4 March - The Belmarsh Tribunal comes to Sydney - the case of Julian Assange
In person and online event this Saturday 4th of March the Belmarsh Tribunal reconvenes for its fifth session in Sydney University Great Hall.
Video & transcript: 161st Week, Julian Assange Sydney Town Hall Gatherings, 23/12/2022
Next week's sitting of the Australian Parliament must debate Julian Assange's illegal imprisonment
Australian Parliament, which sits next week from Monday 6 September, must be made, finally, to debate Julian Assange's fate. At the weekly vigil for Julian Assange outside Melbourne's Flinders Street Station in the evening of last Friday 26 August, James Sinnamon explained how, if Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to end its imprisonment of Julian Assange, he would almost certainly comply without delay, and Julian Assange would
The war on privacy - Article by Kenneth Eade
Kenneth Eade is a legal thriller writer who chooses difficult and original subjects, of the kind that preoccupy candobetter.net readers and authors. This article foreruns the imminent publication of The Spy Files and is based on Kenneth's research for that novel. See also "Book Review: Kenneth Eade's Thriller faction series highlights GMO industrial politics in US and Ukraine conflict". Candobetter.net Editor.
Privacy today faces threats from an ever-growing surveillance apparatus that is justified in the name of national security or the war on terror. Agencies of the federal government, such as the FBI and the NSA intrude on the communications and activities of private citizens on a regular basis, using data they mine from our private resources to establish watch lists, based on what they perceive to be “suspicious behavior.”
These watch lists have, among other things, prevented people from entering the country, prevented them from flying on airplanes, barred them from certain jobs, and shut them out of financial accounts.
The founders of our [United States] government designed it to be transparent, so that the governing people could know what the governors were doing. One of the most important methods of making the government transparent, in their minds, was a free press.
The Freedom of Information Act, which was signed into law on July 4, 1966, is a tool which is available to anyone, but it is frequently used by reporters in order to obtain information from the government.
In 2012, Reporter Jason Leopold was working on a story about Hesham Abu Zubaidah, the brother of Guantanamo detainee and accused terrorist, Abu Zubaidah. Hesham signed a consent to allow Leopold to request documents on him under the Freedom of Information Act and was visited by an FBI agent. (Truthout.org article May 29, 2012 by Jason Leopold, “So Then the FBI Sent Out an Agent to Check Up on My FOIA Request”).
In 2006, the FBI claimed that it had inadvertently sent classified and privileged documents to the Washington Post, and requested the Post to return them. It claimed that any further “review, disclosure, retention, and/or dissemination of the classified document or the classified information contained in the classified document may be a federal crime.” The Post agreed to and did return the document, but only because it did not directly relate to the story it was working on (Editor & Publisher, March 3, 2006, “Post Did Not Feel it Had to Return Classified Document.”)
While there is currently no precedent of such a successful prosecution, The government has also been known to reclassify documents that it previously produced. This retroactive classification prevents public discourse of the information contained in the documents, even by congressional subcommittees and even when Congress is actually investigating alleged abuses by the FBI (Abel, “Do You Have to Keep the Government’s Secrets?” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 163, 1038.)
This article reports that, in the National Archives Scandal, the CIA claimed that classified documents that were inadvertently disclosed gives the government the right to treat them as classified (without being reclassified.) While there is no law against publishing classified documents, The Espionage Act prevents the disclosure of information relating to national defense.
The article also notes that, while no journalists have ever been prosecuted for publishing classified information, two members of the public have been prosecuted for disseminating information given to them by a government source. I agree with the author of the article, who states, “A generation ago, one could be confident that the press would not be prosecuted. Now, such a prosecution is cause for concern, even for those who think the First Amendment would ultimately prevail.”
According to an article in the Fall 2013 issue of National Affairs, while the Bush administration merely threatened prosecution of journalists for espionage, the Obama administration has actually engaged in seven such prosecutions. The article further reports that, while, by law, most government secrets are required to be declassified after 25 years, as of 2013 there were over 58 million pages of documents that had not yet been reviewed for declassification.
The danger in the government using the Espionage Act and other tools to prosecute reporters, attorneys, and others is that its misuse is stifling freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and is making government opaque, instead of transparent as it is supposed to be. The federal government has so much power with regard to federal prosecutions that it is virtually impossible for an ordinary citizen to defend him or herself if they decide to charge or indict you.
As Judge Jed S. Rakoff observed in his article, Why Innocent People Plead Guilty, The New York Review of Books, November 20, 2014, fewer than 3% of all federal criminal cases go to trial. Because of sentencing guidelines, high bail, and the high cost of a defense, an accused often finds himself in jail, unable to defend himself, and succumbs to a federal prosecutor in a plea bargain agreement. In a federal criminal case, the prosecutor has all the advantages.
As is observed in my latest novel, The Spy Files, in the words of James Madison, ‘Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom, and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech, which is the right of every man.’ If the government is allowed to spy on the people, that means that the people have no privacy in their thoughts or speech, which means that the government has taken away their liberty. This is the same government that has sacrificed hundreds of thousands of lives in the name of liberty, and not just the lives of American servicemen. Patrick Henry said ‘give me liberty or give me death.’ I think his famous quote makes it crystal clear that the Constitutional framework of this country values liberty as an essential element of life, worth dying for. If something is worth such a sacrifice, how can the loss of it be justified for the argument that it will make us safer to give up our liberty and our civil rights? Are we to tell the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers of all the soldiers lost in foreign wars that it was all a big lie? That they died for nothing?
Kenneth Eade is an environmental and political activist, and author, who has been called by critics ‘one of the strongest thriller writers on the scene.’ For more information on his political and legal thrillers, including the latest, ‘The Spy Files’ go to http://kennetheade.com
News Limited’s hysterical campaign confirms need for media regulation
News Limited is the main perpetrator of media abuses in Australia, writes Alan Austin, and hence the strongest proof the current self-regulation system is useless. (Article originally published on Independent Australia, from which we republish it with thanks. See end article for details.)
AFTER Rupert Murdoch’s chickens came home to roost spectacularly in the UK, his emus are scuttling about in Australia.
The entire Australian organisation is attacking the Federal Government over proposed legislation to strengthen media self-regulation.
Absolutely predictable. News Limited is the main perpetrator of media abuses in Australia. And hence the strongest proof the current self-regulation system is useless. Naturally, it will squeal when called to account.
Intriguingly, we are seeing precisely the same tactics deployed against the Minister for Communications Senator Stephen Conroy and his proposed rule changes as gave rise to the need for them in the first place.
News Corporation in the UK now admits to having hacked the phones of a murdered schoolgirl, and of countless public figures, and of deceased servicemen and their families. All this they denied for years with point blank lies.
They have been found to have fabricated damaging stories about their enemies and suppressed stories damaging to their friends. They have been caught using criminal means to obtain information, including pay-offs to police. These they also lied about for years.
Several British editors and executives have now been sacked, others jailed or charged, and a newspaper shut down in shame.
In the USA, Murdoch’s Fox News is notorious for distortions, omissions and fabrications in political reporting.
Outlets there bow to the whims of Rupert Murdoch regarding content. But the man himself is unaccountable.
Downunder, Justice Bromberg found Australia’s most widely read columnist Andrew Bolt guilty of multiple fabrications in Melbourne’s Herald Sun. The Federal Court judge found Bolt had no evidence for more than 19 damaging lies in his racially-motivated attacks against vulnerable Aboriginal people.
This was not a first for Bolt. For years, he has waged campaigns against Aborigines and others based on falsehoods. He has been admonished by academics regarding his persistent refusal to write accurately about climate. He was found guilty of “very, very serious libel” in 2002.
No other media organisation in any other civilised nation would employ Bolt as a journalist.
