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West’s Free Speech Threatened by Ukraine War

CN Editor Joe Lauria told a PEN International conference that press freedom is threatened as the West enforces a single narrative on Ukraine, barring discussion of the war’s geopolitical causes.

Update: The NHS’ Disinformation Governance Board was put on hold on Wednesday after fierce criticism, and its newly appointed director, Nina Jankowicz has resigned.

Consortium News Editor Joe Lauria addressed the 54th annual PEN International Writers for Peace Committee meeting in Bled, Slovenia last Thursday on the subject of growing censorship in the West.

Because of time limits imposed by the conference, Lauria’s remarks were not delivered in full. The  text of his remarks is provided below. Uroš Lipušcek, a prominent Slovenian television reporter and author who was a Washington and U.N. correspondent, also spoke out at the conference on the repression of press freedom in Europe and the United States during the Ukraine war. The video of his remarks follows.

54th annual PEN International Writers for Peace Committee

The Growing Censorship in the West

Joe Lauria

I am the editor of Consortium News founded in 1995 by Robert Parry, an Associated Press investigative reporter who broke the biggest Iran-Contra scandal stories in the 1980s. But AP spiked Bob’s biggest story about Oliver North’s role, which only went out inadvertently on the AP’s Spanish wire. After similar suppression of his work at Newsweek magazine, Parry started a consortium of journalists who had also had their stories suppressed. Consortium News came on line five days before Salon.com and months before The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major media published on the internet. His aim was to report on crucial facts left out of corporate media that completely alters the story.

I was one of those reporters whose stories were suppressed at The Wall Street Journal and I began writing for Consortium News in 2011. I was a correspondent at U.N. headquarters in New York for 25 years for the JournalThe Boston Globe and other newspapers, and was an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times of London.

Recently CN has become a target because we are reporting many of the facts about Ukraine that establishment media purposely and deceptively are leaving. Powerful forces are trying to stop us from doing that.

PayPal has permanently shut us down, making it more difficult for us to receive donations from our readers and viewers, who alone fund us. We don’t take a penny from any government, corporation or advertiser. PayPal won’t tell us why it banned us. But buried in the User Agreement are restricted activities, including providing “false, inaccurate or misleading information.” As the only thing we trade in is information it’s a safe bet that’s why they shut us down. PayPal does not agree with our news coverage, and very likely especially on Ukraine, and are trying to hurt us financially.

There’s more. A private company named NewsGuard, on whose board sits a former C.I.A. and N.S.A. director, a former Department of Homeland Security director and a NATO secretary-general, also has partnerships with the Pentagon and the State Dept. News Guard has begun a “review” of our news site.

In their initial contact, before we had a chance to respond, NewsGuard accused us of publishing “false content.” They are demanding we correct several of our stories. This came after three of our writers have been kicked off Twitter.

What’s going on here?

Many in this room might not agree with me. But this is the whole point about free speech and a free press. You don’t have to agree. But no one should try to shut someone down because of it.

What we’ve done is to report on the causes of this war. Historians agree that the onerous terms put on Germany at Versailles were a cause of the rise of Nazism and WWII. They aren’t making excuses for Nazi Germany, just trying to explain why the war started. I have written in CN that the Russian invasion was illegal in that it violated the U.N. Charter. There was no Security Council authorization for it. Unfortunately the meaning of international law has been degraded by serial violations of it by the U.S., through numerous coups and invasions since WWII. An argument for the Russian invasion could be based on the pre-U.N. just war theory of Augustine and Aquinas, which is perhaps why the Pope saw that NATO provoked it. Are we going to try to take down the Pope now for “disinformation?”

I also wrote on Feb. 4 that the U.S. was setting a trap for Russia in Ukraine, the way it did for Saddam Hussein in Iraq and for the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted in a French magazine article in 1998 that a trap was set to bring down the USSR. Two days after the Russian invasion in February, Hillary Clinton went on television and said the Afghan model of the 1980s is what people in Washington we looking at for Ukraine.

