Richard Tomlinson vs. MI6 - Revisited

I have mentioned the Tomlinson vs. MI6 blog on a number of different occasions, and it has received much interest.

As an update, the Original Tomlinson vs. MI6 Blog was predictably shut down by Typepad. When you're a former secret agent, it's not surprising that your former employers would go after you when you start soap boxing.

However, the blog has been re-born right here on Blogger!

The new site:

Tomlinson v. Mi6

also, the archives from the old Typepad site, before they excersised their censorship:
Tomlinson v. Mi6 Archives

For those of you who haven't heard of Tomlinson, he became an MI6 agent in 1991 and was subsequently sacked/fired in 1995... he claims he was wrongfully let go, and has taken his anger with the SIS/Mi6 public, first threatening to write a book (which he was arrested for), then by starting a website where he pointed out some similarities between a former Mi6 plot to kill Slobodan Milosovic and the death of Princess Diana (that site was shut down), then starting a blog, which as I mentioned was also shut down (and he got arrested and had all of his possessions confiscated as well earlier this year I believe). Now he's back blogging, this time right here on blogger.

The interesting thing about this now is Google-owned Blogger itself. Some bloggers post content that governmental agencies view very, very negatively. How far a former Mi6 agent will be allowed to go on blogger will essentially be setting the boundries for the rest of us.

What I wonder is, how much freedom of speech is blogger going to allow when governments come in and start screaming their "National Security" mantra.

Extraordinary Rendition

I am appalled by what I am reading in the news today.

I place great hope in the EU. Progressive governance and an increasing ability (though apparently lacking desire) to break out from under the thumb of the US government gives Europeans great pride. However, continuing complicity towards Crimes Against Humanity should make all Europeans cringe as they read the news today.

From Ireland comes news today confirming the suspicion that Fianna Fáil (the party in power) gave their tacit support to American War Crimes in allowing the CIA to run over one hundred flights through Shannon Airport of "suspected terrorists" to formerly-secret concentration camps in Eastern Europe, with the full knowledge that those being taken would likely face torture.

F.F. have dishonored the memory of all those who died to bring about the Irish Republic, and for that they should be beyond ashamed.

From RTE News:

'Serious concerns' over use of Irish airports

28 November 2006 22:57
A draft European Parliament report into alleged CIA rendition flights has expressed 'serious concerns' over the 147 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports.

The report says these aircraft were on many occasions coming from, or en route to, countries linked with so-called 'extraordinary rendition' and the transfer of alleged terrorism suspects or detainees.

It also claims that CIA linked aircraft which had stopped off in Ireland had 'certainly been used for the extraordinary renditions' of nine named individuals.

From Al Jazeera:

Many European Union governments were aware of US secret jails being operated in Europe, according to a draft report.

Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, also made "omissions and denials" to EU investigators despite knowing about the CIA's covert operations in Europe, the European Parliament report says.

Claudio Fava, the author of the draft report on the CIA's use of European countries for the illegal transport and detention of prisoners, said: "Many governments co-operated passively or actively [with the CIA]. They knew."

To allow the CIA to use the airports of a supposedly neutral country is a violation of the solemn vow given by government ministers to represent the will of their population. That is an insult to the population, one that I hope will not be allowed to pass unnoticed.


American Hegemony: India and Iran in the New World Order

Updated November 24 & 25 below.
Lord Acton once implored us to remember a simple mantra:

Where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Since its inception, American foreign policy has essentially been to expand the sphere of American dominance at whatever cost is necessary. It began with simple expansion out along the American continent, slaughtering the inhabitants along the way. In 1899 President McKinley issued the "Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation" announcing Americas intention to set up its own version of the British Empire. This policy continued through the years of "Wilsonian Idealism" and accelerated after World War II, reaching its climax under the guise of "Humanitarian Intervention" under Clinton. Each step along the way has seen an increase in the scope of Americas hegemonic ambitions, and each time the sphere of influence was expanded. First it was just the North American continent, then nearby islands, Central and South America, and finally expanding through the Middle and Far East.

Americas two most recent conquests, Afghanistan and Iraq, are becoming indicators that the time of American Empire may be coming to an end. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States remained as the sole world superpower, excersising its will with reckless abandon. However, the extension - and expansion upon - these policies by George Bush Junior has polarised the world in a very different way. The unipolar order of The United States and everybody else is giving way under the paralysing weight of American ambitions of dominance. What is emerging is a multipolar order, with the United States being put in a position of being unable to exert its influence at will, and instead having to increasingly accept foreign influence and input in world affairs.

