The NatWest account closure is only the latest entry in the channel’s saga in the UK.
Over the last couple of years, certain voices in the UK media – and the wider establishment – have been feeding a wave of hysteria over the channel’s presence in the British market. Here are the highlights:
October 2014 – Posters for RT’s “Second Opinion” ad campaign are rejected for outdoor posting by several London platforms for having what they called “political undertones.” Instead, RT puts up a “redacted” version of the posters, which use the example of the Iraq War to draw attention to the importance of diversity in the news media.
November 2014 – The network officially launches RT UK, a dedicated channel broadcasting from its own studios in London. The British mainstream media, predictably, freaks out.
December 2014 – John Whittingdale, chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, lamented “It is frightening, the extent to which we are losing the information war,” with Peter Horrocks, a former top executive of the BBC’s global news operation, explaining to The Guardian that the Beeb was losing ground to RT because it is “financially outgunned.” The problem with Horrock’s contention is that it simply isn’t true. That year, the BBC World Service ALONE was allocated a 2014 budget of £245 million ($382 million at that time), primarily for radio and online services. RT, with its much costlier TV signal distribution, received 15.38 billion rubles ($271 million then).
January 2015 – The British Army announces it is creating a special force of “Facebook warriors” – a 1,500-strong brigade of professional soldiers to promote UK narratives on social media platforms. According to the Guardian, part of the justification for the move was that Russia’s point of view is resonating with the UK audience.
February 2015 – The Economist’s senior editor, Ed Lucas, pays a lot of attention to RT – especially in his other gig as a lobbyist for American weapons manufacturers. In this instance, he calls for KGB methods to be used against RT’s staff. “I think we could do a bit more ostracism,” Lucas said at a Munich security conference,” just as RT journalists were coming under fire near Donetsk. “Far too many people see a job at RT as the first stage on a career ladder. It’s not. It’s the last stage on a career ladder,” he said.
November 2015 – Larry King comes to London to promote his two shows “Larry King Now” and “Politicking,” which have been coming out on RT America and are about to start airing on RT UK. He grants an interview to BBC’s Evan Davis, who tries to give the legendary King of Chat a very hard time about working with RT. But BBC’s own viewers are not impressed.
Eventually, even Newsnight’s own Editor, Ian Katz, throws in the towel, writing “in case you missed… Larry King schooling our Evan Davis on the art of the interview.”
February 2016 – The BBC submits written testimony (made public over the summer) to Westminster’s Foreign Affairs Committee to justify demands for more funding, despite having just received £289 million for four years from the UK’s defense budget. The report outlines the reasons why RT’s success should create panic among the UK establishment: “Viewing figures for RT, Russia’s international news channel, have seen a sharp increase… It also operates very successfully on social media.” The Russians are coming! The British government nods along in response.
August 2016 – The Times’ UK publishes seven pieces on the dangers of Russian media, mostly RT, over a single weekend. Obsessing much?
October 2016 – NatWest Bank, a subsidiary of Britain’s majority state-controlled Royal Bank of Scotland, gives notice that it is closing RT’s accounts – without explanation. Hundreds of messages and statements of support pour in from RT’s audience, NatWest/RBS customers, and UK public figures, who criticize the move as an affront to the UK’s principles of freedom of speech.
Selective Assassinations of Chavistas by paramilitaries, renegade police and criminal gangs continue
The assassination of followers of the late President Chavez continues to increase at a steady pace. From 2013 – when President Maduro was democratically elected – to the present, many local political leaders, public servants, journalists, bodyguards of left wing politicians, military personnel and operatives of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) have been unfortunate enough to fall into the opposition’s murderous claws.
The ultra-right wing opposition that currently has control of the National Assembly continues with its aim of resurrecting the Fourth Republic in Venezuela. With opposition figures such as the governor of Miranda state, Capriles Radonski, telling his supporters “to take their anger to the streets” and Voluntad Popular’s Leopoldo Lopez whose plan called “The Exit” sparked violent street protests by paid thugs from February to June 2014 costing 43 lives, we can see that unconstitutional political means to gain power are at play here.
Added to these actions by the ultra right wing are assassinations of body guards of revolutionary leaders that are simulated as a robbery or violent street crime, then the right wing media plays its part by putting it all down to “insecurity” caused by an inept government.
