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‘Censorship’: UK freezes bank account of Russian news agency, gives no reason

RT | July 13, 2015

Barclay’s bank froze a Rossiya Segodnya news agency account without explaining its reasons. The news first came to light on Monday. The agency’s head Dmitry Kiselyov has called it “censorship.”

“To close the account of one of the world’s leading news agencies is censorship, the direct obstruction of journalists’ work,” Dmitry Kiselyov said. “What kind of press freedom and democracy can Britain claim to have if it prevents one of the world’s largest news agencies from working in the country?”

No formal notification of the move or justification for it was immediately provided. A source in the banking sector told the agency the Exchequer has put Dmitry Kiselyov on an anti-Russian sanctions list, which could have led to the news agency’s account being frozen.

Kiselyov is one of the people subjected to financial and travel sanctions in the EU. These restrictions have been imposed on a number of Russian officials in connection with Moscow’s stance over Ukraine crisis.

The sanctions list, which includes the head of Rossiya Segodnya news agency, was published on March 21. It characterizes Kiselyov as “central figure of the government propaganda supporting the deployment of Russian forces in Ukraine.”

July 13, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

EU drafts plan to counter Russian media ‘disinformation’, targeting RT

RT | June 24, 2015

The EU has drafted a plan to counter what it sees as “Russian disinformation activities” calling for the promotion of EU policies in the post-Soviet space and the implementation of measures against Russian media, including RT.

The nine-page paper drafted by the EU Foreign Service and obtained by EUobserver was prepared ahead of the June 25-26 summit and is set to be voted on by EU leaders on Thursday.

The plan is aimed at tackling Russia’s “use and misuse of communication tools” and the “promotion of EU policies” in former Soviet states as well as support for “independent media” and “increased public awareness of disinformation activities by external actors,” the report says.

It specifically mentions RT, which according to the report broadcasts “fabrications and hate speech from their bureaus in EU cities.”

“The EU … will work to improve co-operation between national regulators, including through meetings of the European Regulators Group”, it adds.

The European Commission also plans to “table a new legislative proposal to improve the regulatory environment and take account of current challenges,” according to the draft.

The plan says that the EU Foreign Service will create a special cell to spearhead the activities called East StratComTeam by September. It will distribute information in Russian and in local languages in the EU’s eastern neighborhood, in countries such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry lashed out at the EU over the report, saying that the proposed plan is violating the right to freedom of expression and creating conditions of total discrimination against Russian media.

The draft plan presented on Tuesday is “clearly aimed at pushing out Russia’s presence in the international media field,” the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. “Following the introduction of restrictive measures against Russian journalists the EU is trying to create conditions for the total discrimination of Russian media.”

While the Western media is speaking in one voice, the EU is trying to push out one of the few alternative sources of information, said RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan.

“The EU is actively trying to shut out RT, to stifle a rare alternative voice in international news media,” she said.

“It’s not enough that there are hundreds of Western newspapers, TV channels, websites and radio stations, all beaming the same take on what is going on in the world. The UK has created a 1,500-strong army unit to, among other things, fight Russia in the social media space. NATO has a special taskforce dedicated to countering Russia’s influence. Deutsche Welle just launched a 24-hour English-language news channel that’s supposed to compete directly with RT – despite the global presence of Euronews, BBC World News and CNN International.”

“If despite all these efforts the EU is still concerned with “losing the information war” to Russia, perhaps the time has come for it to realize that people around the world simply no longer believe their same tired, one-sided narratives of current events,” said Simonyan.

The EU project was previously discussed in March, however no details were revealed at the time. The EU announced its plans following US Secretary of State John Kerry’s plea to lawmakers for more money to tackle the so-called Russian propaganda in February.

Speaking before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on February 26, he urged for the setting up of “democracy promotion” programs around the world.

“Russia Today (sic) can be heard in English, do we have an equivalent that can be heard in Russian? It’s a pretty expensive proposition. They are spending huge amounts of money,” Kerry said apparently forgetting that Voice of America has been broadcasting in Russian since 1947.

Though the US government media receives $721 million a year, in the budget proposal submitted by Kerry, the Department of State asked for “$639 million to help our friends in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as they seek to strengthen their democracies, withstand pressure from Russia, and to integrate more closely into Europe.”

By contrast RT’s budget for 2015 is about $225 million. The BBC World Service, which complained about RT “winning the information war” in January, is funded to the tune of $375 million a year.

June 24, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

BBC admits Israeli defense minister interview breached impartiality rules

RT | June 3, 2015

The BBC has acknowledged that its presenter Sarah Montague did not adequately challenge controversial comments made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon about Palestine on the broadcaster’s flagship Radio 4 “Today” program.

Head of Editorial Complaints Fraser Steel wrote to complainants admitting that, while there were some mitigating reasons, the interview with Ya’alon fell below the standards of impartiality required of the BBC.

“Mr Ya’alon was allowed to make several controversial statements on those matters without any meaningful challenge and the program makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.”

In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC has reached a provisional finding that the complaints should be upheld and will be taking comments from the complainants into account before finalizing the outcome.”

The interview, which took place on March 19, saw the minister make a number of contestable claims which political groups say went unchallenged.

These include Ya’alon’s claim that Palestinians “enjoy already political independence. They have their own political system, government, parliament, municipalities and so forth. And we are happy with it. We don’t want to govern them whatsoever.”

On its website, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said Montague failed to raise a number of obvious counterpoints, including the point that “Palestinians don’t have political independence. They live under occupation and, in Gaza, under siege.”

The PSC also said: “In the West Bank, Israel arrests and detains Palestinian MPs, often without charge or trial. West Bank Palestinians’ taxes are collected by Israel and then handed to the Palestinian Authority.

“Israel regularly withholds the tax revenue from the PA when it goes against its wishes.”

One of the most prominent complaints came from filmmaker and activist Ken Loach. His letter, sent via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, read: “You understand, I’m sure, that this interview is a serious breach of the requirement for impartiality. Unlike all other Today interviews, the minister was allowed to speak without challenge. Why?”

“You and your interviewer have seriously betrayed your obligation to report impartially and to challenge assertions that are unsustainable.”

In March, BBC Director-General Lord Hall said reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict was “tough,” but insisted the corporation aimed to be balanced in its coverage.

Hall added that the broadcaster was committed to its coverage of the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine.

Speaking before a 200-person audience at ORT UK’s business breakfast on Tuesday, the BBC boss said: “It is hard … tough. We do aim to give as impartial coverage as [best] we can across the period.”

“I do not want you to doubt for one second our commitment to the coverage of Israel and Palestine – but also the wider Middle East,” he said.

An independent review of the BBC’s Israel-Palestine coverage published in 2006 found the corporation offered an “incomplete” and “misleading” picture of the conflict.

Chaired by Sir Quentin Thomas, the report said the BBC failed to “convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation.”