The end of America's reign as the worlds sole superpower, and the absolute corruption that such power brings along, should be welcomed and encouraged by people the world over. As important policies in America are seldom even discussed (The Kyoto Protocols, Nuclear Disarmarment, Human Rights), and the US is using its global power to marginalise such important doctrines as those set forth by the Geneva Conventions, any move away from the absolutely corrupting Absolute Power given to American interests should be heralded as a positive move by anyone concerned about the safety and well being of our species as a whole.

Lynchpin: India

The United States Senate last week passed (by a vote of 85 to 12) a measure approving the transfer of Nuclear technology, equipment, and fuel to India. Doing so required that an exception be made to the Atomic Energy Act, which specifically forbids the sale of nuclear materials to countries that are non-signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The important reasoning behind this was spelled out in a recent article in The New York Times which stated that the vote was "expressing that a goal of nurturing India as an ally outweighed concerns over the risks of spreading nuclear skills and bomb-making materials." Such an agreement also brings to an end the 30 year old doctrine prohibiting the transfer by the United States of Nuclear reactor components and fuel to other countries.

Today, Chinese Premier Hu Jintao is in India on a visit meant to increase bilateral ties between the two countries. The China Daily reports that
As the first Chinese president to visit the country in a decade, Hu is expected to work with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to "fill in the specifics" in the strategic partnership, according to Sun Yuxi, Chinese ambassador to India.

China and India announced the establishment of their strategic partnership for peace and prosperity last April in a joint statement signed by Premier Wen Jiabao and Singh.

Hu's talks with Singh today will iron out the details for enhancing this partnership in political, economic, military, cultural, scientific, technological and educational spheres, Sun revealed in a group interview last Friday with Chinese journalists at his residence.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe reports that this meeting between Chinese and Indian premieres is likely to lead to a Nuclear arrangement being ironed out between those two countries as well, with China adding their bid for India to the one already on the table from the US.
If China and India enter into a nuclear cooperation agreement, it will mark a new stage in the increasing competition between China and the United States for India's friendship.

President Bush branded China a "strategic competitor" as soon as he came to office in 2001. Since India's burgeoning economy and muscular military can tip the balance of power in Asia, over the last year the United States and China have been trying to build closer ties with India, said Sun Shihai, deputy director of the Institute for Asia Pacific Studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

"The US always said it wants to use India to balance China," Sun said. "China feels it needs to engage India more [and] develop some kind of Russia-China-India cooperation" that can balance US hegemony. "So there is some kind of competition happening."

The White House's July 2005 decision to enter into civilian nuclear cooperation was widely seen as a critical step in attracting India into the US orbit.

The worrysome emergence of spheres of influence outside of US control, specifically Russia and China (with partnerships growing to include Latin America, India, Iran and Pakistan), has US planners on their heels, of which the US offer of Nuclear technology to India is merely a byproduct.

The most specific worry for US planners is the duo of China and Russia extending their influence beyond the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and including countries in Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela) and such strategic heavyweights as India, Pakistan, and Iran. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, the US has aggressively been trying to expand NATO influence as far east as possible, encompassing many former Warsaw Pact nations. This is where the importance of India comes into play.

Were India to join a strategic alliance with China and Russia, they would throw their sizeable population (over 1 Billion people, the 2nd most populous nation on the planet behind China and much larger than the US with 300 Million) and strategic central-asia location (between China and another country the SCO has been courting, Pakistan) into the already economically- and militarily- hefty China/Russia partnership. Moves have already been made in increasing cooperation between China and India with trade set to exceed $20billion (US) this year, exceeding the target set by the two governments for 2008. There is also talk of a bilateral free trade agreement between the two countries, which could enable an increase in the already strong rate of general economic growth in the region.

There are, of course, a couple of sticking points in the China-India relationship, which the US is trying to take advantage of while it still has the opportunity. These include Chinese cooperation with India's foe Pakistan, the asylum of the Dali Lama from Tibet in India, and the China/India border. The border was in fact originally drawn by the British government near the end of their colonial reign, and has not been agreed upon by China or India. In the heat of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Nikita Kruschev is rumored to have encouraged Chairman Mao to go ahead and attack India over their disputed border, which India accepts but China views as claiming for India 90,000sq-km of Chinese territory. This act set in motion stronger ties between the US and India, which continue to this day; for instance, including a ten year mutual protection pact between the two countries currently in effect.

However, steps have also been taken in recent years to increase military cooperation between China and India, another factor worrying to US planners who hedge their bets on permanent US military dominance. This cooperation is being manifested in the areas of economics and defense, mainstays in the US's exertion of dominance in world affairs.

The value of courting India away from China/Russia is not lost on analysts, with such influential writers as Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky making their opinions heard on the subject. A regional economic and military alliance comprising Russia, China, and India, would have severe implications for continued American dominance.