The links established between fascist leaders in Venezuela such as Leopoldo Lopez and ex-Metropolitan Mayor Antonio Ledezma with ex-Colombian President and enemy of Bolivarianism, Alvaro Uribe, since 2009 have resulted in political, economic and media support for the paramilitary gangs that have been infiltrating Venezuela since about 2005. These gangs expanded into the country from the western Colombo-Venezuelan border and reached the center of the country, including Caracas, in a few short years.
Political and legal support was lent by right wing parties such as Voluntas Popular and Alianza Bravo Pueblo. Economic support came from drug trafficking, contraband and a small sector of business; and finally support by electronic media that are financed from abroad such as La Patilla, NTN24 (both financed from Colombia) and Sumarium owned by the Vecchio-Lopez families. (Carlos Vecchio is now exiled in the US and Leopoldo Lopez is serving 14 years in jail). There were also other minor support groups from other political parties of the right such as UNT, Accion Democratica and Primero Justicia.
With the paramilitaries in place, there were various objectives: the political demobilization and demoralization of militant Chavistas in the popular areas (barrios); and take out of circulation valuable revolutionary cadres either by making them disappear or eliminating them physically. The right wing media would then step in and report on these events with the purpose of destroying the memory and reputation of the murdered comrades.
The aim of practicing this kind of politics is to create indignation, fear and anger in the population that lives in the shadow of such insecurity. For this reason each brutal homicide is dealt with immediately and sensationally by the opposition media. The idea is to have some sensational aspect of any given case covered on a daily basis to maintain the fear factor.
Let us not forget that since 2013 the whole population has been subject to the effects of a fourth generation war – a combination of selective assassinations as described above and an economic war making life increasingly difficult. Foods were hoarded, hidden or smuggled to Colombia creating shortages of basic goods and the resulting huge lines as people stood to buy food.
This, the fear factor plus frustration at not being able to buy basic subsidized goods plus induced galloping inflation, was all blamed on an inept President and his ministerial team, day-in day-out, by the local and international media who all combined to encourage voters to either abstain or switch to supporting the opposition. The latter had promised to “make the lines vanish” if they won control of the National Assembly on December 6 last year. They did win but the lines got worse … and according to the media this is still the fault of the government even though 86% of food distribution is in the hands of the private sector.
Of course, the “make the lines vanish” electoral promise was conveniently never mentioned again by the private media.
To achieve the goal of sensationalizing homicides and sowing fear and discord in the population, the opposition media has a team of “info-mercenaries” who in many cases have contacts with corrupt ranks of the security forces and therefore have access to the gory details before any investigation has even started. Such “inside” or “advance” information is illegal under Venezuelan law. There are also journalists that act in concert with the armed gangs especially in the case of “hits” against security personnel, as there is a higher economic incentive if the details are published in the media.
After the recent intervention of the police headquarters in the opposition-run municipality of Chacao in Caracas, it was discovered that this police force had been behind several high profile killings such as that of retired General Felix Velasquez and revolutionary journalist Ricardo Duran.
Obviously the Mayor of Chacao who is the Commander-in-Chief of this police force did not know anything about the activities in his own police headquarters. The opposition is never involved in these murders even though the police forces they control are never above suspicion. At present 4 policemen are awaiting trial for the assassination of General Velasquez and 14 more for the killing of Duran.
On repeated occasions President Maduro has stated that these assassinations “form part of a non-conventional war that is being waged against the country – and not just now but for many years. Criminal violence emerges when the right wing does not achieve its objectives”.
There follows a list of the revolutionaries and public servants murdered in contract killings due to the politics of violence of the ultra right wing:
In addition to these politically motivated and contract killings by paramilitaries, police and paid thugs in the streets, there are at least 15 professional bodyguards of high-level Chavistas who have been assassinated from 2013–2016.
All the cases mentioned have proven to be contract killings and have been resolved or are under investigation.
It is worth highlighting the fact that no international human rights organization or any NGO affiliated to the US or Spain – countries that are supposedly democratic and believe in the freedom of expression – have taken any interest or made declarations condemning the persecution and assassination of Chavistas. All they have done is attack the government of President Maduro insinuating that it is he who is violating human rights!
Thus, we have a twisted situation where cases of murdered Chavistas are glossed over and no mention of the violation of their human rights is ever made. And on the other hand, the darling of the international right wing, Leopoldo Lopez, is allegedly having his human rights violated because his iPod was removed from his jail cell.
This is the late Eduardo Galeano’s “Upside Down World!”