Just a year earlier, Justice Stephen Kaye in the Victorian Supreme Court slammed Murdoch executives for lying to the court. In the matter of Bruce Guthrie’s wrongful dismissal, the judge said he “had reservations about a number of features” of the evidence of News Limited’s then chief executive John Hartigan.
“In my view Hartigan was an unreliable witness …”
Kaye was even more scathing of Herald and Weekly Times chief Peter Blunden. “The explanations given by Mr Blunden in evidence,” the judge said, “do not survive scrutiny”.
In the matter of Eatock v Bolt, Justice Bromberg also rejected the testimony of Murdoch executives.
The conclusion is inescapable: News Corporation is an organisation run by liars who employ lying editors to supervise lying reporters.
The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has a 12-point code of ethics. All twelve are now routinely violated by Murdoch employees.
In 2010, Herald Sun reporters lied about their identity to ensnare politicians in a British tabloid-like sting. They had the support of editors and executives — despite explicit condemnation in the code.
Most Murdoch publications are now merely spruikers for conservative political causes which they advance with distortion and lies. The frequency and viciousness of these crusades increased markedly after Labor came to power in late 2007.
In 2008, Glenn Milne in The Australian attacked PM Kevin Rudd over a risqué play in Gippsland which the local Labor candidate had promoted in his newsletter. Milne failed to disclose, however, that the tawdry theatrical event was actually approved and funded by the previous Howard Coalition Government.
Glaring examples since then are the relentless campaigns against the economic stimulus packages during the GFC, against climate change, against the mining tax, against the carbon tax, against internet security, against changes to discrimination laws and against the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Sydney’s Daily Telegraph was found by the Australian Press Council to have used false customer figures in a news story on the NBN. Other Telegraph articles were found misleading by serious omission. The Council expressed concern that
‘within a short period of time three articles on the same theme contained inaccurate or misleading assertions.’
The Daily Telegraph ran a front-page story headed: “Thousands of boat people to invade NSW”.
The Australian Press Council found elements of the story to be “gravely inaccurate, unfair and offensive”. The Council condemned the newspaper for “an especially serious breach of its principles.”
Murdoch outlets have attacked the PM ruthlessly over her alleged involvement with a union two decades ago. They have produced no evidence whatsoever of anything amiss and were forced to retract and apologise at least twice.
They have constantly attacked the Treasurer Wayne Swan who, according to external assessment, has done a better than average job.
The last four years “have been disastrous for Australians,” claimed The Daily Telegraph in 2011. “There have been broken promises, billions lost in wasteful spending and economic mismanagement and sheer incompetence.”
This was the month Australia gained its AAA credit rating with all agencies for the first time ever. And shortly after The New York Times reported “Australia’s economy has been booming”.
In February last year, The Australian ran a cover story headed “Mutiny kills PM’s Bob Carr plan”. It contained at least six “revelations” relating to the appointment of Bob Carr as Foreign Minister. All six were soon proven to be fabricated.
Murdoch publications have campaigned against all Labor state governments. News reporters at Brisbane’s Courier-Mail were instructed to use the news pages to drive a campaign targeting then Premier Anna Bligh.
The campaign against the Greens, and former leader Bob Brown in particular, has been particularly vicious.
An editorial in The Australian declared:
‘We believe he (Brown) and his Green colleagues are hypocrites; that they are bad for the nation; and that they should be destroyed at the ballot box.’
These are not just vigorous campaigns confined to the opinion pages — something that would be not so objectionable. But rather these are crusades fought with distortion and lies in the news content.
Can anything be done? Former employee Bruce Guthrie – who defeated News Limited in court in 2010 – believes ‘you can bite back against Murdoch’.
Senator Conroy seems to be attempting exactly that. Will he succeed? We shall see.
(This story was first published by the Australian Independent Media Network and was offered to IA by the author.)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
Transcript: Syrian resident Female Cleric asks Foreign powers to leave Syria alone
Attention Avaaz, Amnesty International, NATO, Hilary...
"Let the Syrian people alone. Let the Syrian people alone! Leave us alone! You are not bringing anything else but death, fear, chaos, instability, with your big declarations and with your big assemblies, and, also, with your big powers."
This is the transcription of the brave protest against foreign intervention in Syria by a Syrian-based Catholic nun, (video included) speaking for a number of Syrian leaders, whom she describes as including Muslims, pacifists, family and tribal leaders. Mother Mariam shows leadership in a new internet tradition where women are beginning to speak out against warmongers where their men cannot or will not. Mother Agnes Mariam and Syrian Girl Partisan are two great ladies speaking up for peace, truth and justice. We would like to encourage other women to magnify these women's voices and help them to forge a local, non-violent movement as well as to defend what is good in Syria.Attention Avaaz, Amnesty International, NATO, Hilary...
"Let the Syrian people alone. Let the Syrian people alone! Leave us alone! You are not bringing anything else but death, fear, chaos, instability, with your big declarations and with your big assemblies, and, also, with your big powers."
This is the transcription of the brave protest against foreign intervention in Syria by a Syrian-based Catholic nun, (video included) speaking for a number of Syrian leaders, whom she describes as including Muslims, pacifists, family and tribal leaders. Mother Mariam shows leadership in a new internet tradition where women are beginning to speak out against warmongers where their men cannot or will not. Mother Agnes Mariam and Syrian Girl Partisan are two great ladies speaking up for peace, truth and justice. We would like to encourage other women to magnify these women's voices and help them to forge a local, non-violent movement as well as to defend what is good in Syria.
The interview took place in Ireland on 12 August 2012 and was filmed and published on the Irish Times by Patsy McGarry.
Mother Agnes Mariam to Outside Powers
It's a life of fear, of insecurity and of lack of future. We are divided like a kind of tumour. In every part we have armed people coming and forcing people - civilians - to live following their orders.
And what they want is to paralyse civilian life so there is no more shops. If you need something ou can't find a worker. And, of course, you don't have nutrition, you don't have alimentation. Lack of food, lack of fuel, lack of electricity.
And this fear, because you don't know when it will be your turn to be considered as a collaborator. And we think that something is going wrong mroe and more in the general way of orienting this strive ... what's so-called for freedom an democracy.
On the totalitarian regime in Syria and its violent replacement
I am not Syrian, but I have been living in Syria for today almost 20 years. Syria was under a kind of totalitarian regime but not in only a way a repressive way but it was that all the decision would be taken by few persons. But there was security, there was food, education and people were living - of course not in ... kind that they would say their thinking in a loud voice.
Now, this totalitarianism is not good, and it's obsolete, but if the armed insurrection is implementing another totalitarianism which is maybe worse because there is blood, they can behead you, they can cut your - in last week in our village they cut the fingers of a so-called 'collaborator', who is not ev[en] from the village. Then they behead him, they cut him in piece and they left him in the street, where even children would see it.
So this kinds of acts of atrocities cannot help people to really believe that what is happening is a strive for freedom.
The majority of the Syrian population, I say, is taken as hostage, and sometimes as a tool, as [?enemy] by these armed, insurrection armed...armed insurrection people. They come and they take place in the civilian areas.
Why isn't the fighting in the desert instead of amongst civilian residences?
Why you don't make your combat - We have a lot of desert. It is against international laws.
Western world seems to be encouraging sectarian violence to topple Assad
But what really scandalises us and leaves us in distress is that the Western world seemed to be encouraging this rise of sectarian violence just to topple the regime.
We are, we are against violence and we are against justifying violence.
You can't say that this man is killing another man and he is justified to kill him. Moreover when, through his movements, he is putting in real danger and having terrible collateral damage, to a whole civilian population, which was not - That's what is happening in Aleppo.
You know, we are responsible and we are - if we are not responsible today, we are responsible tomorrow, to history.