Battleground: Iran

Successful defiance of American hegemonic interests is not undertaken lightly. However, the failed US invasion and occupation of Iraq has put the United States in its weakest position in decades, leaving open the opportunity for other power centres to assert their influence.

Previous attempts at defiance have led to serious consequences for countries such as Cuba, which suffered at the hands of an American economic strangulation since the overthrow of the US-backed Batista regime. Overt actions have been taken against others guilty of defiance in the past, such as many Latin American countries, North Korea, Vietnam, Sudan, and the recent US-sponsored coup attempt in Venezuela to oust the elected president Hugo Chavez.

Historically, Russia and/or China have consistantly fought the US on different battlegrounds, with Mao's troops fighting American troops in both North Korea and Vietnam (in the latter, the 100,000 strong Chinese forces even went so far as to don their Chinese military uniforms), the placement of Russian Nukes in Cuba, American Nukes in Turkey, and so on.

The re-emergence of Russia and China as global players is today being showcased in Iran. What was originally a confrontation strictly between France (proportedly representing the EU, although EU polls at the time indicated that the EU population was more worried about US militarism than Iran's nuclear program) and Iran has become a standoff between the East (Russia/China) and West (US/UK). Backed by these two UN Security Council Veto holders, Iran has refused to back down in front of US pressure regarding their nuclear program. Simultaneously, Iran is stepping to the forefront of one of the major issues of the day, the civil war raging in Iraq.

After two decades of diplomacy suspension, Iran's close ally Syria and American occupied Iraq are resuming diplomatic relations. Syria, branded by George Bush Jr. as a member of the "axis of evil" along with Iran and North Korea, broke ties with Iraq in 1982 in reaction to the US-backed war against their partner Iran; increasing ties between Syria and the US-installed regime of Malaki (and Talabani) could only be as surprising to their US masters as Malakis denunciation of Israel's US-backed murderous escapades in Lebanon and Palestine over the past few months.

Even more surprising for the US is the acceptance of the offer of a state visit to Iran by Talabani this weekend, where the major issue is likely to be the civil war raging in Iraq (it is often referred to in the western media as the "security situation" but to a rational observer 100 sectarian murders a day is beyond a simple "security situation"). This is on the heels of a call by Tehran for a summit with Iraqi and Syrian leaders to discuss Iraqs deep seeded problems.

The idea of such a summit occuring is so worrysome to the US that the US Embassy immediately issued a warning to the Iraqi government to stay away from Iran and Syria, and The US Propaganda machine immediately issued a report that such a summit would never happen.

Why should America be so worried about Iranian influence on Iraq? It is generally accepted by those who look beyond Fox News Headlines that the US's intention was to impose a client regime on Iraq, opening up for US businesses "economic opportunities," in other words unfettered access to Iraqs vast reserves of natural resources, and a permanent US presence in the center of the resource-blessed region. Iran, on the other hand, wholeheartedly rejects the idea of any American and British influence in the region. An op-ed in the Iran Daily reflects this:
Many Arabs and Muslims I talked to at the weekend about his new round of irresponsible statements about Iran were of the opinion that Blair could be suffering from a fresh bout of dementia.

In a television interview, the Labour boss known to many peace lovers in and outside Britain as “Tony Bliar“, “Phoney Tony“ and “King of Spin“, publicly admitted that the war he jointly engineered with George Bush was a “disaster.“
However, that admission of defeat did not stop him from blaming Tehran for all that has been going very wrong in occupied Iraq as a direct result of the Bush-Blair arrogance.
He said he had a message for Tehran and Damascus: “If you are prepared to be a part of the solution, there is a partnership available to you.“

We cannot speak for the leadership in Syria, nor do we know if or when Bashar Assad proposed any mechanism to help bring peace to the volatile Middle East. As far as Tehran is concerned, Blair, who will be remembered by posterity as a pro-war ruler obsessed with Israeli security and interests, had the wrong address once again. Those who decide foreign policy in our country do not recall ever wanting to be partners with killers of innocent Muslims like Blair or Bush.

Having said that, it deserves mention that the UK prime minister who dragged his country into the bottomless quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, is simply not in a position to make offers or speak on behalf of the people in our part of the world. One need not be a political scientist to understand that there is not one single country in the Muslim-Arab world that wants even impartial western rulers to speak on its behalf.

Now, how can Iran get away with such blatant disobedience of American power? The answer lies, once again, in the East. Iran's ties with Russia and China are consistantly played down in the western media in favor of a portrayal of Iran as a country on the verge of aquiring nuclear weapons and intent on using them to commit genocide against Israel. However, if we look back at the timeline of the most recent developments in the confrontation we see other important factors. Iran's military is being supplied by the Chinese (who in turn were supplied by Russia), and their military capabilities were most recently demonstrated in excersises they carried out in nearly half of their provinces and the Persian Gulf. This chinese-supplied military capability is widely seen as a deterrant to the American military option. Additionally, Iran has secured a trade partnership with Russia (and, in turn, the SCO) that comprises the worlds largest supply of Natural Gas and one of the top five supplies of crude oil, and it is Russia (not Iran) that is building in Iran a new state-of-the-art nuclear reactor.