© Copyright 2016 by AxisofLogic.com
Latvian border guards have detained Ella Taranova, a chief producer for Russia’s Rossiya Segodnya international information agency, who arrived for the Baltic Forum in Riga. According to RIA Novosti, she was deported late Friday.
It appears Taranova had been blacklisted by the country’s authorities in August 2014 but was never informed about it.
Taranova, who has a valid Schengen visa, arrived in the country by plane on Friday morning, alongside other Russian journalists, and “had no problems when passing border control,” she said.
However, several hours after she checked in to a hotel, she was summoned to the registration desk where two Latvian border guards told her she was on a blacklist and must leave the country, TASS reports.
“It seems from 5 August 2014, I have been on a security services list of undesirable people,” Taranova told RIA Novosti. “I knew nothing about this, only that I had been invited to a conference of the Baltic Forum.”
“I was asked several times with suspicion whether I knew I was on the list, before being told that in theory, I should know,” she added. “It was explained to me that the people on this list pose a threat and security risk to the Republic of Latvia. This is disgusting. I was not and am not involved in any political activity.”
The director of the Baltic Forum, Aleksandr Vasilyev, said Taranova is at a border guards station in Jurmala and will be put on a plane to Moscow later on Friday. He added that a Russian Embassy member of staff and a forum representative are with her.
The Baltic Forum is an annual conference held since 1998. It is due to be held on Saturday in Jurmala. Participants will discuss the nature of the Russia-EU relationship and will include diplomats, experts and politicians from EU countries, Russia, Ukraine, China and the US. Taranova has a long-term partnership with the Forum and had attended several times prior to 2014.
RT’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, expressed her dismay.
“It is an outrage,” she wrote on Twitter.
The Russian Foreign Ministry condemned the incident, saying the incident contradicts Latvia’s international obligations regarding freedom of speech.
“This regrettable event completely fit into the fabric of the anti-Russian actions aimed at suppressing dissent and restricting freedom of expression, of the Latvian alternative media,” an official statement read. “The existence of blacklists, the criterion for inclusion in it, which is being a professional journalist, is unacceptable in a democratic state, and contrary to all international commitments to ensure freedom of speech.”
Meanwhile the Russian State Duma is going to demand an official explanation for Latvia’s actions from the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the Russian Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters. This is just the latest in a series of attempts to “put pressure on the Russian media, which has become the ‘new normal’ of European policy,” he said, as quoted by RIA Novosti.
Latvian MP Janis Urbanovics, who belongs to the center-left Harmony party, has warned that expelling Taranova is not good for Latvia’s image. “I don’t know why it happened that a person with a Schengen visa could arrive in any other country of the European Union, but turned out to be unwelcome in Latvia,” Urbanovics said, RIA Novosti reported.
Academic freedom? Thought police come for Prof. Anthony Hall, suspended under Zionist lobby pressure
Investigative reports: Live interview with native American history Professor Anthony Hall who’s been suspended without pay from Lethbridge University in Alberta, Canada targeted by the Israel lobby because somebody shared an anti-Jewish post to his Facebook page.
Professor Anthony Hall from a recent talk: Is War Really A Remedy For Terror? We are lied to by media – 9/11; Native American genocide. Anthony Hall discusses his suspension from University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada – for linking 9/11 attacks to Israelis and Neo-Cons – and the smear done by ‘Canary Mission’ – his outlets – False Flag Weekly News – American Herald Tribune
Andrea Amelinckx, president of the University of Lethbridge Faculty Association, said the school’s suspension without pay of Anthony Hall, a tenured professor, may have been premature.
“The president’s [Michael Mahon] action violates provincial law and contravenes the university’s contract with its faculty, which provides a process for investigating complaints, such as those alleged against professor Hall, in a fair, speedy, and thorough fashion,” Amelinckx said in a statement Tuesday.
University officials announced the following day the school was suspending Hall without pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation into possible violations of the Human Rights Act.
Amelinckx is calling for quick action on the part of the school.
“We call on the board of governors of the University of Lethbridge to ensure that the allegations that have been made against professor Hall are investigated with the speed and thoroughness they deserve using the legal and contractual procedures already in place in the Post-Secondary Learning Act and the contract with the faculty association,” she said.
The House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has just issued its report ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ in response to concerns about “an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities” and “an increase in far-right extremist activity”. It was also prompted by allegations of antisemitism in political parties and university campuses.
