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Human Rights

From Venezuela to McCain, Media and Human Rights Industry on Same Page
On August 20, the Economist ran an article on Venezuela saying that “forced migration from the country might surpass the Syria crisis.” The magazine reported: The UN’s International Organization for Migration estimates that at the end of 2017 approximately 1.6 million Venezuelans were living outside their country. Today that number is likely to be far higher: as of June 2018 there were nearly 1 million Venezuelan migrants in Colombia alone. The UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has recorded 135,000 asylum applications from Venezuelans during the first seven months of 2018, already 20 percent more than for the whole of...
Vox’s CIA-Backed ‘Democracy’ Standard Is OK With Slavery and Women Not Voting

Vox, which constantly tells its readers that life is actually swell, with the momentum of history indisputably on the road to justice, decreased poverty and less war, consistently uses a method of ranking countries to prop up its argument that “democracy” is on the rise. But dig into the criteria being used and you find a troubling definition of “democracy” that serves the interests of US power—and wealthy elites.

NYT Would Call It Torture–If It Covered Torture
After more than a decade of criticism, the New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet announced (8/7/14) that when the paper reports on US torture, it will call it “torture” (FAIR Blog, 8/8/14). But what if the paper decides that well-documented evidence of US torture is not fit to print? On August 11, Amnesty International released a lengthy report about abuses in Afghanistan committed by US forces and others, including Afghan security. The report includes serious allegations about US Special Forces torturing Afghan civilians. The Amnesty report has received some attention in US outlets, including the LA Times (8/11/14),...
Vijay Prashad on IS and Iraq, Emira Woods on Africa Summit

This week on CounterSpin: With the Islamic State, or IS, occupying large swathes of Iraq and Syria, a common refrain from politicians and pundits is to suggest that the group would not be a menace had the US intervened earlier and more deeply in the Syrian civil war. Author and professor Vijay Prashad will join us to address that canard and other misconceptions about Iraq, the US and the Islamic State.

Also on the show: The recent summit of African leaders in Washington DC was criticized by some for soft-pedaling human rights issues, but that only meant in African nations; media seemed to have no question at all about the beneficent goals of the policy of increased ‘investment’ on the continent by US corporations. We have some questions; we’ll ask them of Emira Woods of ThoughtWorks and the Institute for Policy Studies.

Industry as Victim in Workers’ Deaths
What should be done to prevent incidents like the January 26 fire at the Smart Fashion Export factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in which at least seven garment workers (three of them teenage girls) were killed, their escape impeded by a blocked exit and the absence of the most rudimentary fire safety equipment? The answer for many would be: whatever is necessary. But to hear elite media tell it, it’s complicated—so much so that it’s not even clear who the victims were: the women crushed to death escaping flames, or the system that exploits and endangers them. Or else why...
The New York Times‘ lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama’s drone “kill list” should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies? Is the White House covering up the killing of civilians by labeling them “militants”? Why is the United States continuing an assassination policy described as Al-Qaeda’s top “recruiting tool”? But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts around the...

CBS Revises Iraq Death Toll

After a FAIR Action Alert (12/2/11), the CBS Evening News has changed its count of civilian deaths–citing a new figure that is roughly twice their original count. On December 1 the CBS Evening News reported: It is estimated that more than 50,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war. As FAIR pointed out, this was totally inadequate–even the source for the network’s claim (iCasualties.org) warned that this was not a comprehensive count. On December 12, CBS anchor Scott Pelley...

