ICE blogs

May 23, 2017

Surveillance – and the general election

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 9:50 am

Concerns over the growing powers of the surveillance state significantly secure no mention in either the Conservative or Labour Party manifestos in the run-up to the general election on 8 June.

Recently, a leak from the Home Office revealed that the government aimed to be able to access anyone’s communications within 24 hours under the Investigatory Powers Act (IPA) of December 2016 and halt people’s ability to encrypt messages. The Act was condemned by the Open Democracy group as the ‘most sweeping surveillance powers ever seen, not just in the UK, but in any Western European nation or in the United States’.

Under the new plans, companies would be legally required to introduce a backdoor to their systems so that authorities could read all communications if required. And in a section of the Conservative manifesto headed ‘Strengthening the police and security services’, the party says: ‘We will continue to invest in our world-leading security services and maintain and develop our counter-terrorism strategy to protect us from terrorism at home and abroad.’

The Labour Party makes no mention of surveillance or the powers of intelligence and the secret state in their manifesto: the party offered only token opposition to the IPA, dubbed, the ‘Snoopers’ Charter’.

In contrast, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to end the ‘Orwellian nightmare’ of mass surveillance. The party’s manifesto also commits to opposing Tory attempts to erode citizens’ powers of encryption.

One of the Lib Dems’ nine MPs, Alistair Carmichael, told the website, the Register, that the IPA prepared the way for a ‘full frontal assault’ on privacy and civil liberties. ‘The security services need to be able to keep people safe, but these powers are straight out of an Orwellian nightmare. They have no place in an open and democratic society, will cost billions of taxpayers’ money and simply will not work. Instead of spying on the entire population’s web histories and undermining the encryption that, for example, allows us to bank online safely, Liberal Democrats would put money back into community policing and concentrate on intelligence-led, targeted surveillance.’

• See https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/05/15/lib_dems_manifesto_pledge_to_end_snooping/; and http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/20/encr-m20.html

Richard Lance Keeble

May 22, 2017

Whistleblower Manning finally released

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:11 pm

Chelsea Manning, the military intelligence analyst turned whistleblower who revealed US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, was released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on 17 May after completing over seven years in jail.

She was arrested by the army in 2010 after providing WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of internal army ‘incident logs’ and about 250,000 diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world. In August 2013, she was jailed for 35 years, a sentence 10 times longer than any previous punishment imposed on a federal employee, military or civilian, for leaking classified information.

Among the crimes exposed by Manning was the American helicopter attack on civilians in Baghdad that killed 16 people, including two Reuters journalists. Other documents published by WikiLeaks proved that civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were far higher than officially reported while dossiers on Guantanamo Bay prisoners suggested that many of them had no significant role in terrorist operations.

As Genevieve Leigh comments: ‘Despite the massive evidence provided, not a single person was jailed, arrested, or even charged for any of the documented crimes. Instead, the military brass together with the Obama administration ruthlessly persecuted Manning for what is a far greater “crime” in the eyes of the ruling class: exposing the murderous nature of the US war machine.’

Following the revelations, Manning was held in an outdoor cage in a bid to break her psychologically. From July 2010 to April 2011, she was held in Virginia, much of the time stripped naked as a ‘security’ measure. As Leigh continues: ‘All told, she spent almost a year-and-a-half in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day, a form of detention classified as torture by human rights groups.’

In prison, Manning made two attempts to take her own life, for which she faced even more severe treatment.

President Obama commuted Manning’s sentence to just over seven years, in one of his final actions before leaving office in January. Yet her sentence under the Espionage Act remains in force. A fundraising drive to help Manning maintain her appeal has been launched by the Courage Foundation with the German branch of Reporters Without Borders and the Wau Holland Foundation.

Moreover, Obama and Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, in particular, led moves to muzzle Manning and other whistleblowers. In fact, more whistleblowers were prosecuted during the Obama years than in all other administrations combined.

The Trump administration is currently stepping up the campaign against whistleblowers, US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said recently that the arrest of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder, was a ‘priority’ for the US.