Strategically, Iran is in an ideal position to all but cut off the supply of Middle East oil to the West, while allowing oil supply to continue through pipelines to their allies in the East. Iran's close ties with China and Russia are likely to prevent the US taking any more aggressive stance against the country than they already have, for economic reasons I have explained before:
Another dangerous economic trend is the steady decline in value of the US Dollar. Against the Euro it has dropped by more than a third of its value over the past five years. America's aggressive foreign policy isn't helping the situation much either, as the countries that were subsidising the US's enormous budget deficit by (as required by the IMF) purchasing US government bonds as collateral to insure their own currencies, such as many South American, Asian, and "Old Europe" countries, are looking to withdraw from their IMF obligations and take their money elsewhere in response to what they rightly perceive as American Imperialism.

Perhaps more worrysome for the American economy is the fact that major energy-commodity trading countries, which have been propping up the value of the dollar since the seventies as it is the major trading currency for oil, are also responding to american imperialism with a desire to switch to other currencies as their oil buying and selling currency. Most notable would be China, which holds the largest foreign reserve of US dollars on the planet, and which has begun serious discussions this year to switch to Euros as its oil buying currency. That would lead their main oil supplier Iran, which the US has been bullying recently, to switch to Euros as well (for oil), and could lead other OPEC countries to follow suit. This would lead to a rapid decline in the value of the already weak dollar, and skyrocketing inflation in America.

The end result is that the US, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and facing strong eastern opposition, is not currently in any position to enforce their hegemony.

Future Implications

Once an empire enters into decline, history tells us that the end result is consistantly terminal to their ambitions of dominance. Rome, Greece, Persia, the Ottomans, Britain; each have fallen by the wayside as their policies led to their downfall. What is emerging now is a multipolar order (rather than a unipolar order under US control) with the US sharing its global power with China and Russia, India (whom America is having to attempt to woo away from the other emerging powers), and a Latin America being led by Democratic Venezuela in partnership with defiant Cuba and economically strong Brazil, and with close ties to the strategic alliance of Russia and China in the East.

The indications of the demise of America as the worlds sole dominant superpower can only be welcomed by those who care about the future of our civilisation. The absolute power and absolute corruption that a system of American Hegemony has brought along is far from the best interests of the people, and it will be the people who benefit from moving away from the current Status Quo.

cross posted at Daily Kos and European Tribune.
Update: November 24, 2006

The India Daily reports today that China will be soon announcing its full support for India to be granted a permanent UN Security Council seat. This is different from the recent Kofi Annan proposal of six semi-permanent non-veto holding seats.
China opposes Japan and favors India just to make sure Western dominance of in UN Security Council is challenged. Japan is seen as an American satellite. Brazil is a mixed bag. Though India is tending towards Japan’s posture, most likely Indian people will not accept American policies as their own.

We should also bear in mind that the US does not want to see a peaceful and prosperous relationship between India and Pakistan, as it might lead to a strengthening of the Asian bloc that is emerging as a counterbalance to American hegemony. China sees this, and on Hu Jintao's recent visit he was quoted as saying china "welcomes and supports" improved relations and would like to take a "constructive role" in advancing the interests of Asian peace. However, he stopped short of offering to directly mediate talks. I get the impression that India and Pakistan, although still succeptable to mutual pervading animosity, are aware of the positive ramifications of normalisation and strengthening of relations. This would be an important step in the emergence of a South Asian bloc to counterbalance current American hegemonic interests.
Update November 25

As previously mentioned, China supplies much of Iran's defensive military capabilities. As Xinhua (China's State-Run news agency) is reporting today Russia is also supplying defensive military capabilities to Iran.

MOSCOW, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Russia has begun delivering air defense systems Tor-M1 to Iran within the framework of an earlier signed agreement, Russian news agencies reported on Friday.

"The deliveries of Tor-M1 to Iran have begun. The first systems have been delivered to Iran," a source in Russia's military and intestinal complex was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying, adding the Iranian soldiers who will operate the systems were trained in Russia.

"Earlier Russian officials stated that Iran is a sovereign state, a member of the UN and League of Arab States, and no international sanctions prohibiting it from receiving defensive arms have been imposed," the arms-exporting company Rosoboronexport said.