The following observations are based on the report’s Conclusions and Recommendations, which is as far as most people will read.
- Israel is an ally of the UK Government and is generally regarded as a liberal democracy.
Hardly. It is no friend of the British people. Nor is it remotely a Western-style liberal democracy. We share few if any values.
- Those claiming to be “anti-Zionist, not antisemitic”, should do so in the knowledge that 59% of British Jewish people consider themselves to be Zionists. If these individuals genuinely mean only to criticise the policies of the Government of Israel, and have no intention to offend British Jewish people, they should criticise “the Israeli Government”, and not “Zionists”. For the purposes of criminal or disciplinary investigations, use of the words ‘Zionist’ or ‘Zio’ in an accusatory or abusive context should be considered inflammatory and potentially antisemitic.
The Israeli regime’s inhuman policies are driven by Zionist doctrine. I doubt if justice-seekers are in the least swayed by how many Jews consider themselves Zionists. Or how many Christians do, for that matter.
- Universities UK should work with appropriate student groups to produce a resource for students, lecturers and student societies on how to deal sensitively with the Israel/Palestine conflict, and how to ensure that pro-Palestinian campaigns avoid drawing on antisemitic rhetoric.
For the sake of even handedness, who will ensure that pro-Israel campaigns avoid drawing on hasbara lies and false claims to Palestinian lands and resources?
- Jewish Labour MPs have been subject to appalling levels of abuse, including antisemitic death threats from individuals purporting to be supporters of Mr Corbyn. Clearly, the Labour Leader is not directly responsible for abuse committed in his name, but we believe that his lack of consistent leadership on this issue, and his reluctance to separate antisemitism from other forms of racism, has created what some have referred to as a ‘safe space’ for those with vile attitudes towards Jewish people.
The abusers, and others with vile attitudes, may well be provocateurs bent on making Corbyn look bad. In any case why should he or anyone else feel obliged to “separate” antisemitism from other forms of racism?
- The Chakrabarti Report is clearly lacking in many areas; particularly in its failure to differentiate explicitly between racism and antisemitism… [its recommendations] are further impaired by the fact that they are not accompanied by a clear definition of antisemitism, as we have recommended should be adopted by all political parties.
Who needs a special definition or actually cares about differentiating antisemitism from racism? They are two of the same stripe, and I suspect most of us regard them with equal distaste and have no reason to put one above the other. In short, we know racism when we see it and that’s enough.
- The Labour Party and all political parties should ensure that their training on racism and inclusivity features substantial sections on antisemitism. This must be formulated in consultation with Jewish community representatives, and must acknowledge the unique nature of antisemitism.
Unique? Racism is racism.
- The acts of governments abroad are no excuse for violence or abuse against people in the United Kingdom. We live in a democracy where people are free to criticise the British Government and foreign governments. But the actions of the Israeli Government provide no justification for abusing British Jews.
We tend to take a dim view of those who support states that terrorise others. Jews themselves have warned that Jews everywhere may suffer as a result of the Jewish State’s unacceptable behaviour. This is unfortunate as many Jews are fiercely critical of the regime’s misconduct and, to their great credit, actively campaign against it. By the way, how does the Select Committee suggest we treat those inside our Parliament who promote the interests of a foreign military power with an appalling human rights record?
- In an article for The Daily Telegraph in May, the Chief Rabbi criticised attempts by Labour members and activists to separate Zionism from Judaism as a faith, arguing that their claims are “fictional”. In evidence to us, he stressed that “Zionism has been an integral part of Judaism from the dawn of our faith”. He stated that “spelling out the right of the Jewish people to live within secure borders with self-determination in their own country, which they had been absent from for 2,000 years—that is what Zionism is”. His view was that “If you are an anti-Zionist, you are anti everything I have just mentioned”.
The Chief Rabbi is flatly contradicted by the Jewish Socialists’ Group which says:
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are not the same. Zionism is a political ideology which has always been contested within Jewish life since it emerged in 1897, and it is entirely legitimate for non-Jews as well as Jews to express opinions about it, whether positive or negative. Not all Jews are Zionists. Not all Zionists are Jews.
Criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism. Those who conflate criticism of Israeli policy with antisemitism, whether they are supporters or opponents of Israeli policy, are actually helping the antisemites. We reject any attempt, from whichever quarter, to place legitimate criticism of Israeli policy out of bounds.