After being sentenced to jail, Manning (previously known as Bradley) announced she was transgendered and took the name Chelsea. She later began hormone therapy and requested gender reassignment surgery, which the army repeatedly denied.

• See http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/05/17/mann-m17.html

Richard Lance Keeble, joint editor of Ethical Space: The International Journal of Communication Ethics.

April 21, 2017

Moab: How the media humanise the horror

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:59 pm

One of the main functions of the dominant media is to naturalise and humanise the horror of contemporary warfare. As Edward Herman comments: ‘Doing terrible things in an organised and systematic way rests on “normalisation”. This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as “the way things are done”. … It is the function of the defense intellectuals and other experts and the mainstream media to normalise the unthinkable for the general public.’

This process was particularly evident in the recent coverage of the deployment by the US military of its most powerful, non-nuclear bomb against IS fighters in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Significantly, the missile (the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast) was dubbed ‘the Mother of All Bombs’ and the acronym ‘Moab’ quickly – and unproblematically – entered the lexicon of media/military jargon.

The nickname, Moab, clearly appropriates and updates the rhetoric of Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq, who called the 1991 Desert Storm conflict ‘the Mother of All Battles’. In the end, up to 250,000 Iraqis were to be slaughtered by the US-led forces during those 42 days in which one massacre followed another.

But the application of the word ‘Mother’ draws on a long tradition in which the language of domesticity serves to strangely humanise the horrific. Horror, in this way, becomes a familiar part of our normal everyday lives. Mothers are normally associated with love, compassion and the creation of life. Here, the bomb delivers death and destruction. In the same way, the Hiroshima bomb was called ‘Little Boy’, the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki ‘Fat Man’. Edward Teller is known as the ‘father’ of the H-Bomb.

Brian Easlea, in his seminal, feminist history Fathering the unthinkable, of 1983, highlights the creation of nuclear weapons in the context of the masculinity of science. He sees the development of science as a process of domination over both nature and women. According to Easlea, men create science and weapons to compensate for their lack of the ‘magical power’ of mothering. In other words, the distorted psyche at the heart of masculinity and the ‘technical, phallic rationality’ it promotes gives birth not to life but death. Easlea quotes a note slipped to Truman at the Potsdam conference on 17 July 1945 after a successful test of the plutonium bomb that said simply: ‘Babies successfully born.’ And the President knew precisely what it meant.

In an exultant profile of the B52 bombers during the Gulf conflict of 1991 in the Sun of 24 January, a Major Cole is quoted as saying: ‘The devastation underneath these babies is incredible.’ In other words, the mass deaths to be inflicted by these bombers is to be a source of celebration, wonder even. Men again have given birth to massacres. A major general is quoted: ‘The B52 has a mystique about it. Because of its destructive power it has a sense of awesomeness.’

Following Hiroshima and Nagasaki, later generations (note that word) of nuclear weapons were given military status and a patriotic role. They were called ‘Corporal’ and ‘Sergeant’. ‘Honest John’ appeared later in the European theatre (another ‘humanising’ term). The devastating ‘Minuteman’ missile drew on the name of the heroic militiamen of the American revolutionary war who were trained to turn out at a minute’s notice. So in this way the missile takes its proud place in national folklore. Or they have been given names of classical gods: such as Polaris, Skybolt, Jupiter, Titan, Poseidon, Trident. In these various ways weapons of mass destruction have been assimilated into our culture to appear ‘natural’ and ‘civilised’.

During the Cold War, Paul Chilton (1983), drawing on George Orwell’s notion of newspeak, coined the term nukespeak. In this way, he was making three main claims. Firstly, there existed a specialised vocabulary for talking about nuclear weapons together with habitual metaphors. Secondly, that this variety of English was neither neutral nor purely descriptive but ideologically loaded in favour of the nuclear culture. And finally, that nukespeak was massively important since it affected how people thought about the subject and largely determined the ideas they exchanged about it.