One lesson that States who find themselves on the US's hit list have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan is that the likelyhood of attack increases as military power decreases. Both Iraq and Afghanistan had little or no military capabilities, which made them easy targets for the militaristic Bush administration.

One byproduct of these invasions is that it has sparked a mini arms race, with countries that the US comes out against scrambling to build up a military deterrant, as evidenced by Iran's increasing purchase of weapons from the east and North Koreas test of a nuclear bomb some weeks back, seen as a "deterrant to US designs" in the words of N. Chomsky.

China and Russia are eager to provide such a deterrant to countries who are willing to offer to them their strategic value, such as Iran, while simultaneously condemning measures that are viewed as "provoking" the United States, such as N. Koreas missile and nuke tests.

It should also be noticed how Russia is working to build an energy consortium which "runs counter to and increasingly circumvents the established liberal US-backed global oil market denominated in US dollars," often (as seen by their recent stance with Georgia) in a very aggressive and (dare I say) Western Capitalist manner.

Also, it will be interesting to see how the how the cold-war-relic Robert Gates, anti-Chinese Nancy Pelosi, and anti-Russian Tom Lantos (incoming Chairman, House Committee on International Relations) affect the re-emerging competitive nature of the relationship between East and West. The Asia Times has a thoughtful analysis on the subject.


Al Jazeera

American cable providers thus far have refused to carry the new channel, which will be available only online in the United States.

That quote comes from the "Jewish Telegraphic Agency" and exemplifies the exact reason why I am excited to report (for those that somehow might not know) that:

Today, November 15, 2006, Al Jazeera will officially launch its worldwide english-language news network.

For those of you who have been living in a hut in Montana and have not heard of Al Jazeera, it is a Quatar based Arabic language news channel that is viewed by roughly 40 million people per day. They gained notoriety in the west by being willing to broadcast taped messages from Osama Bin Ladin shortly after 9/11 (back before his statements were useful to the US government for instilling fear in their population, which eventually led to US news organisations being more than willing to broadcast anything remotely attributable to him). At the time, and still to today, the channel is labeled by nervous western news agencies as sympathetic towards al qaeda. I should note, however, that upon having received the first tape from Bin Ladin, Al Jazeera contacted the Bush administration and offered George himself airtime on their channel. The offer was refused.

In fact, the Bush administration is so angry at the fact that Al Jazeera is willing to broadcast facts that reflect poorly on the Bush adminstration and their policies, that Al Jazeera's headquarters in Afghanistan and Iraq were targeted by the US military. Also, immediately prior to the Iraqi elections, Al Jazeeras offices in Iraq were forcibly closed by the US military and the channel was banned from reporting from Iraq.

It is not only the Bush administration that does not like Al Jazeera. Al Zarqawi, prior to his death, posted a statement on a website accusing Al Jazeera of being a "mouthpiece for the Americans."

Here is what BBC News has to say about Al Jazeera:
Arab governments have recalled diplomats because of it, the USA has allegedly targeted its offices with bombs, but over 40 million Arabs watch it.
Coverage unprecedented in the Arab media, ranging from pictures of a Palestinian boy being shot dead by Israeli soldiers in his father's arms to interviews with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, have all added to its popularity and credibility.

BBC-trained al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmad al-Sheikh summed up his channel's journalistic ethos in this way: "Be accurate, factual, be there first - that's not necessarily most important - and be with the human being all the time - you don't stay at the top getting the views of politicians and diplomats."
Al-Jazeera's impact and popularity pressured several state-run television stations to update output to compete. Several Arab governments were forced to lift, if only partially, media controls.

Analysts believe al-Jazeera is responsible for politically educating ordinary Arabs and for raising awareness and political knowledge of both Arab and world affairs. It is also credited with raising the expectations of the masses from their governments.

However, its reporting has made it unpopular with Arab and Western governments.

And this is how it is covered in the Los Angeles Times, as posted online at The Moscow Times:
Al-Jazeera, the Arab news channel that began a decade ago as an upstart, has became a thorn in the side of every dictator in the region and the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush.

Now, the network, which turned 10 on Nov. 1, is looking to extend its sphere of influence beyond the Arab world. On Wednesday, it will start the English-language Al-Jazeera International, its most ambitious initiative yet, which will go on the air from Asia to the United States.

The channel will broadcast from network hubs in Qatar, London, Washington and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, offering news, talk and documentaries that its managing director, Nigel Parsons, said would have a decidedly different tone than on established Western channels.

In effect, Al-Jazeera International intends to become for the developing world what Al-Jazeera became to the Arab World: a champion of forgotten causes, a news organization willing to take the contrarian view and to risk being controversial.

"We want to be a channel that covers the untold stories," Parsons said. "We would be anchored in the Middle East, but we intend to cover the developing world fully."