On the Chief Rabbi’s other point, what right in law do the Jewish people have to return after 2000 years, forcibly displacing the Palestinians and denying them the same right? Besides, scholars tells us that most returning Jews have no ancestral links to the Holy Land whatsoever.
- CST and the JLC describe Zionism as “an ideological belief in the authenticity of Jewish peoplehood and that the Jewish people have the right to a state”. Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the JLC, told us that criticising Zionism is the same as antisemitism, because: “Zionism is so totally identified with how the Jew thinks of himself, and is so associated with the right of the Jewish people to have their own country and to have self-determination within that country, that if you attack Zionism, you attack the very fundamentals of how the Jews believe in themselves.”
The Select Committee is careful to say that “where criticism of the Israeli Government is concerned context is vital”. The Committee therefore need to understand that the so-called Jewish State is waging what amounts to a religious war against Christian and Muslim communities in the Holy Land. Ask anyone who has been on pilgrimage there. And read The Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism, a joint statement by the heads of Palestinian Christian churches. It says:
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation…..
In seeking to defend Zionism the Select Committee fails to put the opposing case – for example, that many non-Jews regard it as a repulsive concept at odds with their own belief. There is no reason to suppose that Zionist belief somehow trumps all others.
- Research published in 2015 by City University found that 90% of British Jewish people support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state and 93% say that it forms some part of their identity as Jews….
Did researchers ask British Muslims and Christians about the Palestinians’ right to their own state?
This research sounds like a swipe at people who are accused of ‘delegitimising’ Israel by questioning its right to exist. Actually Israel does a very good job of delegitimising itself. The new state’s admission to the UN in 1949 was conditional upon honouring the UN Charter and implementing UN General Assembly Resolutions 181 and 194. It failed to do so and repeatedly violates provisions and principles of the Charter to this day.
Israel cannot even bring itself to comply with the provisions of the EU-Israel Association Agreement of 1995 which makes clear that adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and “respect for human rights and democratic principle constitute an essential element of this agreement”.
In 2004 the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that construction of what’s often referred to as the Apartheid Wall breached international law and Israel must dismantle it and make reparation. The ICJ also ruled that “all States are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”. Israel nevertheless continues building its hideous Wall with American tax dollars, an act of hatred against the Palestinians and a middle-finger salute to international law.
Here at home powerful Friends of Israel groups are allowed to flourish in all three main parties in the UK. Their presence at the centre of government and in the fabric of our institutions is considered unacceptable by civil society campaign groups and a grave breach of the principles of public life. The backlash to growing criticism of Israel’s stranglehold on its neighbours and increasing influence on Western foreign policy is mounting intolerance, Hence the Inquisition, which lately has been directed against Labour’s new leader Jeremy Corbyn, an easy target for orchestrated smears given his well known sympathy with the Palestinians’ struggle and his links to some of Israel’s (not our) enemies.
The shortcomings of the Select Committee’s inquiry are obvious. Its report doesn’t properly consider the opposite view. It is half-baked. It is lopsided. It is written in whitewash.
Palestinian student leader and media activist Ibrahim Abu Safiya remains imprisoned after his detention was extended by Israeli occupation forces until 5 November 2016. Abu Safiya, the coordinator of the Islamic Association at Bir Zeit University, was arrested at Beit Ur checkpoint west of Ramallah on 28 September by occupation forces.
The Islamic Association at Bir Zeit issued a statement denouncing the arrest of their coordinator, saying that it “reflects the occupation’s arbitrary policy against Palestinian media, activists and organizers, and punitive actions to cover the crimes of the occupation and the settlers.”
Abu Safiya, 21, is a journalism student at Bir Zeit in his final year, an active member of many popular unions and associations who works with a number of media offices as a freelance journalist and researcher.
He is heavily involved in Bir Zeit student union activities, including the 28-day student strike against tuition increases on the campus, in which he engaged in a five-day hunger strike. Just days before his arrest, he spoke to the media about the success of the student campaign in preventing tuition hikes that make education inaccessible to Palestinian youth, and announcing the agreement to end the student strike. Abu Safiya had been one of the four student spokespeople and representatives during the anti-tuition-hike campaign.
Dozens of Palestinian journalists remain imprisoned by the Israeli occupation, including Omar Nazzal, member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate; Hasan Safadi, media coordinator for Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; and Ali Oweiwi, journalist held without charge or trial.
Abu Safiya’s arrest also points to the ongoing targeting of Palestinian student activists and organizers for involvement in student union activities, student protests and other student actions on campus.