To not speak out is to allow terrible atrocities to continue
Once all those atrocity will be revealed, when you will see a family whose girl has been abused, or, I have heard about collective abusing - whose son has been beheaded, whose father has been abducted.
You know that there are thousands of people we don't know where they are because they have been abducted.
Sometimes they are bandits. They say, "We are in the revolution," but they are bandits. Mafias who come to ask ransome.
Some others they have like sectarian hatred, so they take this one because he is [?Arab or Alep]; they take this one because he is a moderate Muslim.
So we don't know. It's a confusion, it's a chaos.
"What are they doing in Aleppo? Why are they doing? Why are they funded and helped and fueled with weapons and why are they introducing themselves in between the civilian population?"
International Community hypocritical, untrustworthy, funding violence
And what really grieve us is that the international community holds a paradox.
On one side they want, they say, with hypocrisy, "We want peace, we want to protect the civilian population." They even want to intervene in a military way like in other countries. But on the other hand, they are funding, sending intelligence helps and sending weapons to rebels - really you don't know from where they come.
Syrians are trying to forge non-violence movement
We are working with our religious leaders, with Muslim religious leaders, with pacifist, with also a leader - family leaders, tribal leaders - to say that there is a third way. And the third way is a way of non-violence, but real non-violence. When there is no attacks and aggression, there is not - there is no motivation for any repression.
Syrians asking International Community to respect their Human Rights and Geneva Convention
Second, the civilian society in Syria is upset and we are asking for human rights. Not only human rights for rebels, but human rights for the normal citizens, who are caught in between.
And we are asking also why should the combats be held in civilian areas, for example, in Aleppo, those people they came from outside. I have been talking with prelates, I have been talking with families. They don't know whom they are. They are foreigners. Either they come from Northern villages -from Idlib or from North Aleppo countryside, or they come from foreign countries. What are they doing in Aleppo? Why are they doing? Why are they funded and helped and fueled with weapons and why are they introducing themselves in between the civilian population? And then they say that the army is bombing civilian areas.
Please! Don't enter in civilian population. Don't enter in residence area. Go to the desert if you want to make your war. It is against human rights and it is against the Charter of Geneva.
Ghandi, Mandela - non-violent path the best, and finding common ground
So, I want to say to all who are looking at me, "I am a Christian, and I believe in God. I believe in Jesus Christ. Non-violence is the best way to get what we want. The non-violence. And in all good revolutions - you look at Ghandi, you look at Nelson Mandela - even, you look here, in Ireland, when you can stop violence and you can enter in a real path of dialogue, accepting the other. Sometimes you have to forget your interest. You cannot take everything. You forget it. We can arrive to a common ground. We can make a new social pact. You know.
Asks foreign powers: Please leave the Syrian people alone and don't encourage martyrs
And I want to also to ask: Let the Syrian people alone. Let the Syrian people alone! Leave us alone! You are not bringing anything else but death, fear, chaos, instability, with your big declarations and with your big assemblies, and, also, with your big powers. Leave the Syrian people alone. Enough, it's enough! Leave those people and stop funding weapons for 'rebels' you bring from I don't know what. We are crying also because those people they have a mother, they have a father, they are human beings and, sometimes, they don't know where they are. And they think that fighting in Syria or fighting where they are fighting, will open for them heaven and paradise, and this is alienating.
Catholic nun in Syria says Media Coverage of Syrian Violence Partial and Untrue
It is great to see two politically engaged women speak out about Syria. On the one hand we have Syrian Girl Partisan, who has reported in around 20 home-made films. Now a Catholic nun based in Syria has stood up and denounced Western reporting on events there. What she and others seek in Syria is “reform, no violence, no foreign intervention.” She hopes for “a new, third way, a new social pact where the right to autodetermination without outside interference” would be respected.
This article with the video is republished from Global research TV
Click on arrow to watch video interview with Sister Agnes Mariam.
Media Coverage of Syrian Violence Partial and Untrue
As posted on theIrish Times by Patsy McGarry:
A NUN who has been superior at a Syrian monastery for the past 18 years has warned that media coverage of ongoing violence in that country has been “partial and untrue”. It is “a fake”, Mother Agnes Mariam said, which “hides atrocities committed in the name of liberty and democracy”.
Superior of the Melkite Greek Catholic monastery of St James the Mutilated in Qara, in Syria’s diocese of Homs, which is in full communion with Rome, she left Ireland yesterday after a three-day visit during which she met representatives of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Maynooth.
She told The Irish Times she was in Ireland “not to advocate for the (Assad) regime but for the facts”. Most news reports from Syria were “forged, with only one side emphasised”, she said. This also applied to the UN, whose reports were “one-sided and not worthy of that organisation”.
UN observers in Syria had been “moderate with the rebels and covered for them in taking back positions after the withdrawal of heavy equipment, as seen so tragically in Homs”, she said.
When it was put to her this suggested the whole world was out of step except for Syria, Russia and China, she protested: “No, no, there are 20 countries, including some in Latin America” of the same view.
The reason the media was being denied easy access to Syria currently was because in the Libyan conflict journalists placed electronic devices for Nato in rooms used at press conferences in that country, she said. “So Syria didn’t want journalists,” she said.
Christians make up about 10 per cent of Syria’s population, dispersed throughout the country, she said. The Assad regime “does not favour Christians”, she said. “It is a secular regime based on equality for all, even though in the constitution it says the Koran is the source of legislation.”
But “Christians are less put aside [in Syria] than in other Islamic countries, for example Saudi Arabia,” she said. “The social fabric of Syria is very diverse, so Christians live in peace.”
The “Arab insurrection” under way in that country included “sectarian factions which promote fundamentalist Islam, which is not genuine Islam”, she said.
The majority of Muslims in Syria are moderate and open to other cultural and interfaith elements, she said. “Wahhabism (a fundamentalist branch of Islam) is not open,” she added.
Christians in Syria were “doubtful about the future if the project to topple the regime succeeded”. The alternative was “a religious sectarian state where all minorities would feel threatened and discriminated against”, she said.
There was “a need to end the violence”, she said. “The West and Gulf states must not give finance to armed insurrectionists who are sectarian terrorists, most of whom are from al-Qaeda, according to a report presented to the German parliament,” she said.
“We don’t want to be invaded, as in Aleppo, by mercenaries, some of whom think they are fighting Israel. They bring terror, destruction, fear and nobody protects the civilians,” she said. There were “very few Syrians among the rebels”, she said. “Mercenaries should go home,” she said.
What she and others sought in Syria was “reform, no violence, no foreign intervention.” She hoped for “a new, third way, a new social pact where the right to autodetermination without outside interference” would be respected. (Source: Irish Times)
Stephen Mayne's Ten Media Reform points - as put to Judge Finkelstein 8 Nov 2011
Steven Mayne is a famous independent Australian political and economic reporter, founder of crikey.com and of the Mayne Report. Here he writes to the Australian Media Inquiry. "I was planning to open my submission with a crack at the Inquiry for not getting Rupert in to give evidence whilst he was in town, but there was no opportunity... Former Federal Court judge Ray Finkelstein was very much on the front foot leading the discussion and my session from 2-3pm this afternoon turned into an hour of combat, covering the ins and outs of the Murdoch empire, media regulation, corrections, licensing and media ethics." First published http://www.maynereport.com/articles/2011/11/08-0212-5482.html
Ten points for discussion at Media Inquiry appearance on November 8
Whilst a more comprehensive final submission by Stephen Mayne will be produced by the November 18 deadline after listening to the various hearings in Melbourne and Sydney, what follows are 10 broad discussion points for the November 8 appearance before Ray Finkelstein QC and Matthew Ricketson.
