UK Judge Approves Use of Secret Evidence in Guantánamo Case by Andy Worthington

19 November, 2009 — Dandelion

Those of us who have been aware that the principles of open justice in the UK are being threatened in an unprecedented manner have, to date, focused largely on the use of secret evidence in cases related to terrorism — widely ignored by the general public, and by much of the media — and on the use of ‘super-injunctions,’ which recently broke into the mainstream with the Twitter-storm over the Trafigura case.

The use of secret evidence in cases related to terrorism involves prisoners held on control orders (a form of house arrest), or imprisoned on deportation bail, who are assigned special advocates to speak on their behalf in closed sessions of the Special Immigrations Appeal Court (SIAC), but who are then prohibited from speaking to the special advocates about what took place in these closed sessions. This regime is now under threat, after the Law Lords ruled in June that imposing control orders breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial, because a suspect held under a control order is not given ‘sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to him.’

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20 November, 2009 — MEDIA LENS: Correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media

News As A Science

To Davies’ credit, he does not fall back on the conventional defence for journalistic conformity, one that might account for the media’s failures even in cases like the Iraq death toll and climate change. Many modern journalists try to insinuate that the strangely consensual worldview of our media reflects the fact that it is now a professional media. The professional journalist, they suggest, is trained to seek out facts from which he or she constructs an “objective” news report. On this view, journalists select facts in the same way that, adopting an analogy used by Edwards and Cromwell, a geologist collects rocks for research. “Geologists have no emotional attachment to their rocks – journalists should be similarly disinterested.” This view of journalism has become increasingly prevalent both inside and outside the trade.

Rightly, however, Davies joins Edwards and Cromwell in dismissing the idea of journalistic objectivity as nonsense. He points out the obvious truth that all reporting involves selection – of the subject matter of a report, of the tone in which it is narrated, of the values that inform the reporter’s research, as well as of the facts included, the people interviewed, and the quotes used. The process of selection is governed not by objective criteria but by the assumptions a journalist or his news organisation brings to a story. Davies usefully illustrates this point with several examples of consensual wisdom from other periods of history, including sympathetic reports from mainstream US newspapers about Ku Klux Klan activities in the pre-civil rights era.

But if journalism is not about objectivity, but rather about adopting a viewpoint, then newspapers ought to be a cacophony of competing and conflicting views. Davies tries to explain the stultifying atmosphere of consensus with his 10 rules of production. He is helped by the fact that he has so many different rules that it is easy to find at least one that covers every example of mis-reporting he unearths. But how plausible is it that these rules are solely responsible for distorting media coverage?

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Explosions of Unrest Mark Puerto Rico’s Economic Crisis By Juan A. Ocasio Rivera

18 November, 2009 — North American Congress on Latin America

The unsuspecting governor, smack in the middle of an important press conference, missed being hit by a projectile by mere inches. The projectile? Not a bullet, but an egg. An outraged citizen calling himself ‘the Common Guy’ (el tipo común) interrupted the press conference by screaming in outrage at Puerto Rico’s governor, Luis Fortuño, and throwing a slider that landed on a sign highlighting a new development project the governor was announcing. As officers locked the man in a bear hug and carted him off, and as the press swarmed this Common Guy, it became clear that his public display of resistance was not only transcendental for its raw expression of pain and anger, but was also symbolic and representative of everyone’s frustration and open outrage at the turn of events on the island.

Puerto Rico is witnessing the kind of social, economic, and political upheaval not seen in decades. Declaring a fiscal emergency, the pro-statehood Fortuño administration recently passed a Fiscal Emergency Law, which, among other measures, implemented the layoff of over 20,000 government workers—nearly 10% of the total. In addition to huge cuts in budgets and services, the layoffs caused immediate shock and outrage due to its massive breadth and potential effects. Government officials contend that they inherited a bankrupt government from previous administrations along with a huge debt load. They are scrambling to prevent their credit ratings to be classified in the lowest of categories—the junk rating—and contend that the measures were necessary.

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