Let’s not be fooled. The U.S. doesn’t really care about the Ukrainian people, as we all should, just like they didn’t care about Iraqis, Afghans, Panamanians, Yemenis, the list goes on. As writers we should stand with the civilians in all those countries attacked by the U.S. too.

The U.S. interest is to overthrow Vladimir Putin. Biden said as much in Poland and also in his Feb. 24 press conference when he said the sanctions were never intended to stop the invasion but to get the Russian people to rise up against Putin. The U.S. had a pliable president in Boris Yeltsin as Wall Street moved in after the fall of the USSR to asset strip the state-owned industries, enrich themselves and impoverish the Russian people.

Putin put a stop to that. He called out U.S. unilateral aggression in his 2007 Munich Security Council speech yet he still wanted to be partners with the West. He even asked Bill Clinton if Russia could join NATO. Putin became a marked man after that. Provoking him to invade Ukraine has allowed the U.S. to launch its economic, information and proxy war through massive weapons transfers.

Putin may have had dreams of reconstituting Novorossiya in Ukraine. But he couldn’t do it without the U.S. handing him the opportunity. How the U.S. did this, requires reporting on the causes of the war.

The first was NATO expansion eastward, despite promises to Gorbachev. The other causes were the U.S.-backed coup in 2014, the 8-year civil war against the coup resisters in Donbass, the non-implementation of the Minsk accords, the failure of the West to take seriously Russia’s treaty proposals in December for a new security architecture in Europe, and the last cause is the very influential role of neo-Nazis, including the Azov Regiment, which is part of the Ukraine state military. Mainstream media reported on Neo-Nazism in 2014 but that has suddenly stopped. The Atlantic Council, probably the most anti-Russian think tank in the world, reported on the Neo-Nazi threat just two years ago, saying their 2 percent vote in the parliament was misleading.

The U.S. has worked with Ukrainian fascists since 1949 when Mykola Lebed, a leader with Stepan Bandera’s fascists who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Jews and Poles in WWII, was brought to New York to conduct sabotage against the USSR in Ukraine. Today Bandera’s statues are everywhere in Ukraine.

Corporate media reported on the massing of Russian troops at the border in the winter, but not on the 60,000 Ukrainian troops on the Donbass contact line. It was like describing a chess board with only black pieces.

All these causes of the war are left out of Western media reporting on Ukraine. Like the playwright Harold Pinter, after which the PEN Pinter Prize is named, said, America’s “manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good, [is] a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis [which meant] that it never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.”

Omitting key causes of the Russian invasion paints a totally different picture of what’s happening. It’s what Western leaders and media want you to believe. And if a media organization tries to report what’s omitted, to give a fuller picture, we now known that Western governments will go after you in violation of every tenet of free speech and press freedom.

Look what happened to Assange for reporting what the U.S. has done and what corporate media has failed to report? The mainstream routinely covers up the crimes of the U.S. empire, the very crimes that Assange has revealed. In no way in an equal manner, the establishment is now coming after smaller players like Consortium News for daring to report what corporate media won’t.

The growing tide of censorship with Ukraine being used as the excuse and it is getting worse. Before the U.S. government pressured social media to shut down speech it didn’t agree with. Now it is directly involved, creating a Disinformation Governance Board under Department of Homeland Security law enforcement to police the media. Woodrow Wilson failed by one vote in the U.S. Senate in 1917 to legalize direct government censorship despite the First Amendment. Now his dream is coming trued.

Before this dangerous new phase of official censorship, we were just smeared as Putin puppets and Kremlin stooges. But now efforts are underway to stamp out the smallest spark of dissent, lest it grow. The U.S. government is demanding total control of the narrative. The word total is in “totalitarianism.”

We in the West have to understand what is happening to us in the midst of this war hysteria. We have to rationally analyze this crisis. We cannot put up with censorship of the press, no matter what we think of the war in Ukraine. There are irresponsible people in the media who calling for direct war with Russia and some who think a nuclear war can be won. The madness has to stop. And the press must remain free to tell a more complete story, no matter what governments think.

Reprinted with permission from Consortium News.