1. A concerted push on the mandatory release of information
Whilst employing hundreds of investigative journalists to try and ferret out secret information is a noble exercise, democracies can make the transparency and accountability project a whole lot easier by mandating the release of information on a timely basis.
I subscribe to the philosophy that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”.
The most interesting piece I've read after the British phone hacking scandal was by an American freelance journalist Heather Brooke, who wrote the following in The Guardian on July 10 discussing what she called ”the secretive system of information patronage”.
I was amazed, having been a reporter in the US, to discover that all the public records we used routinely to conduct basic verification and investigation were off limits in the UK. Records such as criminal convictions, arrest logs, full court documents and land ownership documents were either illegal or very difficult and expensive to obtain. Even the detailed financial accounts of public bodies were unavailable.
When I tried to investigate parliamentary expenses, all the records I'd normally access in the US were secret. A five-year legal battle to access official information was ultimately ineffective, as parliament tried to retrospectively change the law so the Freedom of Information Act didn't apply. At that point, someone on the inside sold the full database to the Daily Telegraph.
This puts journalists wanting to do serious public interest investigations legitimately at a severe disadvantage. The fact is, all information is vulnerable to release – it is simply a matter of the resources someone wants to devote to obtaining it. In Britain information is not equally accessible to all, rather its release depends on one's wealth, power or privilege. Only the richest and most powerful media organisations have a shot at access and they, in turn, only want to expend their resources on investigations they believe will guarantee a story and a big audience – thus the focus is on sex, scandal and celebrity.
Australia does pretty well in relation to mandatory information release and the British MPs expenses scandal was surely a lesson to everyone that disclosure reduces the likelihood of bad behaviour through rorting and an entitlement culture. You would never lodge a claim for the cleaning of your moat if you knew this would pop straight up on a Parliamentary website pretty quickly.
However, we do have a number of information gaps.
Why did the Australian Greens lock out the media from much of its national conference in Perth last weekend? These forums should be open to the media.
Why aren't Australian institutional investors required to disclose how they vote their shares in listed companies like their US counterparts do?
Why aren't fund managers who vote on the pay practices of public companies not releasing their own executive remuneration arrangements?
Why aren't registered Australian political parties required to publically release annual income statements and an annual balance sheet?
Why do Federal regulations exempt disclosure of political donations below $11,000 and allow donors to wait until February 1, 7 months after the financial year end, to disclose the annual list of donations?
Whilst we all debate the challenges faced by the business model of quality journalism courtesy of the internet, I very much prefer mandated internet disclosure being the best antidote, rather than having documents being FOI-able.
Journalism these days should be about easily sifting and sorting through an avalanche of regular online disclosures and providing context to these facts.
For instance, it is wonderful that every ASX announcement since 1998 from almost 3000 listed entities is online.
It would be helpful if the Inquiry made some strong recommendations for legislation that improves comprehensive and systemic disclosure regimes in Australia.
For instance, Victorian councils should be required to follow the lead of Melbourne, Geelong and Hume and release all councillor expense claims on line each quarter.
This simple legislative change would make accountability of councillors much easier to pursue. Also, see suggestion number 9 for a specific proposal on improving local government journalism.
2. Dealing with the News Ltd ownership situation
It is almost 25 years since News Corporation launched its takeover bid for the Herald & Weekly Times, leaving Australia with the most concentrated newspaper ownership market of any established democracy in the world.
No matter how you slice and dice the numbers, News Corporation is the dominant newspaper publisher and this is very unhealthy for Australia's democracy.
Whilst there are many issues with Rupert Murdoch's leadership of News Corp since January 1953, if his entire Australian publishing and associated digital empire was sold to another party, it would be just as troubling.
Would we be concerned if a Russian oligarch, the Chinese Government, Clive Palmer, Exxon Mobil or British America Tobacco assumed control of such an important and powerful contributor to Australia's democracy? Of course we would.
Whilst compelling News Corp to sell some newspapers would be legally challenging, I urge the Inquiry to formally express its concern about this level of ownership concentration and encourage News Corp to, in the first instance, voluntarily pursue some modest divestments.
Failing that, such market dominance can usually only be addressed when a market participant is seeking to further extend or entrench its existing holdings.
To this end, Foxtel's proposed $1.9 billion acquisition of Austar to create an Australian pay-TV monopoly with management control vested with News Corporation does create such an opportunity.
I believe the ACCC and FIRB should only approve this takeover if News Ltd undertakes to reduce its newspaper interests to below 50% of the market.
Both FIRB and the ACCC have delayed approvals until early in 2012 and I urge the Inquiry to request that these agencies wait to hear the recommendations of the Inquiry before approving the acquisition or negotiating any concessions.
Defining a specific market share would not be easy, but an appropriate divestment would potentially involve one of the following:
· Dispose of all operations in South Australia or Queensland, excluding The Australian.
· Agree to sell a range of suburban publications in the major capital cities plus daily papers in smaller cities such as Hobart, Newcastle, Cairns, Townsville, The Gold Coast and Geelong.
· Sell the daily tabloid operation in Melbourne or Sydney.
Even after undertaking such a sale to the likes of Seven West Media, Fairfax Media or APN News & Media, News Corp would still have the largest newspaper market share in any western democracy, but the dominance would be marginally reduced.
3. A light-handed licensing regime for editors and proprietors
Licensing or accreditation is common place across many industries, from taxi drivers, to doctors, car salesman, liquor outlets, brothels, lawyers, nurses, teaching, gaming employees, snake catching and many other professions.
I am a former accredited tennis coach and also was subjected to police checks before serving on a kindergarten committee of management.
It should not be anathema to the media industry to introduce a light-handed licensing regime for newspapers, magazines and major websites, similar to what occurs with radio and television.
Experience tells us that government intimidation, takeovers and shutdowns of media need to be avoided at all costs for the media to be generally free and fearless.
However, you need to be able to deal with editors and proprietors who go rogue, for whatever reason.
Australian media regulation is not equipped to deal with a News of the World style situation, were one to arise.
Therefore, assuming an independent statutory body were established to succeed the Australian Press Council, I would support this body effectively licensing the editors and owners of major newspapers.
If Alan Bond had still owned The West Australian when he was jailed for Australia's biggest fraud, the licensing regime would have forced either Bond Corporation to sell the newspaper or Alan Bond to relinquish ownership and management control of Bond Corporation.
It is not unreasonable to apply a “fit and proper” test to newspaper owners.
If Fairfax Media was suddenly discovered to be involved in large scale illegal drug importation, it would lose its licence to own and operate newspapers in Australia.
Such a regime raises questions about the so-called licensing of individual journalists or commentators. I'd be opposed to this but do believe each mast head should have a single responsible person, probably the editor in chief or editor, who should be required to meet basic probity tests, such as not being a bankrupt or having criminal convictions.
4. Expanding the journalistic capacity and diversity of public broadcasters
Crikey publisher Eric Beecher described The ABC's launch of its opinion and commentary site, The Drum, in the following terms during an October 2010 interview with The Australian:
"Operating in the commercial space, we expect vigorous competition from other commercial publishers. But to see the ABC tanks roll up on our lawn was bewildering."
"The Drum seriously and dangerously compromises the ABC's editorial integrity."
I'm a contributor to both Crikey and The Drum and disagree strongly with these sentiments.
There a few paying outlets for online commentators and some extra competition for Crikey has added to Australia's media diversity.
However, pay rates for online contributions remain relatively modest compared with print.
I am currently paid $150 for a Crikey story, $200 for a contribution for The Drum and $250 for occasional pieces that appear on Fairfax's businessday.com.au.
The word rate for these contributions over the past year has averaged about 17c, which is well below the $1 per word rate paid by The Monthly, which is at the top of the market.
In terms of expanding diversity, the same goes for the university sector collaborating to launch The Conversation website for academic contributions earlier this year.