June 3, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Another ‘Russian submarine’ excites Western media

By Danielle Ryan | RT | April 24, 2015

Once again Western media has rushed to judgment over a “Russian submarine”, this time in an incident off the coast of Ireland. But maybe they should have done their homework on this one. Britain and the US have worse track records in the Irish Sea.

Last week, while out and about in the waters of the Irish Sea a few miles off County Down, a fishing trawler “almost sank” when it was hit, presumably by a submarine.

The vessel, named the Karen, was hit and then “pulled backwards very violently.”

Skipper Paul Murphy told Down News that the boat had been travelling at just a couple of knots and then all of a sudden he was nearly knocked off his feet. “The crew were just in shock after this incident. It really was a close call,” he said.

Shaken from the day, and no doubt influenced by the deluge of Russian-subs-and-jets-are-coming-to-get-you propaganda in British newspapers, Murphy immediately hypothesized to the journalist that it could have been a Russian submarine. No wonder Stockholm couldn’t find it.

After I read the story, I posted the link to Facebook and then promptly forgot about it. It was only by chance, while reading an article in the Guardian about Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent program and the “unpredictable Putin” that I happened upon another mention of it.

It seems the Russian sub theory has spread beyond the Down News to the Guardian, the BBC and beyond. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a theory entirely without merit. It very well could have been a Russian submarine.

Dick James from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation (NIFPO) told the BBC, that the mystery sub may have been observing NATO marine exercises off the coast of Scotland.

Security analyst Tom Ripley, who writes for Jane’s Defence magazine, agreed. He told BBC Radio Ulster that the Russians “are famous for liking to watch these things [NATO exercises] and it is a strong possibility that they have sent one of their submarines to watch this activity.”

James added that, had it been a British submarine, Royal Navy protocols would have required it to “immediately surface to check on the health and welfare of the people involved,” and this submarine did not do that.

Subsequently, the initial media coverage of the incident seems to have been peppered with the assumption that while the Brits would never be so rude as to not surface and say hello, the horrible Russians wouldn’t feel bound by such niceties. It’s this fact alone — that the sub never surfaced to check the damage — that seems to have immediately convinced the entire British and Irish media that it could not have been a British vessel.

But let’s skip back for a moment, to April 18, 1982.

On that otherwise calm day at sea, a British submarine dragged the Sharelga, an Irish fishing boat for two miles before it eventually sunk and all five crew members were forced to jump overboard. They were, luckily, rescued by crew members of nearby boats.

The British sub did not surface and the British government denied any involvement in or knowledge of what had happened to the Sharelga. Only weeks later did they finally admit that in fact the Irish boat’s fishing net had been caught by the British submarine HMS Porpoise, which itself had been trying to spot Soviet submarines in the Irish Sea.

Four years later, the crew members finally received compensation, although according to the skipper Raymond McEvoy, it “didn’t even match half” of what he paid for the boat.

It took so long, likely in part because the Irish government didn’t want to, shall we say, rock the boat by getting too involved in a diplomatic entanglement with Britain. A document released decades later revealed that the Government was not interested in acting as “a party to the dispute” between the men and the British government.

The sinking of the Sharelga happened during a period of the Cold War that saw the Irish Sea earn the nickname ‘Submarine Highway’, so frequent was sub activity in Irish waters.

Seven years after the Sharelga sank, a Belgian trawler, the Tijl Uilenspiegel, sank approximately 25 miles south-east of the Isle of Man, presumably also by a submarine.

The incident prompted a discussion about submarine activity in the Irish Parliament in March 1989. Hugh Byrne, a member of parliament at the time, used his speaking time to deliver a chronological list of incidents to highlight the dangers to both fishermen and those on recreational vessels.

Here are some of the incidents he listed:

● In 1983, a yacht was struck and sunk by a submarine believed to be the British HMS Opossum, off County Wexford

● In 1984, a fishing vessel, the Algrie, became entangled with the HMS Spartan off the Cornwall coast

● In 1984, a US submarine surfaced in the middle of a fishing fleet near Kilmore Quay, prompting fishermen to flee in fear of their lives

● In 1984, Scottish fishing vessel the Mhari L disappeared with no distress call. A damaged British submarine entered Faslane base 24 hours later, but the Ministry of Defence denied involvement

● In 1987, the Summer Morn was towed for hours by a US submarine

● In 1988, the HMS Oberon collided with a yacht named the Drum

● In 1988, the Dalriada was sunk by the HMS Conqueror off Northern Ireland

● In 1989, a fishing trawler was struck by the USS Will Rogers.

Those are just a handful of incidents involving the damaging, sinking or disappearance of Irish and British boats in the waters surrounding the British Isles. Notably, none of the examples Byrne gave referred specifically to Russian submarines.

Occasionally the tragedies were blamed on “freak” waves, as in the case of the Boy Shaun off County Donegal and the Inspire off the Welsh coast, both of which were sunk while submarines were known to be operating nearby.

Overall, 50 fishermen lost their lives over nine years as a result of war games being played out in the Irish Sea. It’s important to note that the national identities of the subs were not confirmed irrefutably in every case, but a search through Irish government debate archives seems to suggest that Britain was regarded as a major, if not the major culprit. It’s not a particularly unusual assumption either, given that Britain (and its bases) is quite considerably nearer to Ireland than Russia, last time I checked.

During his comments, Byrne said that despite pleading with the British government, they continued to “ignore the loss of life and to respond with a ‘how dare you ask questions?’ attitude”.

“The attitude of the British Government, who contribute most to this devastation, baffles me because of their arrogance towards their people, particularly towards their fishermen,” he said.

Later in the same year, after a sonar buoy towed by a British submarine became entangled in the nets of a fishing vessel in the Irish Sea, the issue was raised in government again.

Member of the government at the time Peter Barry said that “as long as the NATO base [Holy Loch] remains located in Scotland,” and as long as NATO submarines were being shadowed by submarines from other superpowers, the danger would remain.

None of this information is readily available to your average consumer of news today, unless they go searching through old archives, which most people are not wont to do — and so it’s easy for the likes of the BBC, Sky News and the Guardian to bang out article after article about ‘Russian submarines’ with little to no historical context, let alone evidence to back up their assertions.

None of the reports on the latest incident with the Karen off the coast of Down last week made reference to the relevant history of dangerous British sub activity in the Irish Sea. Either the journalists didn’t do their homework or they felt that the frankly questionable British and American track records in the Irish Sea were not worth mentioning. It’s not that they needed to deliver an entire history of events in the interest of balance, but even a line or two would have been enough.

The argument by some against the relevance of this history will be that the 1980s were a different time and that surely if a British submarine inadvertently dragged a fishing boat today, they would immediately surface to check on the crew. It could also be argued however, that unfortunately today isn’t really as different from 1982 as we’d perhaps like to believe when it comes to NATO vs. Russia war games.

