18.12.2013 Author: Janet Phelan

Persecution of First World Journalists ignored by Human Rights Agencies

image (1)The banner for the Committee to Protect Journalists proclaims: “Defending Journalists Worldwide.” A more accurate motto would include: “First World Journalists Excepted.”

The increasing incidence of persecution of reporters in the First World goes largely unaddressed by CPJ, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Warch. In fact, the subject appears to be taboo. The agencies pledged to protect press freedoms trumpet their universality while methodically ignoring both physical and “blackbag” legal attacks on First World reporters. U.S. media also generally declines to report on this issue.

Back in 2005, Counterpunch published an article by Diana Barahona evealing CIA connections to the press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders. The actions by Committee to Protect Journalists raise questions as to its political ties and agenda.

Case in point is CPJ’s failure to act on the plight of journalist Jeffrey Silverman. Silverman was born in Washington, DC and served in the U.S. Army prior to receiving an MS in Agricultural/International Development. He had been residing in the Republic of Georgia since 1991. Silverman, who also writes under the name Joni Simonishvili, has done in-depth investigative reporting on chemical and biological weapons, the alleged murder of the former Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and on black torture sites in the former Soviet Union, as well as uncovering and reporting on U.S. support for the Chechen rebels.

Silverman was on a family visit back to the U.S. in 2004 when he was arrested and taken into court on charges of failure to pay child support. In fact, Silverman had been paying child support for years without a court order. After one judge ordered his passport seized, another judge reversed that decision and exonerated Silverman of the charges.

Silverman then flew back to Georgia. Shortly thereafter, he was picked up in Azerbaijan,on orders of the U.S. Embassy, while in Baku to submit an article. He was badly beaten and and his passport again was seized. The U.S. Embassy subsequently issued a document to Silverman stating that he is an alien. Embassy officials offered him a trip back to the U.S. under alien status but instead of accepting a tainted offer, Silverman jumped the border from Azerbaijan into Georgia.

It is now almost ten years later and Silverman is still in legal limbo. The State Department refuses to comment on his status, as does the Department of Justice and Homeland Security. Silverman continues to reside in the Republic of Georgia, without documents. When queried as to how he is able to travel without a passport, Silverman replied, wryly, “I’m good at jumping borders.”

The law governing revocation of United States citizenship is clear: citizenship cannot be revoked unless a person so wishes unless the individual has committed an “expatriating act,” such as serving in the military in a country at war with the United States. Silverman has committed no such act.

Silverman appealed to CPJ for assistance and was given the proverbial cold shoulder.

Another First World reporter, Canadian journalist and author Kevin Galalae, has faced repeated arrests and detention—six arrests in the last two years, to be precise. He was last held for nine months in Quinte Detention Center in Ontario only to have all charges stayed this past September due to the Crown failing to provide discovery.

Galalae’s saga began in 2009, when he enrolled in an online political philosophy course at Oxford University, in preparation for a Master’s course into which he had been accepted by the University of Leicester. When he found himself censored and subsequently removed from the course, he began to investigate why.

Kevin Galalae uncovered that he had been targeted by a covert program of censorship and surveillance, SAC, which had been operating in Britain since 2007. SAC, he soon learned, is part of a wider counter terrorism program called CONTEST.

Dismayed that he had been caught in a net intended to ferret out terrorists, Galalae subsequently sued the UK at the European Court of Human Rights. His lawsuit was lodged in March of 2011 and in April he flew to Strasbourg, France, to commence a month-long hunger strike at the Council of Europe in order to compel European politicians to condemn SAC and to compensate all students who had been so targeted.

When his wife, Cindy Marshall, pleaded he return to Canada, he flew back to Kingston to find an empty house. Marshall had taken their two children, locked him out of their mutual bank account, and taken refuge in her parents’ home. Galalae showed up at that residence and was met by a plainclothes police officer who informed him that he was “trespassing.”

The police took Galalae to a mental hospital for a three- day evaluation. When the hospital refused to hold him any longer, the Kingston police showed up at the hospital and arrested Galalae on charges of “harassment,” citing his efforts to see his two small children. 

In subsequent arrests, his attorneys were bound by the Crown from releasing any disclosure to him. One must question how an attorney can adequately defend his client if barred from discussing the evidence with him.

In the course of these events, Galalae also appealed to Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. His pleas went unattended to.

An effort to potentially arrest Galalae again this November was apparently derailed when records were turned over to the Canadian authorities and reported publicly indicating that Cindy Marshall was intent on committing perjury in order to further detain Kevin Galalae.

Dr. Joseph Zernik, who founded the NGO Human Rights Alert in 2009, has presented papers on corruption in the U.S. Courts in Kobe, Japan and published extensively on court and judicial corruption in professional journals. He also writes for Opednews.com. 

Zernik scoffs at the idea that these agencies will do anything to protect U.S. researchers and reporters. Zernik, who fled the U.S. in. 2010 after multiple arrests has this to say about the decision making apparatus in human rights agencies: 

“I gave up on Human Rights organizations.  Most of them are run by attorneys.  So when you provide evidence of widespread corruption of the courts and the legal profession, they say: We don’t deal with that kind of stuff…

That is why there is a need for people’s power to oppose judicial corruption.  The attorneys would never do it.”

Zernik’s Israeli bank account was subsequently seized last year, following changes in legislation allowing the United States to access foreign bank accounts held by U.S. nationals.

According to Galalae, whose book, “Killing Us Softly: Causes and Consequences of the Global Depopulation Policy” is scheduled for publication next year:

“To acknowledge abuse and victimization at home threatens their sources of funding and invalidates Western pretenses of superiority.  The first world insulates itself from the criticism of NGOs by holding the purse strings and by demanding that open societies are treated differently from closed societies. But in light of the fact that the governments of Western nations are becoming increasingly secretive, abusive and oppressive one can hardly speak of them as being open, democratic and free societies.”

The list of those funding CPJ reveals a “hang out” for corporate America. Funders include Dow Chemical, Microsoft, Dow Jones, Citigroup, Ford Motor Company, Goldman Sachs as well as the New York Times Company, Fox News and Google. The Director of the Overbrook foundation, which also funds CPJ, expressed surprise at learning that CPJ is largely excluding First World journalists from its mandate. In an interview this week, Overbrook CEO Stephen Foster stated he had “no idea” that this discrimination was taking place.

CPJ has declined to respond to queries from this reporter as to why that organization is ignoring persecution of journalists by the American and Canadian authorities. Comments and questions on this issue have been regularly censored on CPJ’s Linked In network, according to multiple sources.

CPJ recently published a report on Press Freedoms under Obama, which harshly criticized the Obama administration for promoting a climate of oppression and paranoia. The report focused on surveillance issues and high profile prosecutions under the Espionage Act. The report neglected to mention that some journalists have endured beatings, false arrests and bank account seizures.

Janet C. Phelan, investigative journalist and human rights defender that has traveled pretty extensively over the Asian region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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