A number of organizations concerned with maintaining the integrity of journalism have established web pages that monitor current efforts to limit government freedom of information as part of the war on terrorism. They include the following:
War / Peace
"In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the United States finds itself embroiled in two different battles," writes Princeton University history professor Nicholas Guyatt. "The first, waged on the plains and in the mountains of Afghanistan, pits the world's richest nation (and most powerful military) against one of the world's poorest. It's not hard to predict that the United States will probably win this war, although its task in finding a legitimate replacement for the Taliban may be much harder.The second battle, however, is of an altogether different order of magnitude.
The dictatorship that governs Pakistan was held in contempt by the West prior to September 11, first for its repression of democracy at home and second for its ties with terrorists. Now that it has become our ally against Afghanistan, however, the song has changed. "It may be a good thing that Pakistan is ruled by a friendly military dictator," says Newsweek magazine, "rather than what could well be a hostile democracy." As Robert Fisk points out, "This, of course, is the very policy that dictates Washington's relations with the Arab world.
Don't trust the media, at least not CNN. Says who? New York Timesphotojournalist Vincent Laforet, currently on assignment in Pakistan. On a Web page for sports photographers Vincent Laforet advised: "Don't trust anything you see on TV and be wary of some of the things you read. I witnessed how sensationalistic the media can be during the Florida recount. It's even worse here. We covered a pro-Taliban demonstration last week attended by maybe 5,000 protestors. CNN stated there were 50,000. The BBC estimated 40,000.
Sacramento journalist R.V. Scheide recounts his experience with an overzealous National Guardsman, who took him into custody for taking photographs at the airport. "When a half-dozen different cops tell you you've done something wrong for two hours straight, there's a tendency to start believing them, even if you haven't done anything," he writes.
"We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately," says Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, explaining the Pentagon's decision to hire the Rendon Group as its PR firm during the bombing of Afghanistan. Norman Solomon reviews the firm's background and clients, including the trade agencies of Bulgaria, Russia and Uzbekistan, the Monsanto Chemical Company, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, the CIA and the Iraqi National Congress.
The New York Times reports that Hollywood executives and White House officials discussed recently how the entertainment industry can help the Bush administration's war effort. "Bryce Zabel, the chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, said there was a strong sense among executives at the meeting that the United States needed to do more to highlight its strengths internationally. The United States, Mr. Zabel said, is losing the propaganda war abroad because so many people are willing to line up against it.
The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a well-known Washington public-relations firm, to help it explain U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences. Rendon will be paid $397,000 over the next four months to monitor news media in 79 countries, conduct focus groups and create a counterterrorism Web site. Rendon's help is needed because "we are clearly losing the 'hearts and minds' issue," said one official involved in the administration spin effort.
Thanks to the spread of the internet, the war in Afghanistan may mark the first time that U.S. citizens have been able to widely access news about a war directly from countries in the region. Here are some websites for English-language daily newspapers published in Israel and the Muslim world:
The Newspaper Guild, which represents newspaper employees throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, has established an electronic clearinghouse on its website that tracks how news organizations treat dissenting journalists during the "war on terrorism." It notes that "the right, obligation and necessity of free inquiry, of the uncensored exchange of news and information, and of vigorous debate and the exchange of conflicting views and opinions ...