Despite a perhaps misplaced presumption of British courteousness, there are still plenty of reasons to assume a British sub would stay hidden after such an incident today, chief among them the fact that it just wouldn’t look good to admit such a mistake — particularly at a time when Russian military irresponsibility and “aggression” is the accepted bogeyman of the day.

Having to admit to almost capsizing a fishing boat in the Irish Sea would not look great given the current British government’s tendency to fear-monger over Russian jets and subs at any given opportunity and to use routine military maneuvers as a NATO rallying cry.

When I asked Dick James of NIFPO about the drop-off in incidents after 1990, he said it was likely due to the protocols being in place and of course the closure of the Holy Loch base after the collapse of the Soviet Union, which reduced submarine activity.

As for the identity of the sub that hit the Karen last week, when I asked if the media had been quick to judge, he accepted that it “could be NATO or not” adding that the British Ministry of Defence was being “reticent”. The Royal Navy later issued a statement claiming it was not one of their own.

But the question is: If Britain refused to acknowledge the mistakes of their submarines during periods of heightened tensions before, why would today be any different?

None of this is to assign blame or to claim that it wasn’t a Russian sub which dragged the Karen and shook her crew members last week. It very well could have been — but that theory is no more or less likely than the theory that says it was a British one.

Follow Danielle Ryan on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

April 24, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal details of murdered journalist & ex-MP found posted on Ukrainian ‘enemies of state’ database

RT | April 17, 2015

Flowers at Ukraine's Embassy in Moscow after the murder of journalist Oles Buzina in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)

Flowers at Ukraine’s Embassy in Moscow after the murder of journalist Oles Buzina in Kiev. (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)

The journalist and ex-MP who were gunned down in Kiev this week were on an ‘enemies of the state’ database – a social media website supported by the aide to Ukraine’s interior minister. The bloggers also have a Twitter account to share ‘successes.’

The volunteer-made website calling itself ‘Mirotvorec’ (Peacekeeper), posts very thorough and comprehensive information on anyone who happens to make the list – journalists, activists, MPs opposing the current Kiev authorities’ policies and rebels fighting against the government in the east. The posts include their addresses, social media account links, a substantial biography and any mentions in the Ukrainian press. There is also labeling involved e.g. “terrorist; supporter of federalization” and other tags.

The website indicates that politician Oleg Kalashnikov’s and journalist Oles Buzina’s details were published on the site no more than 48 hours before both were found dead.

The website has its own social media account, which frequently tweets cryptic messages of “successful missions.”

The website enjoys the support of at least one high-profile Ukrainian official: Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister and a member of the Ukrainian parliament. In one of his Facebook posts, he advised people to post updates to the website.

Praising the work of the website for helping him shoulder the heavy load of information on “terrorists” and “separatists,” Gerashchenko attacks the view that sharing extensive personal information is a breach of privacy.

“Not at all!” he says, citing Article 17 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which states, according to him, that “the defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, ensuring its economic and information security is one of the external functions of the state, and is the business of all the people of Ukraine… Everyone who reports a name to the website, or another [resource] is doing the right thing,” Gerashchenko writes.

Below is a video ofUkrainian Interior Minister ArsenAvakov physically assaulting Kalashnikov during a TV show.

The radical Ukraine Insurgent Army (UPA) organization claimed responsibility for Kalashnikov’s and Buzina’s murder. The statement was made in a letter to Ukrainian political analyst Vladimir Fesenko, who says he received it. The letter is presently being investigated by the Ukrainian police.

This week alone has seen at least four killings of opposition figures in Ukraine. It all started on April 13 with the slaying of journalist Sergey Sukhobok – followed by Kalashnikov two days later and Buzina, the day after that – on the 16th.

The latest murder happened last night when another journalist Olga Moroz – the editor-in-chief of the Neteshinskiy Vestnik, a Ukrainian paper. Moroz was found dead in her home, RBK Ukraine reported.

Her body showed signs of a violent death. Some possessions were missing from the apartment, according to police. Although her work is listed among the causes investigated, the police say there are no allegations relating to any complaints of pressure or threats of violence reported by the journalist.

Buzina’s murder has led to strong condemnation from the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic.

“This appalling act is yet another reminder about the dangers associated with journalism as a profession. This killing must be immediately and fully investigated by the competent authorities… My sincere condolences go out to Buzina’s family and colleagues.”

“I reiterate my call on the authorities to allocate all necessary resources to investigate all attacks on journalists,” she said. “There must be no impunity for the perpetrators and the masterminds behind any violence against members of the media.”

The official also commented on the murder of Sukhobok, who was co-founder of a number of online news portals and contributor to several more Ukrainian media outlets. An investigation is underway.

Mijatovic’s comments are the latest in a long string of international condemnation of the alarming rise of media murders.

In February, the European Union called for stricter observance of freedom of speech in the media by all sides in the Ukrainian conflict.

“We continue to condemn and call for an end to attacks on journalists notably in eastern Ukraine, including killings and abductions,” the statement read.

READ MORE:

2 Ukraine journalists killed in Kiev, Poroshenko suspects ‘provocation’

Series of ‘bizarre suicides’ & murders: Former Ukrainian MP shot dead in Kiev

April 17, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two Ukraine journalists killed in Kiev, Poroshenko suspects ‘provocation’

RT | April 16, 2015

Oles Buzina (Image from wikipedia.org)

Oles Buzina (Image from wikipedia.org)

Opposition journalist and writer Oles Buzina was assassinated near his house in Kiev. The police believe it could have been a contract killing. It follows hot on the heels of the vicious murder of another Ukrainian journalist, Sergey Sukhobok.

Oles Buzina, 45, oppositional journalist and former editor-in-chief of Segodnya newspaper, was killed in the yard of his house in the Ukrainian capital on Thursday, according to the counselor of the Minister of Internal Affairs.

MP Anton Gerashenko wrote on his Facebook page that unknown people shot at Buzina from a car with Latvian or Belarusian license plates, adding, “The killing of anti-Maidan eyewitnesses seems to be going on.”

Buzina, author of several controversial books, recently quit his newspaper job, explaining he had worked under heavy censorship, had no rights to influence human resources policy, or to “talk to the press or participate in talk shows.”

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko called for law-enforcement agencies to investigate the cases of Buzina and Oleg Kalashnikov, a former MP and active anti-Maidan activist, who was killed in his flat in Kiev on Wednesday, “as soon as possible.” Poroshenko said these crimes were “a conscious provocation,” targeting “the destabilization of the political situation in Ukraine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the family and colleagues of the dead journalist. “It is not the first political assassination – we have seen a series of such killings in Ukraine,” Putin said at his annual Q&A session on Thursday.

Investigators are currently working at the site of the murder. The police believe it was a contract killing, RIA Novosti reported.