To do that, he said, Al-Jazeera will use Asian reporters to cover Asia, and will have Africans talking about Africa, "rather than having instant experts land there and tell us a story."

The channel has signed prominent journalists, including host and commentator David Frost, former BBC correspondent Rageh Omar, and a one-time CNN anchor, Riz Khan, as well as numbers of producers and reporters from Western networks and some unknowns with a decidedly international look.

"We will carry on the tradition of showing the ugly side of conflict," Parsons said. "War has been too sanitized in the media."

In the words posted on the current english.aljazeera.net website:
Al Jazeera English all set to launch
Tuesday 14 November 2006, 14:30 Makka Time, 11:30 GMT

Al Jazeera's English-language television news channel is all set to reach 80 million homes worldwide.

At 1200 GMT on Wednesday, Al Jazeera English will begin broadcasting from the network's main studios in Doha, Qatar.

The first such international news and current affairs channel with its headquarters in the Middle East, it will far exceed the original launch target of 40 million cable and satellite households.

Wadah Khanfar, the director-general of Al Jazeera network, said: "Our launch figure is over double the original target we set for ourselves.

"This is unprecedented in the broadcasting industry - no other international news channel has launched with such a high number of homes across the world.

"We will continue to build on this figure after launch and will be looking to expand our reach significantly. This is another reflection of the strength of Al Jazeera brand."

In addition to cable and satellite, it will be available on broadband, IPTV, ADSL, terrestrial and mobile phone platforms.

Lindsey Oliver, the commercial director of Al Jazeera English, said: "We particularly appreciate the support that has been shown far and wide with distributors signing up to carry Al Jazeera English on the reputation of the Al Jazeera brand, our stated goals, our on air and off air teams, and without having seen the channel on air."

In addition to cable, ADSL, mobile platforms and satellite, Al Jazeera English will be available as a live stream to the one billion users of the internet worldwide.

Al Jazeera's English website, aljazeera.net/english will also be re-launched on Wednesday at 12 GMT to reflect the television's look and editorial content.

It will provide live streams of the channel, together with RSS feeds, e-mail newsletters and interactive discussion boards.

So where will this Anti-Christ of news channels be available in your area? (this does not apply to the US, where people will need to contact their cable providers and demand that it be made available)

Al Jazeera English platforms:

Afghanistan: Tolo TV Australia: Transact, UBI TV Belguim: TV Vlaanderen Bosnia & Herzegovina: Dzemo, H & S, Bulgaria: MSAT, SKAT Croatia: Vodatel Cyprus: Primetel Denmark: Canal Digitaal Estonia: Elion Ettevotted AS, AS STV, Teleset AS, City TV Finland: Canal Digitaal, TTV/Elisa Co-operation Pool France: TPS, Canal Sat, Neuf/Cegetel, Free, T Online, Tele 2, NOOS Germany: KDG, Premiere Subscribers, DNMG, Kabel BW - Land Baden-Wuerttemberg, HanseNet Telekommunikation GmbH - Hamburg, netcologne GmbH - Cologne, Kabel Kiosk (Eutelsat), Telecolumbus - Berlin, and other areas Ghana: Metro TV Greece: Nova, Teledome DSL Honduras: Cable Sula Hong Kong: HK Broadband Indonesia: XL, Ireland: Digital satellite Israel: YES, Pelephone, Cellcom, Orange Italy: Sky Italia Jordan: Jump TV Kenya: Nation TV Kuwait: United Network Company Latvia: Baltkom, IZZI Lebanon: Cablevision Lithuania: Balticum Malaysia: ASTRO, Maldives: Media Net Malta: Multiplus Middle East: NileSat (including subscribers to the Showtime network), ArabSat New Zealand: ORCUS Norway: Canal Digitaal, Consoll IPTV, Next GenTel Poland: Cyfra Plus, Cyfrowy Polsat, Toya (Lodz) Portugal: Novis Qatar: Qatar Cable Romania: iNES Group, DTH Group South Africa: Vodacom, Spain: Jazztelia TV, Orange TV, ZTV-Marina Sweden: Com Hem, Canal Digitaal Switzerland: NAXOO Thailand: Buddy TV The Netherlands: Canal Digitaal, Essent, Xtra Televisie Turkey: Turksat UAE: Etisalat, Evision UK: Digital satellite (Sky Guide 514), Vingo US: Globecast, Fision, Jump TV, VDC Uganda: Nation TV

Without Further Ado...


Now, some may ask "Why, Misneach, on a website with no advertisements are you running what is basically a full page advertisement for Al Jazeera?"

The answer is simple. In the west we are generally limited to a very small number of news agencies and news wires that all are entirely too willing to unquestioningly pass along whatever propaganda the government wishes to disseminate. I find this physically repulsive.