Qpress, a media centre specialising in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa affairs, has been closed by Israeli authorities.
After being questioned and banned from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque last week, the head of the news organisation, Dr Hekmat Na’amna, was informed that Qpress was being shut down in accordance with a military decision issued early this month.
He was also informed that the use of the website has been banned, in addition to the use of the Facebook page. He was warned by the Israeli intelligence that any use of Qpress would result in prosecution.
These orders issued by the Israeli military and security forces indicate that the Qpress agency has been banned and completely shut down.
Commenting on this decision, Mahmoud Abu Ata, a journalist specialising in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and holy site affairs and a former employee of Qpress said that “this closure aims to silence the voice of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem and the holy sites and to censor true facts and the true situation on the ground in occupied Jerusalem.”
“The occupation wants to cover up its crimes and plans against Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa and the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem as well as across Palestine. Qpress has always exposed such crimes as part of its media duty in a professional and transparent manner. However, it seems that such objectivity and honourable professionalism that portrayed the events, pictures and videos exactly as they occurred did not please the Israeli administration.”
Human rights groups warned the United Nations this week that a new British law allowing police to see journalists’ communications could threaten sensitive sources and the freedom of expression.
The English Pen writers association and the freedom of speech group Article 19 told the UN Human Rights Council that the Investigatory Powers Bill would jeopardize journalistic sources, particularly whistleblowers.
The Bill, which has been dubbed the “snooper’s charter” by critics, would allow British intelligence agencies and police to intercept communications between anyone in the country, including mobile phone conversations and internet records such as websites visited.
The Investigatory Powers Bill “remains vague and lacks adequate protections for freedom of expression and privacy, and if enacted will introduce broad powers that threaten to undermine these rights,” a joint letter by the organizations to the UN said.
“There is no upper limit on the number of people whose private communications may be intercepted or whose data may be collected and retained.
“In many instances, anonymity is the precondition upon which information is conveyed by a source to a journalist (or human rights organization). This may be motivated by fear of repercussions which might adversely affect their physical safety or job security. When sources cannot be sure of protection, the public loses its right to know critical information.”
The letter branded such interference with journalists’ private communications “inherently disproportionate.”
Almost 4,000 people have signed a petition launched by the industry magazine Press Gazette demanding UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd guarantee more serious protections for journalists and their sources in the Bill. The call was also supported by several British media groups, the National Union of Journalists and the News Media Association
The Bill is currently at its report stage in the House of Lords, but the English Pen and Article 19 believe it should go back for “fundamental reconsideration” by its authors.
It emerged on Monday that the new shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti, who just a few months ago said the Bill needed redrafting, is now planning to abstain on the vote in the Lords.
The opposition Labour Party will not be tabling amendments and is not expected to vote against the new powers.
This comes in light of the continued attack on the Palestine Network for Dialogue, an online discussion board, in what is being seen as an attempt to “besiege all Palestinian content on the network”.
Facebook continues to block Palestine Network for Dialogue’s page, in spite of it releasing an apology to say the action was taken by “mistake”.
The Palestine Information Centre had 2.2 million Facebook followers and published daily news on Palestinian, Arab and international issues in addition to health, sports and culture.
Facebook also deleted the account of Arab48 which had hundreds of thousands of followers. The website specialises in publishing stories about the plight of Palestinians both in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in addition to Arab Israelis living in Israel.
Palestinian associations in 1948 Palestine were closed by Israeli police and Shin Bet agents on Thursday, 6 October in a series of raids in Nazareth and Umm al-Fahm. The associations allegedly are linked to the northern Islamic movement, the Palestinian religious and political organization banned nearly a year ago by Israeli officials. The leader of the Islamic Movement is Raed Salah, currently imprisoned and well-known for his advocacy in defense of Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as his participation in the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
Palestinian organizations across political lines condemned both the banning of the Islamic Movement and the raids on the community organizations and media institutions. The four Palestinian entities forcibly shuttered on Thursday were the Higher Commission to Support Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, Q Press in Umm al-Fahm, the Midad Psychometry Institute and Al-Medina newspaper.
The Higher Arab Follow-Up Committee labeled the attacks “a new sign of a systematic scheme to suppress the rights of the Arab community, a repression that applies to all walks of life… We renew our rejection of the decision to ban the activities of the Islamic Movement, and at the same time warn of the danger of the use of the Islamic Movement’s activities as a new pretext to suppress even more freedoms and silence the voice of the Arab people, who are fighting against the Israeli racist policies targeting our presence on our ancestral land.”