Following Buzina’s death, police “immediately” arrested two suspects, accused of killing another journalist Sergey Sukhobok. Sukhobok was shot and killed outside his house on Monday night, also in Kiev. “The court has decided on pre-trial restrictions,” said a statement on the Obcom website founded by Sukhobok.

Police are looking into several motives ranging from political activities to debts.

In February, the European Union called for stricter observance of freedom of speech in the media by all sides in the Ukrainian conflict.

“We continue to condemn and call for an end to attacks on journalists notably in eastern Ukraine, including killings and abductions,” the statement read.

Read more: Series of ‘bizarre suicides’ & murders: Former Ukrainian MP shot dead in Kiev

April 16, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

Will Yemen kick-off the ‘War of the two Blocs?’

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | March 31, 2015

There is media confusion about what is going on in Yemen and the broader Middle East. Pundits are pointing out that the US is looking schizophrenic with policies that back opposite sides of the fight against al-Qaeda-style extremism in Iraq and in Yemen.

But it isn’t that hard to understand the divergent policies once you comprehend the underlying drivers of the fight brewing in the region.

No, it isn’t a battle between Shia and Sunni, Iranian and Arab or the much-ballyhooed Iran-Saudi stand-off. Yes, these narratives have played a part in defining ‘sides,’ but often only in the most simplistic fashion, to rally constituencies behind a policy objective. And they do often reflect some truth.

But the ‘sides’ demarcated for our consumption do not explain, for instance, why Oman or Algeria refuse to participate, why Turkey is where it is, why Russia, China and the BRICS are participants, why the US is so conflicted in its direction – and why, in a number of regional conflicts, Sunni, Shia, Islamist, secularist, liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, Arab and Iranian sometimes find themselves on the same side.

This is not just a regional fight – it is a global one with ramifications that go well beyond the Middle East. The region is quite simply the theatre where it is coming to a head. And Yemen, Syria and Iraq are merely the tinderboxes that may or may not set off the conflagration.

“The battle, at its very essence, in its lowest common denominator, is a war between a colonial past and a post-colonial future.”

For the sake of clarity, let’s call these two axes the Neo-Colonial Axis and the Post-Colonial Axis. The former seeks to maintain the status quo of the past century; the latter strives to shrug off old orders and carve out new, independent directions.

If you look at the regional chessboard, the Middle East is plump with governments and monarchies backed to the hilt by the United States, Britain and France. These are the West’s “proxies” and they have not advanced their countries in the least – neither in self-sufficiencies nor in genuine democratic or developmental milestones. Indebted to ‘Empire’s’ patronage, these states form the regional arm of the Neo-Colonial Axis.

On the other side of the Mideast’s geopolitical fault line, Iran has set the standard for the Post-Colonial Axis – often referred to as the ‘Resistance Axis.’ Based on the inherent anti-imperialist worldview of the 1979 Islamic revolution, and also as a result of US/UK-driven isolating sanctions and global politics, Tehran has bucked the system by creating an indigenous system of governance, advancing its developmental ambitions and crafting alliances that challenge the status quo.

Iran’s staunchest allies have typically included Syria, Hezbollah and a handful of Palestinian resistance groups. But today, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring counter-revolutions – and the sheer havoc these have created – other independent players have discovered commonalities with the Resistance Axis. In the region, these include Iraq, Algeria and Oman. While outside the Mideast, we have seen Russia, China and other non-aligned nations step in to challenge the Neo-Colonial order.

Neo-Colonial Axis hits an Arab Spring wall

Today, the Neo-Colonials simply can’t win. They lack two essential components to maintain their hegemony: economy and common objectives.

Nowhere is that more clear than in the Middle East, where numerous initiatives and coalitions have floundered shortly after inception.

Once Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in Libya, all parties went their own way and the country fractured. In Egypt, a power struggle pitted Sunni against Sunni, highlighting the growing schism between two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) patrons Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In Syria, a heavyweight line-up of Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, France, the US and UK could not pull together a coherent regime-change plan or back the same horse.

In the vacuum created by these competing agendas, highly-organized al-Qaeda-style extremists stepped in to create further divergence among old allies.

Western hegemons – the original colonials and imperialists – grew fatigued, alarmed, and sought a way out of the increasingly dangerous quagmire. To do so, they needed to strike a compromise with the one regional state that enjoyed the necessary stability and military prowess to lead the fight against extremism from within the region. That would be their old adversary, Iran.

But the West is geographically distant from the Mideast, and can take these losses to a certain extent. For regional hegemons, however, the retreat of their Western patrons was anathema. As we can see, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have recently rushed to resolve their differences so they can continue to design the region’s direction in this Western vacuum.

These counter-revolutionary states, however, share grandiose visions of their own regional influence – each ultimately only keen to achieve their own primacy. And the continued ascendance of Iran has really grated: the Islamic Republic seems to have moved from strength to strength during this ‘Arab Spring,’ picking up new allies – regional and global – and consolidating its gains.

For Saudi Arabia, in particular, Iran’s incremental victories go beyond the pale. Riyadh has, after all, staked its regional leadership role on a sectarian and ethnic divide, representing Arab and Sunni stakeholders against “Iranian” and “Shiite” ones. Now suddenly, not only are the Americans, British and French dallying with the Iranians, but the GCC itself has been split down the center over the issue of ‘engagement vs. confrontation’ with the Islamic Republic.

Worse yet, the Saudi efforts to participate in the overthrow of Gaddafi, squash uprisings in Bahrain, control political outcomes in Yemen, destabilize Syria, divide Iraq and conquer Egypt seem to have come to naught.

In all instances, they have yet to see cemented, meaningful gains – and each quagmire threatens to unravel further and deplete ever more Saudi funds

Today, the Saudis find themselves surrounded by the sickly fruits of their various regional interventions. They have endured recent attacks by violent extremists on their Iraqi and Jordanian borders – many of these recipients of past Saudi funding – and now find themselves challenged on a third border, in Yemen, by a determined constituency that seeks to halt Saudi interventions.

Beyond that, Syria and Lebanon have slipped out of Riyadh’s grip, little Qatar seeks to usurp the traditional Saudi role in the Persian Gulf, Egypt dallies with Russia and China, and Pakistan and Turkey continue a meaningful engagement with Iran.

Meanwhile, the Iranians don’t have to do much of anything to raise the Saudi ire. Iran has stepped up its regional role largely because of the Saudi-led counter-revolution, and has cautiously thwarted Riyadh’s onslaughts where it could. It has buoyed allies – much like NATO or the GCC would in similar circumstances – but with considerably less aggression and while cleaving to the letter of international law.

The Saudis see Iranian hands everywhere in the region, but this is a fantasy at best. Iran has simply stepped into an opportunity when it arises, met the threats coming its way, and utilized all its available channels to blunt the Saudi advances in various military and political theaters.

Even the US intelligence community’s annual security assessment – a report card that regularly highlights the “Iranian threat” – concludes in 2015 that the Islamic Republic of Iran has “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners, and deescalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.”

