardian first began its ongoing series based on the Snowden leaks in June, when far-reaching secret activity of the American NSA and British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) were made public.
Recent disclosures, revealing that the US and UK have quietly monitored international allies, caused a major scandal in European community.
In July of this year GCHQ raided The Guardian’s offices and demanded the destruction of hard drives containing the Snowden files.
Although Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the paper, said the destruction would have no effect because The Guardian would continue publication from its offices in New York, the destruction continued anyway.