But there was no massive conspiracy to inject this vocabulary into the culture: there were no Orwellian grammarians munching their sandwiches at the Ministry of Truth and rewriting the English language. The atomic bombs which fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 were, indeed, weapons of mass destruction. Their deployment represented, according to Chilton, a revolutionary jump in military strategy. And inevitably it heralded a new order of experience in science, politics and the everyday. Chilton commented: ‘The language used to talk about the new weapons of mass extermination was partly an attempt to slot the new reality into the old paradigms of our culture. It was also no doubt a language that served the purpose of those who were concerned to perpetuate nuclear weapons development and deployment.’

Nukespeak then, as a specific linguistic register, drew on deep patterns of symbolic thought, on myths, religious beliefs, symbols, stereotypes and metaphors which we use to organise and normalise our everyday experiences. In August 1945, politicians together with the mainstream press spoke of the bomb mainly in terms of religious awe. For instance, while Truman was meeting Churchill and Stalin at Potsdam, an official report on the Hiroshima explosion was rushed to him. It said: ‘It was the beauty the great poets dream about. … Then came the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel that we puny things were blasphemous to dare to tamper with the forces heretofore reserved to the Almighty.’. The Times reported eye-witnesses: ‘The whole thing was tremendous and awe-inspiring,’ said a Captain Parsons of the US Navy.

Central to the manufacture of the myth of ‘humanitarian’ warfare over recent decades has been the constant propaganda focus on precise, clean weapons. War is a civilised, humanitarian business – that’s the essential message. Significantly, to justify the use of the GBU-43/B, on 13 April 2017, the American military afterwards said 94 IS militants had been killed in the ‘precise’ strike. There were no civilian casualties, they claimed.

- Richard Lance Keeble is Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln and Visiting Professor at Liverpool Hope University, His analysis of war coverage since 1945, Covering Conflict: The Making and Unmaking of New Militarism, is shortly to be published by Abramis, of Bury St Edmunds.

March 2, 2017

Whistleblowers ‘face increasing threats in digital era’

Filed under: News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 9:14 am

Journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to safeguard the anonymity of their sources due to the increasing surveillance of online and phone conversations, according to a major new study by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) at London University.

The report, Protecting sources and whistleblowers in a digital age, by Dr Judith Townend and Dr Richard Danbury, says whistleblowers need better legal protection since they are far easier to identify in the digital era and successive laws have undermined their status.

Earlier this month, a Law Commission review of the Official Secrets Acts proposed increased prison sentences for leaking official information and rejected the idea of providing a public interest defence.

The National Union of Journalists’ code of conduct stresses the importance of protecting the anonymity of confidential sources – and reporters have risked jail rather than reveal who gave them information for stories on matters of public interest. Following lobbying by the NUJ, the recently reformed clause 37 of the Digital Economy Bill allows a defence for publication in the public interest. The IALS report, however, suggests that it is uncertain how this defence will be interpreted by the courts.

The findings of the report (which is supported by the Guardian) are based on discussions with 25 investigative journalists, representatives from relevant NGOs and media organisations, media lawyers and specialist researchers.

A government spokesperson said: ‘Far from weakening protections for sources as this report suggests, this government has strengthened safeguards through the Investigatory Powers Act. Now any public body seeking to use communications data to identify a journalist’s source must first gain approval from a senior judge. We believe in the freedom of the press, and would never do anything to undermine legitimate whistleblowing or investigative journalism – it’s not government policy and never will be.’

* See https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/feb/22/whistleblowers-need-greater-protection-digital-age-media-lawyers-say and http://infolawcentre.blogs.sas.ac.uk/source-protection-report-2017/

February 20, 2017

A show about watching

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 2:41 pm

Veillance, an immersive, audio-visual artwork about data surveillance and mutual watching by Ronan Devlin, is to be exhibited at Bangor University, beginning 24 February. The work, which takes the internet as its medium, self-generates in real time in response to audience browsing activity, some of which is projected (creatively) on to the walls for all to see.

The work was commissioned by the Space and supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Arloesi Pontio Innovation, and made in collaboration with Vian Bakir, Ant Dickinson, Carwyn Edwards, Michael Flückiger, Gillian Jein and Andy McStay.