Yet all we hear these days blaring from Western and Arab media headlines is “Shia sectarianism, Iranian expansionism and Persian Empire.”

Tellingly, the American intelligence assessment launches its section on “terrorism” with the following: “Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum and the number of Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history.”

And US officials admit: many of these Sunni extremists have been assisted and financed by none other than Washington allies Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

The Yemeni theater – a final battleground?

A senior official within a Resistance Axis state tells me: “The biggest mistake the Saudis made is to attack Yemen. I didn’t think they were that stupid.”

In the past week, the Saudis have cobbled together yet another Neo-Colonial ‘coalition’ – this time to punish Yemenis for ousting their made-in-Riyadh transitional government and pushing into the southern city of Aden.

The main Saudi adversaries are the Houthis, a group of northern, rural highlanders who have amassed a popular base throughout the north and other parts of Yemen over the course of ten years and six wars.

The Saudis (and the US) identify the Houthis as ‘Shiites’ and ‘Iranian-backed’ in order to galvanize their own bases in the region. But Iran has had little to do with the Houthis since their emergence as a political force in Yemen. And WikiLeaks showed us that US officials know this too. A 2009 cable from the US Embassy in Riyadh notes that Yemen’s former Saudi-backed President Ali Abdullah Saleh provided “false or exaggerated information on Iranian assistance to the Houthis in order to enlist direct Saudi involvement and regionalize the conflict.”

And allegations that Iran arms the Houthis also fall flat. Another secret cable makes clear: “Contrary to ROYG (Republic of Yemen Government) claims that Iran is arming the Houthis, most local political analysts report that the Houthis obtain their weapons from the Yemeni black market and even from the ROYG military itself.”

Saleh was deposed in 2011 as a result of Arab Spring pressures, and in a twist worthy of the complicated Middle East, the wily former president now appears to be backing his former adversaries, the Houthis, against his old patrons, the Saudis.

The Houthis are adherents of the Muslim Zaydi sect – which falls somewhere between Sunnism and Shiism, and is followed by around 40 percent of Yemenis. Saleh, who fought the Houthis in half a dozen wars, is also a Zaydi – evidence that Yemen’s internal strife is anything but sectarian.

In fact, it could be argued that the Houthi – or Ansarallah movement – are a central constituency of Yemen’s ‘Arab Spring.’ Their demands since 2003 have, after all, largely been about ending disenfranchisement, gaining economic, political and religious rights, eliminating corruption, railing against the twin evils of America and Israel (a popular Post-Colonial Arab sentiment), and becoming stakeholders in the state.

To ensure the balance continued in their favor during the Arab Spring, the Neo-Colonial Axis installed a puppet transitional leader upon Saleh’s departure – an unelected president whose term ran out a year ago.

Then a few months ago, the Houthis – allegedly with the support of Saleh and his tens of thousands of followers – ousted their rivals in the puppet regime and took over the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. When the Saudis threatened retaliation, the Houthis pushed further southward… which brings us to the war front amassing against Yemen today.

This is not a battle the Saudis and their Neo-Colonial Axis can win. Airstrikes alone cannot turn this war, and it is unlikely that Riyadh and its coalition partners can expect troops on the ground to be any more successful – if they are even deployed.

The Houthis have learned over the past decade to fight both conventional and guerilla wars. This relatively small band of highlanders managed in 2009 to push 30 kilometers into Saudi territory and take over several dozen Saudi towns. When coalition-partner Egypt last fought a war with ground troops in Yemen, it became Gamal Abdel Nasser’s ‘Vietnam’ and nearly bankrupted the state.

Even majority-Sunni Pakistan, a traditional pipeline for staffing GCC armies, seems wary about this conflict. It too is fighting elsewhere on the same side as the Houthis, Iranians, Syrians, Iraqis – against violent Sunni extremists inside its borders and from their bases in neighboring Afghanistan. No amount of Saudi money will quench the anger of militant-weary Pakistanis if their government commits to this Yemeni fight – against the very groups (Houthis) that are battling al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

And, yes, it is ironic that the United States is now providing assistance and intelligence for the Saudi-led coalition – against the Houthis, who are fighting al-Qaeda.

But as mentioned earlier, this is not Washington’s neighborhood, and it does not approach this fight with the same goals of its close ally, Saudi Arabia.

The Resistance Axis official explains:

“The Americans see all outcomes as good: If the Houthis win, they will help get rid of al-Qaeda in Yemen. If the Saudis win, well, these are still the US’s allies. And if both sides enter a protracted war, that is “not a problem either,” referring to the ever-present US interest of selling weapons in conflict zones.

Despite a global ban, the United States has sold the Saudis $640 million worth of cluster bombs over the past two years, some of which have been used to carpet bomb parts of Yemen in the past few days. The cluster munitions were part of an overall $67 billion worth of arm deals with Saudi Arabia since the Arab uprisings kicked off in 2011.

The Iranians, meanwhile, are not doing much of anything, except insisting – like the Russians and others – that the bombardment of Yemen is criminal and that Yemenis need to solve their own problems via an internal dialogue.

And why should they make any moves? The Saudis are digging their own graves right now – and hastening the demise of the entire Neo-Colonial project in the Middle East, to boot.

“Tehran realizes that the fact that Riyadh had to bring together a major coalition to fight a group that is only on the outskirts of Iranian influence is a victory in itself,” says the US-based, conservative risk-analysis group, Stratfor.

Riyadh’s move to attack Yemen has just dragged the not-so-financially-flush Kingdom into yet another military quagmire, and this time directly, bypassing proxies altogether. Every airstrike in Yemen – and it is clear in the first few days that dozens of civilians, including children, have been killed – threatens to draw more adherents to the Houthi cause.

And every day that the Houthis are tied up in this battle, AQAP gets an opportunity to cement its hold elsewhere in the country. The net winner in this conflict is unlikely to be Saudi Arabia, but it may just be al-Qaeda – which is guaranteed to draw the Post-Colonial Axis into the strategically vital waterways surrounding Yemen.

The Arab League, under Saudi Arabia’s arm-twisting, just upped the ante by demanding that only a complete Houthi surrender (laying down weapons and withdrawing) would end the airstrikes. This ultimatum leaves very little room to jumpstart dialogue, and shows shocking disregard for the normal goals of military engagement, which try to leave ‘negotiation windows’ open.

It may be that the Saudis, who have rapidly lost influence and control in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, and other states in the past few years, have decided to go to the wall in Yemen.

Or it may just be some posturing to create momentum and bolster bruised egos.

But conflict has a way of balancing itself out – as in Syria and Iraq – by drawing other, unforeseen elements into the fray. With all the conflicts raging in the Middle East and encroaching on their borders, the Post-Colonial Axis has been forced to take a stand. And they bring to the field something their adversaries lack: common objectives and efficiency.

