Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Free Speech: Myth vs Reality

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) recently acknowledged the practice of hiring journalists vetted by MI5, the UK intelligence agency, to keep out the "subversives".

The CIA is believed to have driven American investigative reporter Gary Webb to suicide after he exposed the agency's use of drug deals to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

American researcher Joseph Overton has described a spectrum from "more free" to "less free", known as the Overton Window, with regard to the US government intervention in the media.

Here's how American philosopher Noam Chomsky has explained the US establishment's media management strategy:  “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."

It seems that "free speech" in the West is really not so free.


Courtesy David Icke
MI5 Vetting of BBC Staff:

The BBC recently acknowledged its long relationship with the British security establishment that started in 1933. When questions were asked about it, the BBC policy was to "keep head down and stonewall all questions".

Vetting by the MI5 applied to  all new BBC staff except "personnel such as charwomen". Since the start of the policy, journalists were always subject to vetting, but a "review in 1983 resulted in about 2,000 posts being removed from the list - including some junior editorial jobs - bringing the total number down to 3,705".

When asked whether any staff are vetted these days, a BBC spokesperson responded:"We do not comment on security issue".

CIA and Media:

In the course of investigating US CIA's support of Contra rebels in Nicaragua,  American journalist Gary Webb discovered a drug connection. He found that the CIA was trafficking drugs sold in poor African American neighborhoods to fund Contra rebels war against Nicaragua's Sandinista government in 1980s. Webb published his findings in a 3-part report "The Dark Alliance" carried by his employer San Jose Mercury News.

Webb's report provoked outrage among African Americans for the harm it did by promoting drug addiction in their poor neighborhoods. It became a public relations nightmare for the CIA.

The CIA responded to the crisis by using what Nicholas Dujmovic, a CIA Directorate of Intelligence staffer described as “a ground base of already productive relations with journalists.”  The CIA top brass was overjoyed to see the nation's largest newspapers destroy the reputation of Gary Webb that eventually led to his suicide.

Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, famous for his reporting on Watergate along with Bob Woodward, investigated CIA's use of the American media and wrote a piece describing "How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up". Here's what he said:

"Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Associated Press (AP),  United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune".

Overton Window:

American researcher Joseph P. Overton said that ideas may range a spectrum from "more free" to "less free" with regard to government intervention.  The mainstream media, particularly commercial media, tend to limit the public discourse within the range they define as permissible at any given time. This is done by designing editorial policies.

The Overton window is not static. It is guided by what is seen as vital national interest by the US national security establishment as we saw during the Cold War and subsequently in the "war on terror".

Social Media:

Social media have created new media management challenges for the western security establishment as we saw with Brexit and Trump victory in 2016. It's created an outrage that is likely to result in new social media regulations unless the likes of Facebook and Twitter agree to self-censorship.

There's so much pressure on major social media platforms that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was forced to acknowledge regulation as "inevitable".

"The internet is growing in importance around the world in people's lives and I think that it is inevitable that there will need to be some regulation," said Zuckerberg to a US Congress committee at a recent hearing.

The western security establishment will now make sure that the new social media platforms are tamed to stay within the "Overton Window" just like the legacy electronic and print media.

Summary:

Recent BBC acknowledgement of its staff vetting by British secret service and revelations of CIA's role in American media management have confirmed what American academic Noam Chomsky has been saying for a while:  “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum."  There are now moves afoot to tame the new social media platform to stay within the "spectrum of acceptable opinion".

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Is Money Free Speech?

Social Media Promote Tribalism

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

The Story of Pakistan's M8 Motorway

Pakistan-China-Russia vs India-Japan-US

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel

3 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - The story barely reported by #Indian #media. Deeply engrained bias towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (#BJP) within many of #India's leading media groups

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-44280188#

It is a potential scandal that claims to strike at a key pillar of Indian democracy - the freedom of the press - yet it is barely being reported in the Indian media.

There's a simple reason for that: this alleged scandal involves many of the most powerful media institutions in the country.

A sting operation by a news organisation called Cobrapost claims to have revealed a deeply engrained bias towards the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) within many of India's leading media groups, as well as a willingness among some of the country's most senior media executives and journalists to take money in return for pushing a political agenda.

Cobrapost, a small but controversial outlet known for undercover stings, describes itself as a non-profit news organisation that believes too much journalism in India has been "trivialised". It has dubbed its story "Operation 136" - the figure is a reference to India's ranking in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Their website says its recordings show that some of the country's leading news organisations are willing to "not only cause communal disharmony among citizens, but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party"- and all in return for cash.

Undercover stings of this kind are notoriously unreliable. The footage can easily be taken out of context or edited to change the meaning of a conversation or misrepresent its real nature.

An undercover reporter from Cobrapost, Pushp Sharma, says he approached more than 25 of India's leading media organisations, offering them all a similar deal.

He claimed to represent a wealthy ashram - a Hindu monastery - which, he said, was willing to pay large amounts of money in the run up to next year's general election in an attempt to ensure the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, remains in power.