The Drum has been a very successful venture. It publishes about 60 pieces per week and attracts between 2.5 million and 3 million page impressions each month.
It has used more than 1000 individual authors since Unleashed (now Drum opinion) was launched 3 years ago and it receives more than 1000 comments each day.
For a modest public investment, this has added to Australia's media diversity and should be commended by the Inquiry as a worthwhile expansion of the ABC's Australian journalistic operations.
The same goes for ABC News 24 which has provided some worthwhile competition to Sky News, plus the morning commercial television news programs.
That said, it is disappointing that important watchdog programs such as Media Watch are not more effectively resourced.
Media Watch won't even be able to comprehensively cover this Inquiry because its final program for the year was last night, November 7.
5. A new model for the Australian Press Council
After being banned or abused by some News Ltd journalists and editors after publishing the www.jeffed.com website during the 1999 Victorian state election and later launching Crikey.com in February 2000, in 2006 I tried seeking some relief from The Australian Press Council.
The issue was a column by Piers Akerman published in The Daily Telegraph on December 1, 2005, which included the following:
It can be argued that almost anyone can call themselves a journalist these days, as evidenced by the nonsense published by people claiming to be journalists on websites such as Eric Beecher's and Stephen Mayne's Crikey.
After the newspaper refused to publish a correction or right of reply, I lodged a complaint with The Australian Press Council.
A mediation was held on Thursday, May 18, 2006 and then a determination was released on June 23, 2006.
Interestingly, the letter from Daily Telegraph associate editor Roger Coombes which rejected the proposed right of reply, claimed that Crikey regularly refused to run rights of reply.
I responded by claiming I couldn't recall a single News Ltd right of reply which Crikey had not run and cited 20 specific examples from over the years.
In the end, the following appeared on page 19 of The Daily Telegraph on June 26, 2006 under the headline “Telegraph article is vindicated”.
The Australian Press Council has dismissed a complaint against The Daily Telegraph from Stephen Mayne concerning a December 2005 Piers Akerman column in which he was mentioned.
The article discussed the Federal Government's proposed sedition laws aimed at preventing the ‘urging' of violence and argued that journalists would not be caught by them. Mr Akerman continued: “While some media figures have been arguing for a shield law specifically to exempt the media from the anti-terrorism laws, it can be argued that almost anyone can call themselves a journalist these days, as evidenced by the nonsense published by people claiming to be journalists on websites such as Eric Beecher and Stephen Mayne's Crikey.”
In a brief letter to the editor emailed four days later Mr Mayne wrote: “Piers Akerman blithely opines that ‘almost anyone can call themselves a journalist these days' and then describes me as someone ‘claiming to be a journalist'”.
In two following sentences Mr Mayne outlined his journalistic credentials. The newspaper replied that Mr Mayne's complaint was “entirely without substance” and that a careful reading of the article showed that Mr Akerman did not label Mr Mayne as someone “claiming to be a journalist”.
The Council agrees with this interpretation. It does not see any implication in the column that impugns Mr Mayne's journalistic credentials. Nonetheless, the Council believes that, had the newspaper printed a letter from the complainant (the Council frequently recommends that complainants write letters to the editor to achieve balance), this matter could have been resolved at the outset.
This was not a satisfactory process and I support Bob Brown's proposal that Australia adopt the Norwegian model with an independent Press Complaints Commission with powers to investigate non-members.
The sanctions ought to extend to prompt and prominent corrections and apologies and a system of fines for members who don't publish as directed.
However, there should not be any pre-vetting or pre-publication approval requirements. The complaints regime should only deal with issues after publication.
6. Rogue bloggers, anonymous contributions and moderating comments
The internet has completely transformed the ability for public commentary in the media.
Reader feedback used to be confined to talk back radio and letters to the editor, but online comments have exploded in recent years.
Anonymous commentary on blogs can often by toxic but the response by South Australian Attorney General Michael Atkinson in 2009 was a bridge too far. Under laws which were passed unanimously and then later repealed, Mr Atkinson proposed that blog commentators must reveal their names and addresses during election campaigns.
The internet simply doesn't lend itself to such regulation.
A better approach is that responsible mainstream publications fund moderators who apply some basic editorial standards and quality control to published comments.
It is good that the Herald Sun is belatedly doing this with Andrew Bolt's blog although the following blog post by Mr Bolt on Sunday night shows that he yearns for a return to the old “anything goes” approach when he was in charge of moderating:
A number of readers today have raised with me criticisms of the moderation of this blog over the past several weeks. Some suggest I have lost interest in the comments, or have stretched myself too thin.
I accept that there have been delays. I understand your concern. But you need to know two things.
First, for legal self-protection, I am not able to moderate my blog any longer. All comments must go through our moderating team.
Second, again for legal reasons, and because this blog has become the target of lawfare, our moderators are understandably very, very careful when going through the comments. This means delays and a touchiness about publishing anything remotely dangerous.
We have also had some technical problems I hope will be resolved. But the main problem is this: the erosion of the right to free speech is now also affecting people who are simply trying to comment on this blog. If you think this is a dangerous state of affairs in a democracy, I wouldn't disagree. I ask you for your patience. We are trying to sort this out.
The most important element of comments discussion threads online is that those people who are criticised are not prevented from defending themselves and providing an alternative view.
The most aggressive and controversial Australian political blog is Vexnews.com run by Andrew Landeryou, a right wing Labor Party figure in Melbourne closely associated with Bill Shorten.
Whilst Vexnews often runs highly defamatory and inaccurate material about me and other political figures, at least it allows an alternative perspective through the comments.
I've never had Vexnews refuse to run a comment correcting or criticising one of its reports, whereas the experience with News Ltd is the exact opposite where virtually all posts or proposed letters to the editor are ignored.
7. Saving the business model of newspapers
I am the Australian Shareholders' Association company monitor for Seek.com, REA Group and Carsales.com, the three largest online classified sites in Australia which now have a combined market capitalisation of almost $5 billion.
These enterprises do not directly fund a dollar of journalism yet their value has been created at the expense of traditional newspaper classified advertising, especially from Fairfax in Melbourne and Sydney.
At one level, it would be easy to try and fight the reality of online and social media, but I've come to the view that newspaper publishing is anachronistic and environmentally damaging.
Printing all those newspapers, sending the trucks everywhere and then dealing with the recycling effort is a huge daily exercise, especially when each reader consumes such a small proportion of the total product.
We should not bemoan the demise of such an old world distributions means, but instead focus on ensuring the electronic and online media worlds can cater for enough professional journalism and disclosure to maintain our vibrant democracy.
8. Dealing with the corporate governance challenges at News Corp
It is curious that the media, more than any other sector, attracts family investors who like to personally shape and influence outcomes.
This is because the media business deals with political influence and individual families enjoy the status that comes with this territory.
After spending 8 years working for News Corp and crossing swords with Rupert Murdoch at 12 different shareholder meetings over the years, I'm convinced that his primary motivation in life is gaining and retaining influence over western governments and policy.
Unlike any other figure in history, he has understood the way political power can be leveraged for commercial gain.
At one level, the rise and rise of the Packer and Murdoch families in Australia over the past 70 years was an example of how media power could be leveraged into private wealth.
For instance, when the South Australian Government passed legislation requiring Alan Bond to sell down his 45% stake in Santos in the early 1980s, this is how Australia's most notorious corporate fraudster explained his response in his autobiography:
With a 30-day time frame on the sale, I quickly looked at my options and decided that Rupert Murdoch and Sir Peter Abeles were the logical ones to approach to buy the 30% I was being forced to sell by the government. My thought process said: ‘You might be getting rid of me, but I'm going to leave you a legacy – two other individuals who you won't be able to push around. I get the last laugh on this one.'
