Sep
01
2000

The Real Ali Agca Connection

Media miss U.S. ties to Turkish terrorists

When would-be papal assassin Mehmet Ali Agca was pardoned by the Italian government and sent back to his native Turkey in June, a New York Times editorial (6/16/00) typified the prevailing U.S. media spin. The lead of the editorial described the commutation of Agca's life sentence for the May 1981 papal shooting as "a reminder that cold-war mysteries may still lie buried in the archives of the former Soviet Union and the East bloc." Over the years, the Times and other U.S. news outlets vigorously promoted the theory that the Soviet KGB, acting through its Bulgarian secret service proxy, was […]

Sep
01
2000

Hometown Hostility

The Philadelphia Inquirer vs. Mumia Abu-Jamal

Antioch College's commencement for the class of 2000 featured a taped speech by death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted in a highly questionable 1981 trial of murdering a Philadelphia police officer. (See Extra!, 11-12/95.) The Ohio college's graduation events also included a teach-in by supporters of Abu-Jamal and an organized police protest. Although the selection of a condemned prisoner as speaker was surely the most notable and unusual feature of the event, the Philadelphia Inquirer's coverage focused on the police protest, with the front-page article (4/30/00) headlined "Speech Met with Silent Protests" and an accompanying picture of Maureen Faulkner, widow of […]

Sep
01
2000

CPJ Declares Open Season on Thomas Friedman

As longtime supporters of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ important mission of defending press freedom, FAIR wrote the following letter to the CPJ to protest its exclusion of the 16 Radio-Television Serbia (RTS) employees killed by NATO from its annual list of journalists murdered because of their work. The letter was signed by a number of concerned journalists, media activists and scholars. While CPJ protested the RTS bombing in an April 23, 1999 letter to NATO, the decision to exclude the killed RTS workers from its influential annual list sets a dangerous precedent. CPJ says it excluded the RTS journalists […]

Sep
01
2000

Digging Too Deep at No Gun Ri

AP's massacre exposés survived corporate pressure and criticism--but not apathy

In September 1999, the Associated Press published a dramatic investigative story documenting a massacre of civilians by American soldiers during the Korean War. Eyewitness testimony was gathered from American veterans who said that they had fired--on the orders of their superiors--into a group of hundreds of Korean civilians fleeing the fighting at a place called No Gun Ri. Those veterans corroborated the testimony of Koreans who survived the 1950 massacre, as well as U.S. military documents. In addition to sparking a joint investigation by the Pentagon and its South Korean counterpart, AP's story immediately won attention from major U.S. news […]

Sep
01
2000

Propaganda or Patriotism?

The media, the military and the ICTY

On June 2, the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) announced that its 11-month assessment found no reason to open a criminal investigation of NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Five days later, Amnesty International released a report, "‘Collateral Damage’ or Unlawful Killings?," finding that NATO had committed "serious violations of the laws of war." One of these violations, the April 23 bombing of the Serbian State Television and Radio (RTS) building, was found to meet the legal definition of a war crime. To "avoid any impression that [the Tribunal] was whitewashing" […]

Sep
01
2000

Fronting for Big Coal

Halting global warming would be racist, PR insists

Under our office door came a note advising us that African-American and Latino groups would have a press conference the next day to release a report showing that minority populations will suffer most if the United Nations Global Warming Treaty--the Kyoto agreement--passes the U.S. Senate. The press conference was being pulled together by Advantage Communications Consultants, a public relations firm in Houston, and coordinated by a group called the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED). A simple check told us that CEED is a coal industry front group. If ratified, the Kyoto agreement would require reductions in carbon dioxide […]

Sep
01
2000

Pro-Choice Not Networks' Choice

Abortion rights ads too "controversial" for TV

During the past three decades, the religious right has slowly chipped away at women's access to safe, legal reproductive services with a multi-tiered approach to anti-abortion activism. Legislative efforts have resulted in funding restrictions, waiting periods, parental consent and notification bills, as well as so-called "fetal protection" bills and "partial birth" abortion bans attempting to criminalize doctors. Meanwhile, violence and harassment aimed at clinics and doctors have forced many physicians to stop providing abortion services. At the same time, anti-choice activists have worked to create a perceptual sea change using media--particularly paid commercials--to sway public opinion. In the most high-profile, […]

Sep
01
2000

Right-Wing Business in Farmer's Overalls

The American Farm Bureau Federation

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) bills itself as the voice of American agriculture--and often succeeds in getting the media to identify it as such. In an article about an EPA study of insecticides, USA Today (10/28/99) turned to an EPA critic at the AFBF, describing it as a group that "promotes farmers’ interests." Similarly, CNN (12/13/99) referred to "farmers’ groups" questioning the EPA’s concerns--and featured another spokesperson from the AFBF. The myth that AFBF represents the interests of farmers is longstanding, though it has long been debunked. In Samuel "Sandy" Berger’s 1971 book, Dollar Harvest: The Story of the […]