This is possibly the first time in the modern Mideast we have seen this kind of efficiency from within. And I speak specifically of Iran and its allies, both regional and external. They cannot ignore the threats that emanate from conflict, any more than the west can ignore the jihadi genie that threatens from thousands of miles away. So this Post-Colonial Axis moves further into the region to protect itself, bringing with it lessons learned and laser-focused common goals.

The Neo-Colonials will hit a wall in Yemen, just as they have in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. Their disparate objectives will ensure that. The main concern as we enter yet another storm in Yemen is whether a flailing Empire will turn ugly at the eleventh hour and launch a direct war against its actual adversary, the Post-Colonial Axis. The Saudis are a real wild card – as are the Israelis – and may try to light that fuse. When the threat is existential, anything goes.

Yes, a regional war is as much a possibility over Yemen as it was over Syria. But this battle lies on a direct border of Saudi Arabia – ground zero for both violent extremism and the most virulently sectarian and ethnocentric elements of the anti-Resistance crowd – and so promises to deliver yet another decisive geopolitical shift in the Mideast. From Yemen, as from any confrontation between the two global blocs, a new regional reality is likely to emerge: what the Americans might call “the birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

And Yemen may yet become the next Arab state to enter a Post-Colonial order.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She tweets @snarwani

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Economist has a funny sense of European values

RT | March 24, 2015

In the same week that The Economist lauded Ukraine’s “commitment to European values,” Kiev’s current regime kicked out Euronews. Who do they think they are kidding?

Ah, The Economist. Without question, it’s is the best informed news magazine in the world… except on subjects I know something about. Take Ukraine for instance, throughout the country’s current crisis, The Economist has been weaving a web of fantasy to its readers. The narrative has continuously blamed Russia for all Ukraine’s misfortunes while painting its post-Maidan oligarchic rulers as being somewhere near God’s right hand.

After wholeheartedly backing last year’s coup, the windy weekly has been unwilling to admit the severity of Kiev’s economic malaise. Instead, it has maintained the pretence that throwing money at its pro-NATO regime will solve all its problems. Anybody who knows the first thing about Ukraine acknowledges that the lion’s share of the dough would be pilfered.

The problem is that a great number of the Western world’s most powerful people take The Economist seriously. The magazine appears both authoritative and credible, and never misses a chance to emphasize its own importance. However, this is “lipstick on a pig” territory. On subjects I’m reasonably informed about (Ireland, Europe, Britain, the ex-USSR for example), The Economist is more often wrong than right. Viewed through that prism, I’m extremely skeptical of the rag’s accuracy on topics I know little of.

In 2005, The Economist announced that Ireland had the highest quality of life in the world. I clearly remember reading the edition in downtown Dublin and that my first thought concerned the quality of the drugs the magazine’s editors were taking. Oddly, I’d penned a column a week earlier for the Ireland On Sunday newspaper predicting a deep recession for my homeland, which was rapidly losing its industrial base as credit-fuelled property madness raged.

Two years later, Ireland’s economy collapsed and a half decade of misery began. Incidentally, the periodical currently lists Melbourne as the best place to reside on earth. If you are in Melbourne right now, given The Economist’s track record, it’s probably best to emigrate before the inevitable happens.

Russia’s strong, determined President

Guided by its pro-interventionist and pro-neo liberal principles, the weekly doesn’t restrict itself to making a dog’s dinner of fiscal forecasts. Indeed, it frequently enters the realm of geopolitics to tackle countries and governments that don’t conform to its worldview. Russia is a case in point. In the 90’s, when Russia was on its knees, The Economist couldn’t get enough of the place. In fact, it broadly welcomed Vladimir Putin’s election in 2000, calling him a “strong, determined man.” By 2002 it trumpeted that “relations between Russia and the West have (sic) rarely been better.”

Now, the same Vladimir Putin is The Economist’s public enemy Number 1 and Russia the re-incarnation of Hitler’s Germany. Moscow’s crime? Standing up for itself and rejecting the Western liberal consensus. Essentially, refusing to pauperize the country to suit a bunch of ideologues in London.

In order to wage its anti-Russia campaign, The Economist pretends to care about Ukraine. The London-based magazine is far from alone in this. Last weekend, it hailed Kiev’s commitment to European values.

“European values like free speech and a commitment to truth remain potent,” it boldly declared. The reason I keep writing ‘it’ is because the article was unsigned, written under the pseudonym ‘Charlemagne.’ The Economist’s journalists don’t sign their work, which is probably for the best considering the kind of rubbish they pen.

The Menace of cliques

The diatribe quotes a scaremongering report written by Peter Pomerantsev and Michael Weiss, two activists connected to the shadowy UAE-backed Legatum Institute. Legatum’s Director of Communications is the former Catholic Herald editor, Cristina Odone, who just happens to be married to Edward Lucas, a senior Editor at The Economist. Mr. Lucas has previously advocated the use of Brezhnev-era KGB methods against RT.

Repeating the canard of “lavishly financed Russian media,” The Economist claims that “cash-strapped, fractious Europe will always struggle.” This is pure hokum. Only last month, Germany increased the budget of its Deutsche Welle news agency to $332 million. Meanwhile, BBC’s World Service has $406 million to splurge in 2015, and that’s just for radio/web. Additionally, France 24 spends around $130 million annually. By what stretch of the imagination is European media financially struggling here?

Snooze and you lose Euronews

Nevertheless, in the same week that The Economist was promoting Ukraine’s adherence to “European values,” Kiev revoked the license for the Ukrainian version of Euronews, suddenly claiming the current arrangement was “disadvantageous”. Now, I can’t think of a less offensive outlet. Euronews is so bland, so insipid that you could leave it on at an Israeli-Palestinian arm wrestling extravaganza and nobody would object.

While a private company, Euronews has received significant funding from Brussels over the years and is widely perceived, rightly or wrongly, as EU TV. The Ukraine edition was previously owned by an Egyptian, Naguib Sawiris, but reports suggest that it’s now controlled by Dymtro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch and rival of fellow-billionaire, Petro Poroshenko. Some use the label ‘pro-Russian’ to describe Firtash, but I find that Ukraine’s ultra-rich are usually just pro-themselves.

The Ukrainian President has his own TV network, Channel 5, and apparently objected to competition from Firtash, who he evidently sees as a threat. So, it looks like he used his political power to muffle the voice of Euronews. “European values,” how are you?

Bryan MacDonald is an Irish writer and commentator focusing on Russia and its hinterlands and international geo-politics. Follow him on Facebook

March 25, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Once upon a TIME

By Margarita Simonyan, RT Editor-in-Chief | March 9, 2015

Once upon a time – last October, to be precise – I gave an interview to a TIME magazine correspondent for the publication’s in-depth profile on RT. Late last week that piece finally appeared on America’s newsstands.

