US Media and Government vs. Ecuador & Edward Snowden — Free Speech Hypocrisy [FAIR]

June 30, 2013

by Jim Naureckas

Corporate media coverage of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has enjoyed the supposed irony of his reportedly seeking asylum in Ecuador, a country that U.S. journalists depict as failing to measure up to their standards of freedom.

“Should Snowden eventually land in Ecuador, he’ll find that the host government is hardly a champion of free expression,” asserted Cristina Lindblad of Bloomberg BusinessWeek (6/24/13).

“Others saw hypocrisy in a possible offer of asylum by a government that has aggressively pursued critics in the press for perceived slights and recently passed a media law that some call an assault on freedom of speech,” reported AP (6/24/13)

“Clearly Ecuador isn’t the logical, legitimate champion of freedom of expression globally,” declared Christopher Sabatini of Fox News Latino (6/28/13), in a piece headlined “Ecuador and Snowden: Really?”

Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (Guardian, 6/27/13) points out there is, actually, a considerable amount of free expression in Ecuador:

Without defending everything that exists in Ecuador, including criminal libel laws and some vague language in a new communications law, anyone who has been to the country knows that the international media has presented a gross caricature of the state of press freedom there. The Ecuadorian private media is more oppositional than that of the U.S., trashing the government every day.

It does seem inadequate for U.S. media outlets to critique the level of free expression in the country where Snowden is seeking asylum without comparing it to the level of free expression in the country he is seeking asylum from. While the United States has on paper some of the best guarantees of the right to speak in the world, its practice is considerably more chilling.

The U.S. military has repeatedly targeted and killed journalists, claiming that reporters are legitimate targets. Washington imprisoned Al-Jazeera camera operator Sami al-Hajj for six years without a trial at Guantanamo; documents released through WikiLeaks later revealed that a primary reason for holding al-Hajj was to try to extract information from him about Al-Jazeera’s newsgathering operations. When Yemen was about to release Abdulelah Haider Shaye, a journalist who had reported on the U.S.’s secret drone war in that country, Barack Obama personally intervened to make sure Shaye stayed in prison.

The Obama administration is increasingly trying to criminalize the release information the government wants kept secret to the press–and has indicated that reporting on such information is a crime as well…

Excerpted; full article link:

[Article’s original title: ‘Chalk Another One Up to Free Speech Hypocrisy’]

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