For further information check out the website www.veillance.info and follow the project on Twitter @veillanceinfo.

February 14, 2017

Jailed Palestinian journalist on hunger strike

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, conflict, human rights — news_editor @ 3:43 pm

Mohammed al-Qeeq, one of more than 20 journalists currently in Israeli prisons, has declared an open hunger strike following his re-arrest by occupation forces at Beit El checkpoint north of Ramallah. He began his strike immediately upon his arrest.

Al-Qeeq, 35, drew international support last year when he engaged in a 94-day hunger strike against his administrative detention, imprisonment without charge or trial, winning his release in May 2016. Since his release, he has been active in prisoner support campaigns and was arrested returning from a demonstration in Bethlehem calling for the release of the bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces.

Omar Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate, is being held without charge or trial after being seized by occupation forces on 23 April 2016 attempting to travel to Sarajevo for a conference of the European Federation of Journalists.

Philippe Leruth, president of the International Federation of Journalists, said: ‘This Israeli policy of administrative detention is a violation of human rights, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. We are extremely concerned that the Israeli authorities are extending this policy and that they are allowed to do so ad infinitum.’

Also held under administrative detention is Adib al-Atrash, imprisoned since 20 June 2016 after he returned from studying at Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus, where he had just received his Masters degree in media studies.

Palestinian writer Walid Hodali, director of the Jerusalem Literary Office and a member of the Palestinian Writers Union, was also seized by occupation forces amid a large number of arrests in the Ramallah area. He previously spent 15 years in Israeli prisons.

• See http://samidoun.net/2017/01/imprisoned-palestinian-journalist-mohammed-al-qeeq-on-hunger-strike-demanding-release/
and http://alternativenews.org/index.php/headlines/344-palestinian-journalist-mohammad-al-qeeq-declares-open-hunger-strike

December 13, 2016

259 journalists in jail around the world

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 12:02 pm

Some 259 journalists are currently in jail around the world – the highest number since the Committee to Protect Journalists began taking an annual census in 1990.

Turkey where there were at least 81 journalists behind bars topped the list. Dozens of other journalists remain imprisoned in Turkey, but CPJ was unable to confirm a direct link to their work.

China, which was the world’s worst jailer of journalists in 2014 and 2015, dropped to second place with 38 journalists in jail. Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia follow as the worst jailers of journalists.

CPJ executive director Joel Simon commented: ‘Journalists working to gather and share information are performing a public service and their rights are protected under international law. It is shocking, therefore, that so many governments are violating their international commitments by jailing journalists and suppressing critical speech.’ Turkey was at the vanguard of this authoritarian trend. ‘Every day that Turkey’s journalists languish in jail in violation of that country’s own laws, Turkey’s standing in the world is diminished.’

For the first time since 2008 Iran is not among the top five worst jailers since many of those sentenced in the 2009 post-election crackdown have served their sentences and been released. The Americas region, which had no jailed journalists in 2015, appears on this year’s census with four journalists in prison. The vast majority of journalists in jail worked online and/or in print, while about 14 per cent are broadcast journalists.

The prison census does not include journalists who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups such as freelance British journalist John Cantlie, held by the Islamic State. These are classified as ‘missing’ or ‘abducted’ and CPJ estimates that at least 40 journalists are in these categories in the Middle East and North Africa.

• See https://www.cpj.org/reports/2016/12/journalists-jailed-record-high-turkey-crackdown.php

September 13, 2016

US investigative journalist charged

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, politics, human rights — news_editor @ 10:42 am

The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for prosecutors in the US state of North Dakota to drop all criminal charges against broadcast journalist Amy Goodman, who hosts the global news programme Democracy Now! She faces criminal trespass charges following her reporting on protests against the construction of an oil pipeline opposed by Native American tribes in the region.