The opus is an object lesson in writing about RT, which over the last year or so has blossomed into its own cottage industry: full of half-truths, half-quotes and full-on commitment to fitting your subject into an existing narrative box, rather than an attempt to understand or discover anything new.

In an effort to give the article a sense of timeliness, the author uses the backdrop of Boris Nemtsov’s murder to frame the RT story. How did RT treat this tragic, headline-grabbing event that reverberated around the world, and the tens of thousands-strong Moscow march that followed it? According to TIME : “On March 1, when a massive march began in Moscow to protest Nemtsov’s murderwith many carrying signs that read propaganda killsRT was showing a documentary about American racism and xenophobia.”

Would you like to know what TIME was writing about on March 1? It was comparing the merits of two new models of the Samsung smartphone. A poignant story indeed!

If this example seems like an attempt to purposefully mislead the audience about the quality of TIME’s journalism, it’s because it is. But it’s the same as TIME’s deliberate avoidance of the fact that the Nemtsov mourning rally was the lead story on RT’s March 1 hourly news bulletins from 8am till midnight, with live updates published across our websites and social media platforms throughout the day.

If the introductory presentation of RT is based on brazen omissions, then the next part is a classic example of misdirection, and concerns every mainstream media hound’s favorite bone – RT’s financing. Now, I can empathize with the challenge of trying to write an honest-to-goodness sad-sack story about the outspent (and new favorite epithet, ‘outgunned’) Western media at a time when RT is broadcasting multiple 24/7 TV channels around the world for the mind-blowing sum of $225 million, while the UK’s BBC World Service and the US’ Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG, which includes Voice of America and Radio Free Europe) – both running predominantly online and radio services with small and sporadic television presences in a handful of regions – receive $375 million and $721 million respectively.

But TIME certainly gets an A for effort. First, this stateside magazine with a largely US audience pretends that American government-funded BBG doesn’t exist. Then, it compares the financing of RT to the BBC World Service (with the BBC correctly coming out as more generously subsidized, even though TIME uses RT’s obsolete budget figure to narrow the gap), but pivots to a qualifier: “The BBC’s International Service is the biggest broadcast newsgathering operation in the world.”

To achieve this kind of status on such a relatively conservative budget would be remarkable indeed – if only it were true. The problem is that BBC’s “International Service” isn’t a thing in and of itself. It is the newsgathering department of BBC News (budget – $530 million), which is part of the British Broadcasting Corporation (budget – over $7 billion), funded through the license fee that is charged to every UK household with a TV.

This department feeds a substantial part of the content of BBC World News, the UK’s global news channel and RT’s closest counterpart. Formally, BBC World News is set up as a private entity (it is owned by BBC Global News Ltd, the commercial arm of the BBC) and its budget is unknown. BBC News also lends its resources (from newsgathering to the newsroom space) to the BBC World Service (that’s the mostly radio and online service with a $375-million budget that TIME talks about – also funded through the UK TV license). If by now all those structural and budgetary cross-overs seem a little murky, it’s because they are. TIME is obviously counting on its readers to gloss over the details.

So TIME laments: “What is the West to do in the face of a form of richly endowed propaganda?” Yes, what IS the West – with its BBG, BBC News/World News/World Service, CNN International (that has never contradicted a State Department position), Deutsche Welle, France 24, Euronews, and countless newspapers and magazines (including TIME ) read around the world – to do in the face of RT and its $225 million? Poor dears!

But the pièce de résistance of the article is my actual interview. Back in October, the TIME correspondent and I spoke in my offices for an hour-and-a-half. This discussion is reduced to some 60 words (in an essay of 2,800) spread across five quotes, plus there is one more quote from our London correspondent. So much for the “inside” look at RT, touted in the headline.

One of the quotes is from our discussion of what makes up the Russian point of view, the presentation of which is one of RT’s stated goals. I said that this worldview is “defined by certain principles expressed by the state: by representatives of the Russian state, if you talk to people on the street, if you look at different polls with Russian people as a whole – you will see that one of the important things that we do not like in the existing world order is the desire of Western countries to make unilateral judgments about what is good, what is bad in the countries far removed from them, about which they know very little, and take military actions based on those unilateral judgments.”

This is what is left of this quote in print: the worldview is “defined by certain principles expressed by the state, by representatives of the Russian state.” Notice a difference? Of the constituencies that are part of the Russian state and define its views, goals and grievances only state representatives make the cut. The opinion of the Russian people is irrelevant. A decade ago I might have been surprised.

By the way, sometimes those representatives call me on my “old yellow telephone” – in plain sight in my office where I give most of the interviews – “to discuss secret things.” What kinds of secret things? Mostly budgets (seeing as RT is publicly funded) and the president’s travel details to coordinate the work of our pool reporters. I said as much to the TIME reporter. Of course, only the conspiratorial-sounding “secret things” comment made the cut. Again, in the good old days I expected higher standards from the Western press…

There are also smaller, funnier fact- and bias-fails that have crept into the piece, like the detail that I gave my interview in the office just across the river from the Kremlin (did we move and I hadn’t noticed? At least someone remembered to pack the phone).

Or that in 2002 I “got a job as a reporter for state TV in Moscow, assigned to the Kremlin pool” – never mind that I’ve already been with the same employer for years, heading up the channel’s regional bureau and continuing my work as a war reporter, which started in 1999 in Chechnya, then took me to Abkhazia in 2001 and Beslan, North Ossetia in 2004.

(Side note: does TIME have a quota for how often Kremlin must be mentioned in an article about RT?)

Or that the “propaganda war” that the West is ostensibly losing is desperately “one-sided” (except for the headlines screaming about Russia’s “Uncontrolled Violence,” “Putin’s Missile”, “The Fascist in the Kremlin,” or how “Russia Wants to Restore Soviet Union”).

But if I had to nit-pick every piece of nonsense said or written about RT, I’d have no time left to run “Putin’s on-air machine.”

~

 Margarita Simonyan is RT’s Editor-in-Chief.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 2 Comments

Russian journalists detained in Kiev as Ukraine steps up censorship

RT | February 26, 2015

Four Russian journalists were detained in Ukraine and ordered to return back to Moscow. Three of them were stopped when filming a Right Sector rally. The Russian Foreign Ministry has expressed outrage at the incident, calling it a “provocation.”

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained Channel One journalists Elena Makarova and Sergey Korenev, and NTV’s Andrey Grigoryev, who were in Kiev at the time. The SBU indicated that they will all be deported back to Russia and banned from entering Ukraine for the next five years.

Grigoryev is already back in Moscow, NTV reported. “I got detained right in Kiev’s downtown area while filming the rally, which included ultra-nationalist Right Sector members, football fans, and others who disagree with the direction the current government is taking,” Grigoryev said. “A few of the rally participants approached me and asked for my ID. I told them I would show my identification only to police, which is where they escorted me to.”

“Nothing was recorded at the police station… It looked like the decision [to deport] was made ahead of time,” he said.