Mr Sharma says he outlined a three-stage strategy his paymasters wanted to bankroll.

First, he proposed the media organisations promote what he describes as "soft Hindutva" - the idea that Hindu faith and values are the defining ideology of India. He suggested this could involve promoting the sayings of Lord Krishna or retelling stories from the Bhagvad Gita, the epic poem that is one of the most holy texts of Hinduism.

The next stage would involve attacks on the BJP's political rivals, particularly Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition Congress Party.

Finally, the plan was to move on to promoting incendiary speeches from some of hard-line proponents of Hindutva, including some divisive radical Hindu figures.

The idea of this stage of the operation, Mr Sharma explained to some of the executives, was to polarise voters in the hope that the BJP would benefit at the ballot box.

'Viral videos and jingles'
Amongst the media groups Cobrapost says it approached were giants like Bennett Coleman, the media empire that owns The Times of India - the largest selling English language newspaper not just in India, but in the world.

It also targeted the The New Indian Express, another large English language newspaper, and the India Today Group, which owns one of the country's most popular television news channels.

Hindi language newspapers and regional media groups were also approached.

Riaz Haq said...

Foreign Media Calls Out Indian Media’s Silence on Cobrapost Sting

https://www.thequint.com/news/india/foreign-media-on-cobrapost-sting

The ignominy of Indian mainstream media’s deafening silence around the Cobrapost sting ‘Operation 136’ , which sought to expose the alleged underbelly of India’s biggest media outlets, has caught the eye of many international media houses.

Though the operation and its claims have been refuted by the media firms who have allegedly been exposed, what has raised eyebrows is the Indian media’s coverage, or lack thereof, surrounding the sting operation.

The sting operation that targets 27 media outlets, including some of the country’s biggest, reveals the supposed willingness of these media outlets to run political and religious propaganda in favour of the ruling government in return for hefty financial gains.

Apart from The Indian Express, that reported the story in a hard hitting piece titled ‘Where Anything Goes’ , most of the mainstream media turned a blind eye towards the story.

This led to a number of international media outlets calling out the Indian media for having failed to highlight the failures within the fraternity.

Indian Press Seems Willing to Peddle Political Propaganda: Foreign Policy
Pamposh Raina’s report in Foreign Policy talks about the fact that if proven, the media of the world’s largest democracy, would be willing to be used as propaganda mouthpieces by religious and political parties to spread their agenda.

“Despite sting journalism’s controversial reputation, the exposé, if accurate, reveals the ease with which the Indian press seems willing to peddle a political agenda. And, if true, the videos are all the more troubling given that India’s history has repeatedly shown mixing religion and politics can lead to violent sectarian clashes,” Foreign Policy wrote.
Troubling Doubts over the Independence of Media in India: BBC
Meanwhile the BBC highlighted the troubling issues that plague the Indian media, especially the fact that press freedom rankings of the country is a matter of shame and that if these allegations are proven true, it only further solidifies the concerns of Indian media’s follies.

There is no question that the Cobrapost allegations need to be treated with healthy skepticism. But there is also no question that they raise potentially troubling doubts over the independence of the media in India, particularly when it is a year away from a general election.
BBC
Also Read: Cobrapost Sting: ‘Explain Your Position,’ Editors Guild Asks Media

Problematic Time for Indian Journalism: Al Jazeera
A report in the Al Jazeera underlined that it is a troubling time for Indian journalism. In their weekly programme ‘The Listening Post’ that examines and dissects the world media, Richard Gizbert talks about the conspicuous absence of the Cobrapost sting operation in the Indian media coverage.


The suspicion that Indian media outlets can be bought is not new. So for many, the Cobrapost sting simply confirmed what they had long suspected and did so at an already problematic time for Indian journalism. In the four years of the Narendra Modi government, polarisation across the media has grown more extreme; the voices more shrill.
Al Jazeera
If at all these allegations were to be proven true, it would be a damning moment for the Indian media, and would only further intensify the skepticism that one goes through while reading and watching news in the mainstream media.

(With inputs from Al Jazeera, BBC and Foreign Policy)

Riaz Haq said...

People Are Ridiculing Dawn Media Group's CEO Hameed Haroon After His Intense Interview With BBC

https://www.mangobaaz.com/hameed-haroon-ceo-of-dawn-is-being-ridiculed/

Hameed Haroon, the CEO of Dawn Media Group, is being ridiculed on social media for his interview with Stephen Sackur on BBC HARDtalk.


Haroon, went on air with Sackur to discuss the media in Pakistan, particularly his own company, and its role in the upcoming general elections.
Unfortunately, the interview turned sour when Hameed was unable to accurately answer a question in reference to Dawn’s alleged support and sympathy for the newly proclaimed ‘criminals,’ Nawaz and Maryam Sharif.

The interview was intense and Sackur put out some hard hitting questions at the media tycoon
Hameed and the credibility of the paper came under question, as the general public came to the consensus that the interview had turned into an ‘expose,’ showing Hameed and his Media group for all that they allegedly were.