Goodman filmed security guards using dogs and pepper spray to disperse protesters. Morton County Sherriff’s Department issued a statement saying protesters had entered private land after breaking down a fence while Democracy Now! reported on its website that an officer from the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation acknowledged in an affidavit that Goodman was seen in the video identifying herself as a journalist and interviewing protesters. If convicted, Goodman could face a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail.

Carlos Lauría, senior programme coordinator for the Americas at CPJ, said: ‘This arrest warrant is a transparent attempt to intimidate reporters from covering protests of significant public interest.’ The complaint also cites Cody Charles Hall, an organiser of the protest, who was arrested on September 9, denied bail and jailed over the weekend, according to press reports.

Energy Transfer Partners hopes the pipeline will carry crude oil from North Dakota to Illinois, across land close to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Protesters say the project risks polluting the water supply, and would run through burial sites and other locations they hold sacred.

See https://www.cpj.org/2016/09/arrest-warrant-for-muckraking-us-journalist.php

May 23, 2016

CPJ launches anonymous submission system

Filed under: Blogroll, News, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 1:26 pm

The Committee to Protect Journalists has launched a special submission system allowing journalists to contact the organisation with reports of press freedom violations safely and anonymously.

SecureDrop is an open-source, encrypted submission system for news organisations that journalists can use to submit messages and files to the CPJ without revealing their identity, location, or the contents of their messages to potential attackers. To submit information to the CPJ via SecureDrop, journalists should download the latest version of the Tor browser, then use it to visit CPJ’s SecureDrop address at 2×2hb5ykeu4qlxqe.onion.

SecureDrop, which was created by the late activist Aaron Swartz and investigative journalist Kevin Poulsen, is now maintained and developed by the Freedom of the Press Foundation. CPJ technology programme co-ordinator Geoffrey King said: ‘SecureDrop combines a high level of security, which is inherent to the system, with an interface that is easy to use.’

Tom Lowenthal, CPJ staff technologist, commented: ‘We live in a world where ubiquitous government surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies. Even comparatively free states like the US and UK engage in mass surveillance, and many other states use technology to harm journalists and suppress journalism. In this environment, tools like SecureDrop will continue to be necessary for the effective practice of journalism without putting reporters or their sources at risk.’

• See https://www.cpj.org/blog/2016/05/how-securedrop-helps-cpj-protect-journalists.php

April 16, 2016

EU rulings ‘put press freedom at risk’

New EU rulings on whistleblowers and ‘right to be forgotten’ laws put press freedom at risk, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The passage of the European Trade Secrets Protection Act is particularly controversial. A number of MEPs and members of the press including Elise Lucet, a France2 investigative journalist whose petition against the Bill gathered half a million signatures, warned: ‘The trade secrets directive still raises doubts as to whether journalists and whistleblowers are appropriately protected.’ And Martin Pigeon, of the non-governmental organisation, Corporate Europe Observatory, told the BBC: ‘It would have potentially criminalised the release of Panama Papers.’

The Data Protection Package also raises concerns. Despite assurances from the commission, the so-called ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling, under which search engines can be ordered to de-list entries from web searches, has been carried over under a ‘right to erasure’ provision. According to George Brock, Professor of Journalism at City University London: ‘Contrary to what is often claimed, the [new] regulation does not solve the problems caused by the Google Spain case of 2014 which established the right for individuals to ask major search engines, such as Google, for internet links to be taken down if certain conditions are met. Instead of a specific remedy to an identifiable problem, the regulation is sweeping in its scope and powers and its approach to weighing free expression against privacy remains unbalanced.’

Members of the press in EU countries are already facing challenges, with Germany considering using the law against insulting a country’s leader to bring charges against a television comedian for allegedly insulting the Turkish president, and a photojournalist in Spain being fined €601 under the country’s so-called gag law after posting a photograph of a policeman making an arrest. In France, photojournalist Maya Vidon-White has been charged under a law banning the publication of photographs showing victims of terror attack, according to Associated Reporters Abroad.

• See Jean-Paul Marthoz at https://cpj.org/blog/2016/04/eu-rulings-on-whistleblowers-and-right-to-be-forgo.php

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