There was another reason for going to Rupert. He owned the major newspaper in South Australia and I thought this would stop the government doing other ridiculous things around the project. In turn the price of the shares would go up and I'd make more money on the remaining 15% I held. I said to both Rupert and Sir Peter: ‘I've got to sell these shares and I need to do a deal. This is the price and as soon as the deal is done you'll make a lot of money.'
They agreed, and in two days the deal was done. They bought the whole lot and paid me cash. As I promised them, this turned out to be an astute investment for Murdoch and Abeles as they virtually doubled their money in only a few months.
This sort of wheeling and dealing has been a feature of the Murdoch and Packer families over the years.
For many years, it led to share price out-performance, but the wheels have come off News Corp in recent times, such that 5 of the directors closest to Rupert Murdoch recently suffered a clear majority of independent shareholders voting to have them removed from the board.
However, the Murdoch family gerrymander over News Corp – which sees the family control 40% of the votes and only 13% of the stock – has prevented change from occurring. This capital structure is now looking out-dated and undemocratic.
Similarly, Rupert Murdoch's approach to scrutiny and debate at the recent News Corp AGM in Los Angeles was nothing short of dismissive.
Perhaps one regulatory intervention in Australia could be that media licence holders need to respect the democratic principle of “one vote one value” in their capital structures.
There is no doubt that Rupert Murdoch has been an extraordinary media entrepreneur, but the nepotism and board stacking at News Corp has led to poor investment decisions, insufficient governance oversight and share price under-performance.
Rupert Murdoch also suffers from the habit of hiring and promoting colourful characters who are sometimes of dubious character but always extremely loyal to his interests.
This was clearly evident in the British newspaper division and has been a feature of his global tabloid newspaper operations around the world.
A more pro-active regulatory regime in Australia would perhaps be a positive force in the ongoing attempts to reform and update the governance arrangements at News Corp.
9. Government funding of a watchdog website for local government
I agree with Bob Brown's submission about making philanthropic journalism tax deductible.
Equally, Eric Beecher's thesis about growing the non-News Ltd pie through discreet government funding of journalistic start-ups is also a worthwhile argument.
One area worthy of specific attention is a dedicated watchdog website for local government.
As an elected councillor in the City of Manningham since December 2008, I've noticed that the sector is not scrutinised nearly enough by the media.
If the Federal Government provided $5 million of annual funding for an independent website aimed at exposing poor practices and promoting good governance in local government, it would dramatically change performance in the sector.
At the moment, local government suffers from the fact that there is no formal political opposition keeping those in power accountable.
It also receives little attention from the mainstream media and those reporters assigned to cover it on local papers are often inexperienced and poorly resourced.
10. Adding a journalistic division to the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC)
The Federal Government, with the support of the independents and Greens, has announced the formation of the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) to regulate the large and growing not-for-profit sector. It will commence operation in July 2012.
The media, as a whole, fails to scrutinise this large and important sector and I believe the ACNC's mandate should include a separate watchdog website with an independent charter to pursue genuine journalism about the sector.
Once again, a budget allocation of perhaps $5 million per year could resource a newsroom and media operation with up to 20 editorial staff.
The charter, independence and accountability mechanisms would need to be important, but with a mandate to expose poor practices and promote good governance, such a website would make a real difference to accountability in the sector and would also provide a lot of source material for the mainstream media.
November 8, 2011
Stop Rupert Murdoch
There is a global movement called Avaaz that wants to unite people to prevent the world's largest media baron from buying nearly half of the British mass media, arguably boosting his power to undermine global efforts on everything from peace to the environment. The group claims that there are only 48 hours to press the UK government to stand up and stop Rupert Murdoch.
Stop Rupert Murdoch
The world's largest [...] media baron wants to buy nearly half of the British mass media, boosting his power to undermine global efforts on everything from peace to the environment - [and population restraint - Ed.] We only have 48 hours to press the UK government to stand up and stop Rupert Murdoch:
In 48 hours, nearly half the British mass media could be bought by one of the world's worst media moguls.
Rupert Murdoch has exploited his vast media empire to push war in Iraq, elect George W Bush, spread resentment of muslims and immigrants, block global action on climate change, and undermine democracy by viciously smearing politicians who refuse his orders.
A lock on British media will massively boost Murdoch's power to undermine global efforts on peace, human rights and the environment. The UK is up in arms over the Murdoch bid, and even the Murdoch-allied government is split down the middle as it makes a decision this week. Global solidarity bolstered Egypt's pro-democracy protesters -- it can help Britain's. Let's build an urgent global outcry to stop Rupert Murdoch.
Sign the petition to UK leaders
Sign the petition to UK leaders
Murdoch undermines democratic government across the world by threatening elected leaders with biased media coverage unless they do his bidding. He has manipulated US, British and Australian democracy for years, but now he wants more complete control. In the US, most of the likely Republican presidential candidates are actually paid employees of Murdoch!
Tea-party politics in the US
When his Fox News Network was shunned by Barack Obama as a mere propaganda mouthpiece, it spawned the far right "tea party" and broadcast constant, often hate-filled attacks against Obama and his healthcare and peace agenda -- resulting in a huge win for Republicans in the 2010 congressional elections.
It may still be possible to turn the tide on this powerful threat to democracy. Last year, Murdoch had lunch with the Canadian Prime Minister, who sent his chief aide to set up a murdoch-style political propaganda TV network in Canada. A mass outcry from Canadian Avaaz members prevented this network from being funded by taxpayer money, and just last week, another mass campaign from Avaaz prevented the Canadian government from removing the journalistic standards that would prevent this new network from spreading lies to the public. This week the battleground is the UK. The fight against Murdoch has just begun, but already we've begun to win. Click below to keep up the pressure:
The power of Avaaz and of this moment in our world's history, is the power of unity. Across the Arab world and beyond, people are coming together in common cause across all boundaries. Murdoch's power is the ability to divide. His networks use fear and misinformation to divide left from right, citizens from foreigners, muslim from western, immigrants from non-immigrants, etc. Murdoch knows that democracy must be divided before it can be conquered. This week, let's show him what unity looks like.
Source: Ricken, Alex, Emma, Sam, Milena, Alice, Iain, Morgan, Maria Paz and the whole Avaaz team
Murdoch close to deal with regulators over Sky
What's at stake with Murdoch's bid for BSkyB
Murdoch editors' repeated meetings with police chiefs
Rupert Murdoch's assault on peace and democracy
Rupert Murdoch's growing media empire
Fox boss ordered staff to cast doubt on climate science
Police fail to investigate mass phone hacking
Support the Avaaz community! We're entirely funded by donations and receive no money from governments or corporations. Our dedicated team ensures even the smallest contributions go a long way -- donate here
Alert: Corporate plans for Google will take power of choice from internet users
Several news outlets reported yesterday that Google and Verizon are about to cut a deal that would allow giant corporations to control which websites load slowly, quickly, or not at all. The upshot would be that the multimedia and governments would once again hog the internet to the exclusion of democratic alternatives.
ColorOfChange have put out a press release which says "If you value the free, fair, and open Internet, then you need to act now, before two corporate giants deal it away."
It is well referenced, so we are republishing it here.
Google may permit giant corporations to control internet accessibility
If you value the free, fair, and open Internet, then you need to act now, before two corporate giants deal it away.
Several news outlets reported yesterday that Google and Verizon are about to cut a deal that would allow giant corporations to control which websites load slowly, quickly, or not at all.1,2,3 Google used to oppose this kind of corporate control over the Internet, but now it looks like they might be changing their tune. Google’s motto is "Don’t be evil," but it looks like their pursuit of profit might be getting in the way of living up to that ideal.4
Thankfully, it's not a done deal yet -- and with enough pressure, we can stop them from acting. That's why we're joining our friends at CREDO, MoveOn, and Free Press to demand that Google back off this corporate takeover of the Internet. Will you add your voice, and then ask your friends and family to do the same?
