The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January, 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new, and quite dangerous, standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves: long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: it was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous. It became common to demand that one not only defend the right of the cartoonists to publish them but also, to show “solidarity,” one had to re-publish those cartoons no matter how much one objected to their content – thus adopting that speech as one’s own. Opposition to lavishing these cartoonists with honors and prizes was depicted as some sort of moral failure or at least insufficient commitment to free speech rights, as evidenced by the widespread, intense scorn heaped on the writers who spoke out in opposition to bestowing Charlie Hebdo with an award at a PEN America gala.
Tag Archives: Press Freedom
Terrorist attacks, and the emotions they spawn, almost always prompt calls for fundamental legal rights to be curtailed in the name of preventing future attacks. The formula by now is routine: The victims of the horrific violence are held up as proof that there must be restrictions on advocating whatever ideology motivated the killer to act.In 2006, after a series of attacks carried out by Muslims, Republican Newt Gingrich called for “a serious debate about the First Amendment” so that “those who would fight outside the rules of law, those who would use weapons of mass destruction, and those who would target civilians are, in fact, subject to a totally different set of rules.”
When Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel has both the Saudis and the Israelis demanding its closure, it must be doing something right. To bring Saudi head-choppers and Israeli occupiers into alliance is, after all, something of an achievement.
But don’t get too romantic about this. When the wealthiest Saudis fall ill, they have been known to fly into Tel Aviv on their private jets for treatment in Israel’s finest hospitals. And when Saudi and Israeli fighter-bombers take to the air, you can be sure they’re going to bomb Shiites – in Yemen or Syria respectively – rather than Sunnis.
And when King Salman – or rather Saudi Arabia’s whizz-kid Crown Prince Mohammad – points the finger at Iran as the greatest threat to Gulf security, you can be sure that Bibi Netanyahu will be doing exactly and precisely the same thing, replacing “Gulf security”, of course, with “Israeli security”. But it’s an odd business when the Saudis set the pace of media suppression only to be supported by that beacon of freedom, democracy, human rights and liberty known in song and legend as Israel, or the State of Israel or, as Bibi and his cabinet chums would have it, the Jewish State of Israel.
A little over a month ago, private security guards working on behalf of the Dakota Access pipeline company clashed with Native Americans. They were protesting the bulldozing of land on a Standing Rock Sioux tribal burial site in southern North Dakota.
Guards sprayed protesters with pepper spray and unleashed attack dogs on the crowd – which included children – in a reprehensible example of corporate violence.
Filming the protests in North Dakota that day was a crew from Democracy Now! The show’s award-winning anchorwoman Amy Goodman conducted interviews during the protests and covered the dog attacks as they unfolded.
The show’s subsequent special report about the incident went viral, with more than 14 million people viewing it on Facebook.
The Arrest of Journalists and Filmmakers Covering the Dakota Pipeline Is a Threat to Democracy—and the Planet
n October 11, Deia Schlosberg, the producer of my new film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, was arrested in Walhalla, North Dakota, while reporting on a climate-change protest. She was held for 48 hours before being allowed to speak to a lawyer. The authorities confiscated her footage. She is now charged with three counts of felony conspiracy and faces a possible sentence of up to 45 years. O
For being a journalist.
Deia isn’t alone. The arrest of journalists, filmmakers, and others witnessing and reporting on citizen protests against fossil-fuel infrastructure amid climate change is part of a worrisome and growing pattern. Last month in North Dakota, a warrant was issued to arrest Amy Goodman, award-winning host of Democracy Now!, after she covered Native American–led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her footage of security guards attacking peaceful protesters with bloody-snouted dogs was viewed over 14 million times. She elected to go back to North Dakota this week to face the charges. Actor Shailene Woodley was arrested and jailed this week while leaving a protest at a construction site for the Dakota Access Pipeline. She was singled out, the police told her, because she was well-known and had 40,000 people watching live on her Facebook page. Other filmmakers shooting protest actions along the pipeline have also been arrested.
Celil Sagir doesn’t have much left to lose. On March 28, he was fired, shoved aside. Now, he can talk about what is currently happening in Turkey and describe what it looks like when one man subordinates an entire country.
Sagir was managing editor of Today’s Zaman, the English-language offshoot of the country’s largest opposition newspaper. But on March 4, police stormed the paper’s editorial offices in Istanbul. Anti-terror specialists took part in the raid, as did several burly men in riot gear to put down protests. In their wake came the so-called trustees, sent to monitor the paper on behalf of the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Demonstrations have continued over fatal attacks on secular writers and publishers in Bangladesh suspected to have been carried out by hardline Islamists, with books burned and businesses closed in protest.
Hundreds of people, including writers, publishers and bookshop owners, took to the streets of the capital, Dhaka, on Monday to protest against what they said was government inaction over a string of attacks, including the murder on Saturday of a publisher of secular books.
“Shocked”, “sickened”, and “appalled” were appropriate words to describe the international reactions – and some of the local ones – to the second sentencing of Al Jazeera journalists and their colleagues in a Cairo court on Saturday.”The verdict today … sends a message that journalists can be locked up for simply doing their job, for telling the truth, and reporting the news. And it sends a dangerous message that there are judges in Egypt who will allow their courts to become instruments of political repression and propaganda.”
The Canadians have to do more for their Egyptian-Canadian citizen, she insists – but there is a note of desperation in her voice. “I saw the Canadian ambassador in Cairo, he’s trying to help – but of course he gets his instructions from Ottawa. [Canadian Prime Minister] Harper didn’t even call [Egyptian President] al-Sisi. The Canadians are trying to do more – but it’s not enough. Mohamed gave up his Egyptian citizenship. We’ve got to get him deported to Canada – that’s the only way out now.”
SPIEGEL: Mr. Assange, WikiLeaks is back — releasing documents proving United States surveillance of the French government, publishing Saudi diplomatic cables and posting evidence of the massive surveillance of the German government by US secret services. What are the reasons for this comeback?
Assange: Yes, WikiLeaks has been publishing a lot of material in the last few months. We have been publishing right through, but sometimes it has been material which does not concern the West and the Western media — documents about Syria, for example. But you have to consider that there was, and still is, a conflict with the United States government which started in earnest in 2010 after we began publishing a variety of classified US documents.
SPIEGEL: What did this mean for you and for WikiLeaks?
Assange: The result was a series of legal cases, blockades, PR attacks and so on. With a banking blockade, WikiLeaks had been cut off from more than 90 percent of its finances. The blockade happened in a completely extrajudicial manner. We took legal measures against the blockade and we have been victorious in the courts, so people can send us donations again.