The Al-Alam media association denounced the closures and raids on Al-Medina, Q Press and other institutions and the confiscation of their computers, linking the raids to an ongoing escalation against Palestinian organizing in 1948 Palestine, among Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, in particular the campaign of arrests and harassment targeting the National Democratic Assembly (Tajammu’/Balad party).
The Freedoms Commission of the Higher Follow-Up Committee said that “these three institutions, added to the 23 already prohibited, are independent institutions that provide a variety of services for our people… How can an institution like the Midad Psychometry Institute to qualify students for exams, which tutors thousands of secondary school students, contribute to conflicts over Al-Aqsa Mosque? How can the fact that 69 students of the Midad Institute were admitted this year to study medicine in Israeli universities be a cause of conflict over the Al-Aqsa Mosque?” The statement noted the ongoing attacks on the National Democratic Assembly and the investigations targeting Haneen Zoabi and Jamal Zahalka, as well as the 104th demolition of the village of Al-Araqib and the displacement of its people on the same morning of 6 October as reflections of one policy. “This government has declared outright war on the Palestinian people inside, taking advantages of the wars in the region to implement its plans against our people in our homeland, and the Palestinian people in general,” said the statement.
The suppression of Palestinian political activity among the Palestinians of ’48 (who hold Israeli citizenship, and constitute 20% of the population of the Israeli state) is nothing new; in the first 20 years of occupation, from 1948 to 1966, Palestinian citizens lived under martial law which in many ways served as the precursor to the present-day scheme in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Since that time, the banning and violent suppression of Palestinian political activities, as well as the targeting of Palestinian political leaders for arrest and imprisonment, has not ceased. From the Al-Ard movement prohibited in the 1950s, to the Land Day protests against land confiscation met by Israeli fire, to the killing of Palestinians at the launch of the second Intifada – not to mention the imprisonment of prominent Palestinians like Salah, Said Naffaa, Ameer Makhoul and others, and the targeting of cultural workers like Dareen Tatour, the Israeli state has been firmly committed to the suppression of Palestinian existence and political organizing in 1948 Palestine. These acts of political repression accompany ongoing land confiscation, racism and discrimination, defunding of communities and institutions and over 50 racist laws targeting Palestinian existence on their land.
Argentina Not Only Wants To Bring In E-Voting, It Will Make It Illegal To Check The System For Electoral Fraud
Earlier this year, we wrote about Australia’s refusal to allow researchers to check e-voting software being used in that country. The situation in Argentina seems to be even worse. Access Now provides the background (original in Spanish):
The ruling party in Argentina is driving the adoption of an electronic voting system for national elections. Despite stern warnings from computer security experts about the dangers of the system, the ruling party is persisting with the project and plans to put it to a vote in Congress in the coming weeks.
Techdirt readers hardly need to be reminded about the deeply-flawed nature of e-voting systems, but there’s a useful article on Medium (in Spanish) with plenty of links to hispanophone experts from widely-different backgrounds warning against the move.Imposing an e-voting system may be foolish, but Argentina’s plans manage to magnify that folly many times over. A blog post in Spanish by Javier Smaldone explains why:
The proposal provides for imprisonment (1 to 6 years) for conducting activities that are essential in any audit or independent review of the system.
Thus, it is intended to impose the use of computer system in the casting and counting of votes, and as if it were not already extremely difficult for any citizen to be sure how it works (and it is safe), anyone who tries to find out is punished with imprisonment.
It’s one thing to bring in an e-voting system that most experts say is a bad idea in theory. But making it effectively illegal to point out flaws that exist in practice is really asking for trouble. Unless this proposed law is changed to allow independent scrutiny of the systems, Argentina will probably find this out the hard way.
Since the Snowden disclosures, it has been clear that the NSA conducts unconstitutional, dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international communications. However, it now appears that the NSA is using surveillance authorities to conduct an entirely new type of surveillance: requiring major companies to conduct mass e-mail wiretaps, which involve searching the content of all incoming traffic.
Last year, Yahoo, in response to a classified government order, scanned hundreds of millions of mail accounts for a “set of characters” or digital “signature” of a communications method purportedly used by a state-sponsored terrorist organization. The search was apparently performed on all messages as they arrived at Yahoo’s servers. All of this was done without input from Yahoo’s security team, potentially placing users’ security at risk and ultimately prompting the resignation of the company’s chief security information officer.