CBS Undercounts Iraqi Deaths

A December 1 CBS Evening News report about the Iraq War managed to mislead viewers about the start of the war and severely diminish the loss of civilian lives. Reporting on the handover of the U.S. military headquarters to Iraqi forces, anchor Scott Pelley announced: What began in 2003 as an effort to overthrow Saddam Hussein became a vicious religious war, pitting Iraqi against Iraqi–with the U.S. caught in the middle. Of course, the United States invaded Iraq with...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: Congressional debate over the Libya War shows an apparently bipartisan sense of frustration and outrage over the NATO mission. This has triggered a serious debate over the legality of the war, among other things. But there is almost no discussion of whether the pretext for the war has actually held up. Patrick Cockburn of the Independent has been investigating the stories of mass rapes and mercenary fighters that paved...
The number of Afghan boys gathering firewood killed by a March 1 U.S./NATO helicopter attack in Kunar Province: Nine. The number of stories about the killing of the nine children on ABC, CBS or NBC morning or evening news shows (as of March 6): Two. One was an 80-word report on NBC Nightly News (3/2/11), the other a brief ABC World News Sunday story (3/6/11) about Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s “harsh words for the U.S.” after the “mistaken killing...
The May 31 Israeli attack on the Free Gaza humanitarian flotilla has returned some media attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by 1.5 million Palestinians living under Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip. But some media figures have sought to deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza at all. The Gaza Strip remains an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe on numerous levels. Israel has banned imports like cement that are necessary to rebuild Gazan infrastructure–including homes, hospitals and roads...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 On May 31st the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats full of civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza strip, and to call attention to the impact of Israel’s blockade. At least 9 and as many as 16 activists were killed—we don’t know in part due to Israel’s tight control over the flow of information. We’ll talk with James Zogby of the Arab American Institute about Gaza. Also on CounterSpin...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: A few months ago it seemed like Dick Cheney wouldn’t get off your television screen, insisting that secret CIA documents would prove that Bush torture policies saved the United States from further terrorist attacks. Well those documents have surfaced, along with a 2004 CIA inspector general’s report. So what’s in these documents? And has Cheney been vindicated? We’ll speak with reporter Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent about that....
The wars that have wracked the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1996, killing well over 5 million people (International Rescue Committee, 1/08) in what may be the deadliest conflict since World War II, are officially over. A peace agreement was signed in 2002, and general elections were held in 2006. But conflict and the humanitarian crisis continue. The most recent survey (IRC, 1/08) estimated that 45,000 people are dying each month from conflict-related causes (primarily hunger and disease),...
U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks launched December 27 that, as of January 13, had reportedly killed over 900 and injured thousands more—many of them civilians—has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law. Israel’s aerial attacks on Gazan infrastructure, including a TV station, police stations, a mosque, a university and even a U.N. school have been widely reported. Yet despite the fact that attacks on civilian infrastructure,...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The evils of earmarks. Barack Obama signed a spending bill “stuffed with earmarks,” the media tell us–despite the fact that he campaigned pledging to reform that practice. The assumption is that Congressional earmarks are bad; but are they? We’ll ask Melissa Harris-Lacewell, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University. Also this week: The International Criminal Court’s indictment on March 4th of Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir...
Click here to download pdf. Any evenhanded comparison of the Colombian and Venezuelan governments’ human rights records would have to note that, though Venezuela’s record is far from perfect, that country is by every measure a safer place than Colombia to live, vote, organize unions and political groups, speak out against the government or practice journalism. But a new survey by FAIR shows that, over the past 10 years, editors at four leading U.S. newspapers have focused more on...
U.S. corporate media coverage of the Israeli military attacks that have reportedly killed over 900–many of them civilians–since December 27 has overwhelmingly failed to mention that indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets are illegal under international humanitarian law. Israel’s recent aerial attacks on Gazan infrastructure, including a TV station, police stations, a mosque, a university and even a U.N. school, have been widely reported. Yet despite the fact that attacks on civilian infrastructure, including police stations, are illegal (Human Rights...
PlayStop pop out X Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: When the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report finding former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high officials responsible for abusive treatment of detainees in Guantánamo, Iraq and Afghanistan–with few exceptions, the media played the story down, preferring, for instance, righteous anger over embroiled Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. We’ll discuss the Senate report with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ Michael Ratner, whose book, The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld,...
The Humanitarian Temptation:
In the Darfur region of Sudan, truly horrific atrocities have taken place in recent years: Roughly 200,000 people have died from violence, disease or hunger (Science, 9/15/06), and well over 2 million have been driven from their homes, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis. Such crises often go criminally ignored by a mainstream media seldom interested in the plight of those who suffer the double invisibilities of being distant and dark-skinned. But Darfur is a little different: Propelled by a well-developed activist campaign and persistent appeals from both major celebrities and the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, Darfur has...

A Million Iraqi Dead?

The Iraq War was sold to Americans in part as an intervention that would benefit Iraqis, “liberating” them from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. In retrospect, after no weapons of mass destruction were found and the alleged links to Al-Qaeda were debunked, this supposed humanitarian mission became the central justification for the invasion. Today, it is a major pillar of what support remains among the U.S. public for continuing the occupation. If Americans are to make informed judgments...

Whose Human Rights Matter?

When Human Rights Watch recently released two investigations of the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war, the New York Times found the group’s documentation of unlawful attacks against Israel to be far more newsworthy than unlawful attacks committed by Israel. It’s rare that a media outlet’s news standards can be tested so directly. The human rights group released separate reports on violations by both Hezbollah and Israel, charging each side with indiscriminate attacks on civilians. When the first report was released, the...
When they’re discussed at all by corporate media, civilian deaths in Afghanistan are often presented as a tactical or public relations problem for U.S. military and political officials, or labeled as “accidental” or “errant.” The civilian deaths are not accidents, however; they are the predictable result of a deliberate decision to protect American troops by putting Afghan noncombatants at risk. A Chicago Tribune story on July 8 commented, “Such bombings and the allegations of civilian casualties, exaggerated or not,...

Bono, I Presume?

“Africa is sexy and people need to know that,” declared U2 singer Bono (New York Times, 3/5/07), promoting his new (RED) line of products that propose to save Africa one iPod at a time. Celebrity interest in Africa is not particularly new, but today more stars than ever seem to be converging upon the continent, with television crews seldom far behind. But, as Bono clearly understands, what media tend to find sexy about Africa is not Africa itself, but...

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