I believe it is the duty of the news media in a democracy to provide unbiased factual information to the public. Our media fail us on that count consistantly.

As such, I cannot express in words how excited I am to hear that one of my online news favorites is launching their TV news, in english, into the western world. I think it will be a breath of fresh air for a suffocating public.

The following is the Al Jazeera "Code of Ethics"

Being a globally oriented media service, Aljazeera shall determinedly adopt the following code of ethics in pursuance of the vision and mission it has set for itself:

1. Adhere to the journalistic values of honesty, courage, fairness, balance, independence, credibility and diversity, giving no priority to commercial or political considerations over professional ones.

2. Endeavour to get to the truth and declare it in our dispatches, programmes and news bulletins unequivocally in a manner which leaves no doubt about its validity and accuracy.

3. Treat our audiences with due respect and address every issue or story with due attention to present a clear, factual and accurate picture while giving full consideration to the feelings of victims of crime, war, persecution and disaster, their relatives and our viewers, and to individual privacy and public decorum.

4. Welcome fair and honest media competition without allowing it to affect adversely our standards of performance so that getting a "scoop" will not become an end in itself.

5. Present diverse points of view and opinions without bias or partiality.

6. Recognise diversity in human societies with all their races, cultures and beliefs and their values and intrinsic individualities in order to present unbiased and faithful reflection of them.

7. Acknowledge a mistake when it occurs, promptly correct it and ensure it does not recur.

8. Observe transparency in dealing with news and news sources while adhering to internationally established practices concerning the rights of these sources.

9. Distinguish between news material, opinion and analysis to avoid the pitfalls of speculation and propaganda.

10. Stand by colleagues in the profession and offer them support when required, particularly in light of the acts of aggression and harassment to which journalists are subjected at times. Cooperate with Arab and international journalistic unions and associations to defend freedom of the press.



"Israel must be wiped off the map."

Ehud Olmert and George Bush met in Washington on Monday to discuss the latest target in the recently revived "war on terror" (originally declared in the 1980s to deal with uncooperative governments in Latin America), Iran.

In response to this visit, Bush held a press conference in which he threatened Iran with "global isolation" if they did not give up their uranium enrichment program. Tony Blair, in keeping with the precedent he has set countless times since the Bush administration took power in 2001, obediently echoed these sentiments in a speech given later that day.

Mr Blair presented Iran with a choice: end support for insurgents and extremists in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories in return for what he described as a new partnership in the region.

The alternative, he said, was diplomatic isolation for Tehran.

From RTE News

Bush's threat to Iran was similarly worded, according to the Associated Press:
Bush said the U.S. has not changed the terms, and he warned of "economic isolation" for Iran if it presses ahead.

"There has to be a consequence for their intransigence," Bush said.

One common thread that I have noticed in the coverage of this meeting between Bush and Olmert is the constant reference back to a statement by the Iranian President that Israel should be "wiped off the map." Such a statement, taken out of context, could easily be interpreted as a call to genocide; much like the statement by Richard Nixon regarding targets to bomb in Vietnam being "anything that flies on anything that moves."

But, for a statement to be so consistantly repeated, it should generally be accepted that such a statement should be carefully researched first. I won't get into the fact that the UN mandate for the state of Palestine was wiped off the map by Israel between 1947 and 1967, but rather proffer a short critical examination of the genocidal nature of this remark.

After having heard the statement repeated constantly in the western press, it was only after an astute reader of this blog, Nadia, pointed out that there was some discussion as to the accuracy of that translation. I regret to confess that it had not even occurred to me that the Iranian President would have been speaking Persian, not english, when the statement was made. As such, I turned to an expert on middle east affairs, Juan Cole, as referenced on Wikipedia in an article entitled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Israel:
""Juan Cole, a University of Michigan Professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, translates the Persian phrase as:

The Imam said that this regime occupying Jerusalem (een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods) must [vanish from] the page of time (bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad).[8]

According to Cole, "Ahmadinejad did not say he was going to wipe Israel off the map because no such idiom exists in Persian" and "He did say he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse."[1]

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) translates the phrase similarly:

[T]his regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.[9]

On 20 February 2006, Iran’s foreign minister denied that Tehran wanted to see Israel “wiped off the map,” saying Ahmadinejad had been misunderstood. "Nobody can remove a country from the map. This is a misunderstanding in Europe of what our president mentioned," Manouchehr Mottaki told a news conference, speaking in English, after addressing the European Parliament. "How is it possible to remove a country from the map? He is talking about the regime. We do not recognise legally this regime," he said."

I find it interesting to note that they specify the "Zionist" regime, rather than just the Israeli regime. Let us also not forget that, pursuant to a UN Resolution, from 1974 (up until the US had it repealed in 1991) the word "Zionist" was equated with the word "Racist."