A video has emerged showing the moment the journalist was apprehended.

Makarova said that 10 people with Right Sector stickers approached her and the cameraman. The individuals showed her SBU identification. When she asked to see their badges again, she was told: “If we show you the IDs again, you will be liquidated.” When Makarova inquired as to what they meant by that, the group replied: “It is best you don’t know.” She was then separated from her cameraman Korenev.

During the interrogations, she was asked what channel she was with and then told that her station “posed a threat to [Ukraine]” and that she would be deported.

Also on Wednesday, another NTV reporter, Inna Osipova, was refused entry into Ukraine after arriving at Kiev’s airport. She was asked a lot of questions about the purpose of her trip during customs control and was eventually told “the reason for her trip could not be proven.” Her passport was confiscated and she is currently stuck inside the airport.

’Ukraine’s actions are a provocation’

The Russian Foreign Ministry described the detention as “a provocation towards Russian journalists, and a violation of Ukraine’s obligations to guarantee the safety of journalist.”

“We demand that our journalists be immediately released and the hunt for representatives of the Russian media be halted,” the ministry added. “We expect corresponding reaction from specialized international organizations, primarily OSCE Representative on the Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic, to new unlawful acts by the Ukrainian authorities.”

The incident comes after the SBU issued recommendations to strip more than 100 Russian media outlets of accreditation on February 21. Earlier in the month, 239 Ukrainian lawmakers voted in favor of suspending Russian journalists’ accreditation until the conflict in eastern Ukraine ends.

The list includes TASS, Rossiya Segodnya, and all Russian TV channels except Dozhd, according to government spokesperson Yelena Gitlyanskaya.

‘Silencing opposing voices’

Ukraine is justifying its actions by citing new legislation, professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island Nicolai Petro told RT. “It’s an attempt to achieve total information control – the ability to exclude all dissident voices, partly in Ukraine, from getting through to Ukrainian citizens.”

Ukraine is taking censorship to a whole new level, Petro explained. “In the West, the wartime precedent is that censorship can only occur in situations which directly involve military operations. The Ukrainian government is going far beyond that – to essentially silence opposition voices which are being silenced at home and use the Russian media to get back inside the country.”

The response in the West is likely to be “very muted,” the professor noted, “because this is an issue they would prefer not to deal with.”

But such attempts are usually not very successful. “The politicians tend to underestimate the ability of people to go around the restrictions to get information from a wide variety of sources. These attempts are ultimately bound to fail,” Petro said.

In addition to limiting freedom of expression inside Ukraine, Kiev announced this week that it is joining the information war by creating an ‘online army,’ according to the Information Policy Ministry.

Read more: Ukraine’s Security Service detains Russian journalists in Kiev, deny entry for 5 years

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | Leave a comment

‘Snoopers’ Charter’ essential to counter terror threat – Home Secretary

RT | January 14, 2015

UK Home Secretary Theresa May has given her full support to the Communications Data Bill, colloquially known by its critics as the Snoopers’ Charter. She claims without it security agencies are unable to fully protect the public from terrorist attacks.

Giving her response to the Paris attacks in the House of Commons on Wednesday, May said it was imperative that surveillance agencies were able to intercept communications “where it is necessary and proportionate to do so” to monitor terrorist activity.

She also outlined further security measures put in place prior to and following the attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

May acknowledged that during the time of the attack the government was reviewing the bill, and said that without the immediate implementation of the bill the security forces’ power was diminishing.

“Every day that passes without the proposals in the Communications Data Bill, the capabilities of the people who keep us safe diminishes,” she said.

“This important legislation will strengthen our powers to disrupt the ability of people to travel abroad to fight, and control their ability to return here … In particular, it will allow the relocation of people subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures to other parts of the country.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg reaffirmed his party’s opposition to the bill on Tuesday. He claims the powers in the bill would “cross a line” and said privacy was a “qualified right.”

The LibDems made a move to block the bill in 2012, with Clegg saying no government would be able to store people’s personal correspondence while he was in power.

May used her speech in the Commons to reinforce the importance of the measures, saying the lack of cross-party consensus was hindering the implementation of the bill.

She further said its label as a “snoopers’ charter” was a misnomer.

“This is not – as I have heard it said – ‘letting the government snoop on your emails.’ It is allowing the police and the security services, under a tightly regulated and controlled regime to find out the who, where, when and how of a communication but not its content, so they can prove and disprove alibis, identify associations between suspects, and tie suspects and victims to specific locations,” she said.

She added that “it was likely” that such data was used during the Paris shooting, and said it was entirely necessary that UK security organizations have access to this data to prevent similar attacks.

During her speech, the Home Secretary reiterated points made previously by Prime Minister David Cameron and other senior figures in the wake of the Paris attacks.

She said the UK’s terrorist threat level would remain “severe,” meaning a terrorist organization “could attack at any point… without warning.”

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Mass surveillance breeds self-censorship in democracies – report

RT | January 5, 2015

A study published by a top US literary organization on Monday, found that an increasing number of writers in democratic countries are censoring themselves due to fears about government surveillance.

The study entitled “Global chilling: The impact of Mass Surveillance on International Writers” surveyed 772 writers in 50 countries and concluded that writers and journalists are self-censoring for fear of reprisal.

A similar report published in November 2013 found that writers were “worried about mass surveillance, and were engaged in multiple forms of self-censorship as a result.”

A full report from writers around the world will be issued in the spring of 2015. As writers are considered to be the “canaries in the coalmine” therefore they are likely to give an accurate picture of the impact of surveillance on privacy and freedom of expression.

Writers living in democratic countries were found to be nearly as concerned as those living in non-democratic states with long histories of mass surveillance.

It found that while 61 percent of writers living in the countries labeled as ‘Not Free’ by Freedom House avoided writing or speaking about a certain topic because of government surveillance this was now true of 34 percent of writers in ‘Free’ countries.

“Writers are concerned that expressing certain views even privately or researching certain topics may lead to negative consequences,” the study concluded.

It also found that writers outside the US shared many of the same fears and uncertainties, particularly in the countries in the Five Eyes alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US.

One respondent said he “hesitated – and thought to answer very honestly – these questions.”

There was also a sharp decline in how writers viewed the US as a haven for free expression, with 36 percent of writers surveyed in so-called ‘Free’ countries believing that their own country offers better protection for freedom of expression than the US.

The Pen document ends with recommendations that the US government stops dragnet monitoring and the collection of US citizen’s communications. It also advises that collection of digital metadata be suspended and advises greater judicial, legislative and executive oversight of US intelligence agency programs.

It also pointed out that the US has to respect the privacy and rights to free expression of foreign citizens either in or out of the US.

“As the United Nations has repeatedly stated, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which the US is a party, requires it to respect the human rights to privacy and free expression of all individuals affected by its surveillance programs,” the report says.

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Mass surveillance breeds self-censorship in democracies – report