The basic promise of the Internet lies in the guarantee that information you put online is treated the same as anyone else's information in terms of its basic ability to travel across the Internet. Your own personal website or blog can compete on equal footing with the biggest companies. It's the reason the Internet is so diverse — and so powerful. Anyone with a good idea can find their audience online, whether or not there's money to promote the idea or money to be made from it.
This is critical for Black communities and others that have had our voices compromised by corporate-controlled media. For the first time in history we can communicate with a broad audience, educate, politically organize, and create new businesses — without prohibitive costs or mediation by gatekeepers in government or industry. It's the strength of your ideas, not the size of your budget, that largely determines your success. In television, radio, and print this can't happen because access is determined by big media corporations seeking to turn a profit.
This deal could take the Internet in a different direction. It could end the Internet's level playing field by allowing rich corporations like Google to pay for faster-loading websites and services. It could destroy the potential for independent voices to compete with giant corporations for an audience — big corporations who can pay for preferential access to Internet users would drown out the smaller voices online. And it could mean that you'll start getting less Internet service at a higher cost.
We expect the big telecommunications companies to try to stifle freedom and equality on the Internet — they've hired an army of lobbyists to do just that. But Google has always said it supports a free and open Internet. Google likes to portray itself as a corporation with principles that go beyond profit, and it would be disappointing to see Google abandon them.
Google has tried to downplay this story. They issued a short, carefully worded statement that says they're still committed to an open Internet, but they haven't denied that they are in talks with Verizon to cut a deal that would give corporations more control over Internet traffic.5
By speaking out, you can pressure Google to walk away from this deal. But time is running out — please sign our petition to Google today.
Source: James, Dani, William, Gabriel, Milton, and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team
August 9th, 2010
1. "Google and Verizon Near Deal on Web Pay Tiers," The New York Times, 8-5-2010
2. "Google, Verizon Try to Shape Net-Neutrality Law," Wall Street Journal, 8-52010
3. "Google, Verizon Said to Strike Deal on Web Traffic Rules," Bloomberg, 8-5-2009
4."NYT: Google Just Killed Net Neutrality (UPDATING: Google and Verizon Deny Internet Traffic Deal)," Gizmodo, 8-5-2010
5. See reference 4
US Corporations threaten peoples' internet - read and act
Republished from http://www.colorofchange.org/opennet/
The Internet has made amazing things possible, like freeing the Jena 6 and electing President Obama. None of it could have happened without an "open" Internet: one where Internet service providers are not allowed to interfere with what is seen and by whom.
Comcast, AT&T, Verizon - powerful broadband providers
Now, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon -- the most powerful broadband providers -- are trying to fundamentally change the way the Internet works. They're seeking to make even bigger profits by acting as gatekeepers over what we see and do online. If they succeed, the Internet would be more like radio and television: a few major corporations would control which voices are heard most easily, and it would be much harder for grassroots groups, individuals, and small businesses to compete with large corporations and well-funded special interests.
Big Money affecting democracy
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants to do the right thing and keep the Internet open, but the big providers have been attacking their efforts, with help from Black leaders who have financial ties to the industry. And a recent court ruling just made the FCC's job even tougher. If the FCC is to preserve an open Internet, they will have to boldly assert their authority and press even harder. It's why they need to hear directly from everyday people about the importance of an open Internet, now.
Send them a message
Will you join me in sending a message to the Federal Communications Commission supporting their effort to preserve an open Internet? It takes only a moment:
The FCC is working to create rules that would protect "net neutrality," the principle that protects an open and free Internet and which has guided the Internet's operation since it began. It guarantees that information you put online is treated the same as anyone else's information in terms of its basic ability to travel across the Internet. Your own personal website or blog can compete on equal footing with the biggest companies. It's the reason the Internet is so diverse -- and so powerful. Anyone with a good idea can find their audience online, whether or not there's money to promote the idea or money to be made from it.
Big providers working on controlling internet information stream
AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are spending millions of dollars lobbying to create a new system where they can charge large fees to speed up some data while leaving those who can't afford to pay in the slow lane. Such a system could end the Internet as we know it -- giving wealthier voices on the Internet a much bigger megaphone than poorer voices, and stunting the Internet's amazing equalizing potential.
Front groups posing as your friend
Buying the support of Black organizations?
President Obama strongly supports net neutrality, and so do most members of the FCC. With so much at stake for Black communities, you would expect Black leaders and civic organizations to line up in support of an open Internet.
But instead, a group of Black civic organizations is challenging the adoption of net neutrality rules. Some of the groups are nothing more than front groups for the phone and cable companies. Others, however, are major civil rights groups -- and all of them have significant financial ties to the nation's biggest Internet service providers. For example, AT&T donated half a million dollars last year to the NAACP, and led a drive to raise $5 million more, and boasts of donating nearly $3 million over the last ten years to a number of Black-led organizations. Verizon, meanwhile, recently gave The National Urban League and the National Council of La Raza a $2.2 million grant. Comcast is one of the National Urban League's "national partners" (Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen now sits on the NUL's Board of Trustees), and the NUL's 2008 annual report notes that Comcast donated over $1 million that year. Many of these groups have now filed letters with the FCC opposing or cautioning against net neutrality,[8,9,10,11] and the Internet service providers are using the groups' support to promote their agenda in Washington.[12,13]
Wannabe gate-keepers false 'trickle-down' argument
The main argument put forth by these groups is that net neutrality rules would widen the digital divide. They say that unless we allow Internet service providers to make bigger profits by acting as gatekeepers online, they won't expand Internet access in under-served communities. It's a bogus, trickle-down argument that has been thoroughly debunked.[14, 15] Expanding access to high speed Internet is an extremely important goal. But Internet service providers are already making huge profits,[16, 17] and if they believed that investing in low-income communities made good business sense, they would already be doing it. Allowing them to make more money by acting as toll-takers on the Internet won't change that. When these civil rights groups have been asked to back up their arguments, none have been able to do so without appealing to discredited, industry-funded studies. Nevertheless, the FCC has taken notice of what these civil rights groups are saying about net neutrality, and is wary of going against them for fear of being perceived as insensitive to minority concerns.
Now it's up to you
Now it's up to you
The FCC wants to do the right thing and implement net neutrality rules. FCC commissioners know, as we do, that the anti-net neutrality arguments coming from civil rights groups are bogus. But they don't want to appear to be on the wrong side of Black interests.
We need to demonstrate that there's support among Black folks and everyone else for protecting an open Internet. Please join me in telling the FCC that we support net neutrality.
You can add your voice here
You can add your voice here:
candobetter.org needs an additional v-server and has been offline or slow due to technical v-server problems
It's not tax-deductible and what you see is what you get. If you like it, please try to help support it.
More about candobetter.org
Most of our contributors and many of our readers are becoming aware of how unfree the mainstream commercial press and even ABC radio and TV are in Australia, due to the common commercial focus of government and the growth lobby, which seems to be the source of most of the problems that candobetter.org focuses on. Just to remind you, Candobetter.org is "A website for reform in democracy, environment, population, land use planning and energy policy." Perhaps we should add that it is also a website for media reform.
I started out writing about the environmental effects of population growth. Later I began to write about who and what are driving population growth in Australia - notably the property development and finance lobbies. Then I realised that the reason we could not stop these commercial interests from ruining our country was that they had overwhelmed democracy and coopted government. Finally, I have come to the conclusion that the disempowerment of democratic communication in favour of commercial and corporate interests has been made possible by the cooption of the media.