It appears that a secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), approved the surveillance—or at least approved the general procedures the government used to identify its targets. There are conflicting reports on what authority the government relied on.
Unfortunately, the news stories and Yahoo’s cryptic response leave more questions than answers. Yahoo’s ability to disclose information about this classified government program may be limited. But the Obama Administration owes the public far more information about this spying program, especially if it is going to fulfill its promise of increased transparency. As a start, the Obama Administration and other major tech companies should publicly answer the following questions:
1. What authority did the government rely on in compelling Yahoo to search its customers’ emails?
The million-dollar question – which remains unanswered – is what legal authority the government relied on for its demand to Yahoo. Initial reports suggested that the government may have relied on Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a highly controversial provision enacted as an amendment to FISA in 2008. More recently, however, news reports have stated that the government obtained what is known as a “traditional” FISA order under Title I of the statute. In either scenario, the surveillance would reflect a dramatic shift in the public understanding of how these authorities are used. Title I authorizes the government to search the communications of a particular person or entity. But, if news reports are accurate, it would mean that the government is now using this law to require that companies scan the content of all users’ incoming emails.
2. What is the program’s legal justification and has it been reviewed?
Whether government is relying on Section 702 or Title I, it seems to have strayed far from the original congressional intent. What is the government’s legal justification for this type of surveillance? And, if the surveillance was authorized by the FISC, was the court aware that its order required Yahoo to search the emails of hundreds of millions of innocent users?
In the past, the government and FISC have engaged in legal gymnastics to justify mass surveillance. The public and Congress have the right to know if this is happening yet again. The Obama Administration should release all legal memoranda it relied on in conducting the Yahoo surveillance, and it should disclose any relevant FISC opinions regarding the surveillance. If no such FISC opinions exist then the public deserves to know, as that itself is cause for concern.3. What types of content searches does the government believe it has the authority to conduct under Title I and Section 702, and are past statements about these authorities still accurate?
Intelligence officials have argued that surveillance programs conducted on U.S. soil are narrowly targeted because the government searches only for specific communication identifiers (like an email address) and not for keywords (like “bomb”). But the Yahoo story suggests that even this limitation may be falling to the wayside. If Yahoo conducted a broad search of its users’ incoming email for a “set of characters” or digital “signature,” that information may have been found in the content of communications. In other words, individuals may have been targeted not based on any preexisting suspicion about who they are or who they communicate with, but based solely on what they were communicating. Moreover, it is unclear whether this “signature” was used only by the target organization, or also by other wholly unaffiliated individuals. If the intelligence community is now engaging in this type of content-based surveillance, then the Obama Administration has a responsibility to set the record straight.
4. If the government relied on Section 702, did Yahoo attempt to filter out purely domestic communications?
Section 702 does not authorize the government to collect or search purely domestic communications. However, the stories contain no details about whether Yahoo made efforts to filter out purely domestic communications, and if so, how successful those efforts were. If such efforts were not made and the surveillance occurred under Section 702, then the Obama Administration should immediately disclose the number of purely domestic communications that were collected and searched under the order so that the public can fully assess the privacy implications.
5. If the government relied on Section 702, did the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (PCLOB) know about this type of surveillance when they conducted their examination?
In 2014, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board issued a report on Section 702. While we disagreed with many of the report’s conclusions, there is no doubt that the PCLOB declassified important information about Section 702 to facilitate a more robust debate. However, the PCLOB’s public report makes no mention of the types of demands that were purportedly received by Yahoo. If the PCLOB was unaware that this surveillance was occurring under Section 702, why were they not informed? If they knew, why was this information withheld from the public? Either way, this further calls into question the conclusions in the PCLOB report and the adequacy of existing oversight mechanisms.
6. How are other major companies interpreting their obligations under Section 702 and Title I?
Major companies like Google have issued statements saying they have never received the types of demands described in the Yahoo stories and reaffirming that they would challenge such a demand. While we applaud these companies for their statements, more information is needed to fully understand how the government is using its surveillance authorities. Specifically, we urge major technology companies to make publicly available information on how they interpret Section 702 and Title I, and to describe the types of demands that they believe clearly fall outside the statutes’ purview. In this way, companies can help to fill the information abyss left by the Yahoo story and the intelligence community’s lack of transparency.