The list of the governments that have persecuted journalists

The Washington Post hails those reporters who face grave danger from the Taliban and the governments of Cuba, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the U.S.

By Glenn Greenwald

Published November 21, 2008 9:51AM (EST)

(updated below - Update II)

The Washington Post Editorial Page today hails the courage of six journalists who have faced down persecution and grave danger in their line of work and who, consequently, are this week receiving the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Plainclothes Ugandan police officers descended yesterday on the newsroom of the weekly newsmagazine the Independent, seizing computer documents and attempting to deliver an arrest warrant to managing editor Andrew M. Mwenda. "Unluckily, I was out of Uganda," Mr. Mwenda told us. Unluckily? "Yes. I do not want them to think I am running away" . . . .

Mr. Mwenda [] is in the United States to receive an International Press Freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists . . . .

Mr. Mwenda's courage is typical of CPJ award winners. Others being honored this year include photographer Bilal Hussein of the Associated Press, whom the U.S. military imprisoned in Iraq for two years without charges; Danish Karokhel and Farida Nekzad, who run a news agency in Afghanistan, one of the world's most dangerous places for reporters, and especially for female reporters such as Ms. Nekzad; Beatrice Mtetwa, a lawyer who has defended journalists against the vicious persecution of President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe; and Cuban journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.

So, to recap the award winners:  we have a reporter persecuted by the Ugandan Government; another imprisoned by the Castro regime; a journalist-defending lawyer who faced down the intimidation and threats of Robert Mugabe; two journalists who work at great risk of being attacked by the Taliban; and one who was arrested by the U.S. military and then imprisoned for two years without any charges or due process of any kind by the United States Government.  As happens so frequently now, that is the company we keep.

As for Mwenda, why does the Ugandan Government consider him such a threat?  This is why:

In his new post, Mr. Mwenda said, he has reported on paramilitary groups that detain civilians, take them to illegal detention centers and torture them.

In a different Editorial on the same page today, The Washington Post wrote about the five Algerians who were ordered yesterday by a federal judge to be released from Guantanamo after seven years in inhumane captivity as part of what The Post called "the utter travesty that is holding people with virtually no evidence -- and certainly no evidence that can reasonably be considered reliable."  That is all part of the U.S. Government's program to "detain civilians, take them to illegal detention centers and torture them."

The five Algerians were joined for most of their stay at Guantanamo by Al Jazeera camerman Sami Al-Haj, who was abducted in 2001 while attempting to enter Afghanistan to cover the war there for Al Jazeera, imprisoned at Guantanamo without ever being charged with any acts of terrorism, questioned almost exclusively not about Al Qaeda, but about the work of Al Jazeera, and then, after more than six years, unceremoniously released with no charges or findings of any wrongdoing whatsoever.  As Reporters Without Borders summarized:

Regularly tortured and subjected to close to 200 interrogation sessions by his jailers, Sami Al-Haj began a hunger strike on January 7, 2007, in protest against his detention and to demand that his rights be respected. In retaliation, his jailers force-fed him on several occasions. His lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith, who visited him in July last year, said he had lost about 40 pounds and was suffering from serious intestinal problems. He was also subject to bouts of paranoia and was finding it increasingly difficult to communicate normally.

The same bipartisan political class which endorsed all of this and which -- to this day -- wants to deny detainees in U.S. custody any rights to challenge their detention in a court of law, now all agree in perfect unison that it's time to let bygones be bygones; that any high U.S. officials who broke the law in spawning these injustices should be immunized; and that the crimes that were committed by government officials over the last eight years should be ignored.

* * * * * 

On a very related note, Jonathan Schwarz points out a highly revealing footnote in Scott Horton's cover article in the current edition of Harper's concerning restrictions imposed by the U.S. media on how these matters can be discussed.  That is redolent of this still-amazing episode where a CNN anchor upbraided Al Jazeera for reporting on civilian deaths in Iraq -- illustrative of one of the reasons the Bush administration had such contempt for that media outlet, to the point of imprisoning one of their camermen at Guantanamo and "accidentally" bombing their offices on several occasions.


UPDATE:  To get a sense for how corrupt and warped is the American political consensus against prosecuting American officials responsible for our torture and interrogation regime -- to say nothing of the wretched hypocrisy at the heart of that -- just see here.


UPDATE II:  Writing about yesterday's ruling on the Guantanamo detainees, Andrew Sullivan says:  "And Obama wants an apologist for this -- John Brennan -- at CIA?  Has he lost his mind?"

I'm both entirely unsurprised and basically undisturbed by the fact that Obama's most significant appointments thus far are composed largely of standard Washington establishment figures and pro-Iraq-War hawks, and are devoid of people "on the Left".  That is who Obama is -- he's an establishment politician who, with a few exceptions, is situated smack in the mainstream middle of the national Democratic Party.  The mentor he sought out when arriving in the Senate was Joe Lieberman, who he then actively supported against Ned Lamont.  The notion that Obama is some sort of aggressive or radical Leftist challenger of establishment power is and always was the by-product of fear-mongering from the Right and, to a lesser extent, the projected desires of some progressives.  As I've said many times, I intend to wait and judge Obama on the policies he pursues, not the administrators he appoints to carry out those policies.

But John Brennan is a different matter.  To appoint someone as CIA Director or Director of National Intelligence who was one of George Tenet's closest aides when The Dark Side of the last eight years was conceived and implemented, and who, to this day, continues to defend and support policies such as "enhanced interrogation techniques" and rendition (to say nothing of telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping), is to cross multiple lines that no Obama supporter should sanction.  Truly turning a page on the grotesque abuses of the last eight years requires both symbolism (closing Guantanamo) and substantive policy changes (compelling adherence to the Army Field Manual, ensuring due process rights for all detainees, ending rendition, restoring safeguards on surveillance powers).  Appointing John Brennan to a position of high authority would be to affirm and embrace, not repudiate, the darkest aspects of the last eight years.

Glenn Greenwald

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