This has occurred through the reduction in ownership of the media and through the weakening of cross-ownership laws. It has also occurred, historically, through the ownership and cost of media (communications) technology. Owning a television or radio station or a newspaper print works was not within the purview of everyone. It was a very expensive business.
Thank heavens that the whole business of mass communcation has changed. Electronic publication is comparatively cheap and the readers are not so passive and are able to contribute material. Many people still do not understand this revolution and it is imperative that they rapidly begin to, since, at the same time that a new free press has become accessible, democracy, freedom, and vital resource sufficiency are increasingly menaced by corporate interests. These interests and the associated spin continue to be fostered and represented by the commercial mainstream press.
It is up to you and me and us to encourage a self-reliant free press.
Whilst maintaining a website is relatively cheap, it is not cost free, and requires several thousand dollars a year. It is also very labour intensive, yet all of us on candobetter earn our livings in other ways.
This is a labor of love and a political commitment. Please help candobetter.org's owner - James Sinnamon - by making a financial contribution if you can. Alternatively, if you have a spare v-server, perhaps you would like to share it.
Please e-mail james [AT] candobetter.org for details of the bank account.
It's not tax-deductible and what you see is what you get. If you like it, please try to help support it.
The initiative for this announcement came from me, Sheila Newman, although James Sinnamon is aware of it and has surrendered to my persuasion on this matter. He is not a commercially oriented person and earns his living in a low-paid occupation because of his committment to social, political and ecological reform. It would represent a hardship for him to pay for the extension of equipment and virtual space that candobetter.org now needs. I have personally contributed to candobetter.org in the past and will continue to do so, simply because I know Australia and the world need it.
National Recognition For Macedon Ranges Residents’ Association Inc
"Keep it rural. Say 'No' to suburbia" is their motto."
Macedon Ranges Residents’ Association Inc [MRRA] - www.mrra.asn.au - established in 1995, has been recognised at National level as part of Australia’s social history.
The National Library of Australia [NLA] and State Library of Victoria [SLV] are currently archiving online publications they consider are of National significance. Last week MRRA received a request from the State Library of Victoria for permission to add the Association and its website to the National Library of Australia’s online archives, in perpetuity. This means the Association’s website will be preserved and maintained permanently, including software and hardware updates as these change over time, to allow continued long-term access.
The National Library will catalogue MRRA’s website and add the record to the National Bibliographic Database (shared by over 1,100 libraries nationwide). The record will also be added to the State Library’s own online catalogue.
President Brian Whitefield said MRRA is absolutely delighted at receiving national recognition. “The Association has worked hard at State and local issues in recent years, and we are really proud of receiving this honour. Our little “home-grown” community website began in March, 2005 as a way of communicating with our members. It has grown ever since, with an amazing number of hits.”
Secretary Christine Pruneau said the request for permission to add MRRA to the National Library archives in Canberra came as a complete surprise. “It seems our website was considered a ‘perfect example’ of a community website dealing with topical and controversial issues. It also provides something of a local history of events in Macedon Ranges. MRRA is a very active organisation, and has a heavy workload, including keeping the website up to date. Somehow you forget the slog and the long hours when something as stunning as this comes along. Suddenly it is all worthwhile, and it’s a great incentive to keep going and try harder.”
Brian and Christine don’t just see it as recognition of MRRA. “We get a lot of help and feedback from the local community, so pat yourselves on the back too. True ‘community’ groups are an integral part of Australia’s social fabric, and we feel the recognition given to us also recognises the role played by other community groups like ours who are out there tackling important issues. Our message to them is, never give up.”
Free Press: Where do you go when Government and the Media don't care?
This article is a spin-off from Tax-deductibility and Environmental Groups & NGOs, which talks about the role of candobetter.org and other independent alternative media in representing views and assisting citizens to organise at all levels, for instance on behalf of wildlife and vegetation or in state planning laws, or immigration policies.
Where do you go when government and the media don't care?
Disappointed in government departments and ministers, environmental organisations often try to take their cause to the mainstream press. But this is usually just as problematic in the end. Why? Because the press, like the government, dictates narrower and narrower parameters for what they will designate as 'newsworthy'.
How the press manipulate democratic protest
If you are using the press as a political forum, you need to be aware that the press is now so globally powerful due to its control of the market and market perception, that it controls elections and economies much more than ordinary citizens do. That means that it controls political parties, because parties rely on pleasing the mainstream press in order to get publicity of any kind. New political candidates, many of whom must be better than the politicians now in government, come and go and disappear every year without your ever hearing of them.
NGOs and citizens need to consider that both the opposition and the government represent the interests of the commercial media and that even the ABC has to reflect the interests which the commercial media owners define. For instance it officially preserves the two party system which many of us refer to contemptuously as Tweedledum and Tweedledummer.
A very good, and scary example of this was here:
"The ABC's approach to election coverage focuses on the Government and official Opposition on the basis that one of the two major parties will ultimately form government and thus represent the principal points of view. Whilst not discounting the views or policies of the other parties and independent candidates, coverage in respect to such parties and candidates is determined on the basis of newsworthiness. The Policies also note that the ABC reserves the right to withhold free broadcast time to political parties, including those not currently represented in the Parliament concerned, on the basis of the measure of demonstrated public support for the party." Quote from an official ABC radio response to a complaint in 2009. See: ABC dismisses complaint claiming privatisation not 'newsworthy' in 2009 Queensland elections"
Environmental groups have a similar problem to new political candidates - independents and parties. The problem is that the government and the press tend to use the inability of most environmental and other non-government groups to show that they have thousands of financial supporters as an excuse not to represent their concerns. Both the press and the government, if they were really socially concerned, would act to publish, publicise and help people organise over an important cause. But they don't.
It is usually difficult for NGOs to do their real work or for independent politicians to prepare their policies and simultaneously to find thousands of supporters, especially if they are just starting out. There may be thousands, indeed millions of people who potentially support a cause or a political swing against the status quo, but how do you find those people and how do they find you?
Neither the government nor the press will help you to become strong; they will only react to strength already acquired. Usually that strength can only be built up by groups with a strong commercial basis these days. It wasn't always so. In a small population where economic activity was more localised, people shared geographically common concerns and communicated face to face. These days people tend to form their opinions, even on local issues, from the dominant news-media, rather than asking their neighbours or attending local forums.
It has become so due to the commercialisation of our social infrastructure, the huge scale on which we now operate, and our reliance on government and the mainstream press to tell us what is happening. We rely on these mediums for communication. But they are not communicating on our behalf and the 'information' and 'news' the pass on is chosen according to different priorities than the public good. Clearly the ABC reflects the interests embedded in the status quo and does not seek or respond to public input in any consistant and significant way that might change this.
Hidden commercial interests affect presentation of opinion
The commercial press also have many commercial interests apart from just selling papers or television shows, but it is not easy or indeed possible to know what most of these are at any time. What we must realise is that the commercial press is really like a lot of big interconnected corporations that are advertising products they want you to buy, using articles which will create an environment to increase the market for those products, raise the price of shares on certain commodities and products in the short term (so that they can be bought and sold), and manipulate opinion as to what is really important and what is really happening in the reader's environment. The press - television, radio and newspaper - has to a large degree - substituted a manufactured reality for ordinary interpersonal networking and the individual's forming of an idea of their political, social, economic and biophysical environment.
This manufactured reality which tells us things like 'Most people don't care about wildlife or animal cruelty', 'Most people agree with overpopulation and overdevelopment, considering it reasonable', 'most people benefit somehow from overpriced real-estate', 'it is okay to privatise water and other vital resources' - is actually the direct opposite of what most people think, but how would most people know that? In this way the mainstream press alienates citizens from each other because those citizens believe that few people share what are actually widespread values. Those values become taboo and we are all silenced.