Does the fact that Iran refuses to recognise (similar to World Court judgements on the subject) the "Racist" regime in Tel Aviv make Iran what Bush terms a "threat to world peace"? It would seem that the US establishment thinks so. Airing soon on the american Discovery Channel is a special report entitled
Koppel: Iran The Most Dangerous Nation. Again, this will undoubtedly add to the hype surrounding the Iranian regime, which itself (predictably) states that the "Zionist state's fears are unfounded". Perhaps, if Iran were such a dangerous nation, they would warrant economic and diplomatic isolation.

However, diplomatic and economic isolation are two threats that the US, UK, and Israeli regimes will not be able to make good on. The US and Israel have no economic ties whatsoever with Iran, and Iran's two major trading partners, China and Russia, are not going to support any "isolation" of their close partner.

Iran was first targeted in the 1950s for its vast reserves of oil and natural gas, and a 1952 US-sponsored coup in the country did away with their Parliamentary Democracy and installed a monarchy, headed by the Shah. After 27 years of brutal oppression under the Shah, a popular rebellion occured that led to the creation of the current Islamic State of Iran, in 1979, under the rule of Ayatollah Khomeni and a directly elected parliament.

Rather like Venezuala under Hugo Chavez, or Cuba under Fidel Castro, for US planners Iran is a dangerous example of intransigence (towards US imperial interests rather than towards the "international community" as Bush would like us to believe) to allow to exist right in the midst of an area that they wish to exert control over. This is one of the reasons why the US asserts that Iran is the world's leading State Sponsor of Terror for its support for Hamas and Hizballah. We shall not delve into the US sponsorship for terrorist regimes in Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Columbia, most of latin America in the 1980s, etc., or delve into detail regarding US arms sales but rather point out a glaring irregularity with regards to Israel and Palestine.

In 1947, the state of Palestine was an official state on UN maps. The territory still exists, but it is under the illegal occupation of Israeli forces. Pursuant to Article 51 of the UN Charter, the people of Palestine are legally entitled to defend their land from aggressors. To support the is in fact, by current legal interpretations, more legal than the support received by revolutionaries in the current territory of the US from countries in Europe in the late 18th century.

However, today Iran is in a position that requires that it become, once again, a target. As such, it is not surprising that some will "pull out all the stops" to make Iran a "diabolical enemy" on par with Hitler. The danger, as discussed on this blog on many occasions, is Iran's nuclear program. The fact that, according to every IAEA report on the subject, they seem to be abiding by the NNPT is irrelevant to western media sources apparently, as what has been manufactured as the "main issue" is Iran's uranium enrichment program.

One of the proponents of the US's policy towards Iran is the well known Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State under Richard Nixon. His statements on Iran's nuclear program are telling.

Prior to the 1979 revolution, when Iran was under the rule of the US-sponsored Shah, Kissinger stated that "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals." Most recently, Kissinger is quoted as saying "For an oil producer such as Iran, nuclear energy is a wasteful use of resources." When asked why he had so completely changed his stand, Kissinger explained that prior to 1979 "they were an allied country." And of course their oil was going to the US, not Russia and China.

Additional Source:


Elections, The EU, Idiotic British Government, Beit Hanoun

Before mentioning the American Midterm Elections, lets take a moment to look southward. Does anyone remember when Ronald Reagan and George Bush (the first), along with Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, et. al., went about selling arms to Iran to fund their support for an anti-government terrorist organisation in Nicaragua? Those fighting against the government in Nicaragua were called the "contras," and they were working specifically on bahalf of the US government against the leftist-socialist president Daniel Ortega. Most recently, Oliver North flew to Nicaragua to specifically campaign against Ortega. Well, it didn't work.

We can factually state, now, that Daniel Ortega has won (and this is not a projection) the Presidency of Nicaragua, returning after over 15 years away. I'll bet Reagan is turning over in his grave.

Before touching on the U.S. elections, I would like to ask, with all due respect, who is the idiot in the EU government that decided, JUST WEEKS after the US passed a law doing away with the 800 year old concept of Habeus Corpus (the ability to ask for a fair panel to decide wether it is legal (or not) for you to be detained), and also putting in the hands of the untrustworthy US president the ability to singlehandely decide what constitutes torture, that the EU has decided to set up a high level group to work on increasing "anti terror" cooperation with the US. Just typing it makes me want to go wash my hands.

I would also like to mention to the British people that, every time you (as consistantly happens) tell your government to stop acting like a slave to the US, your government slaps you in the face. The british parliament has passed a law making it possible for the US to demand, and immediately receive, any British citizen that they demand (on "terror" grounds) without having to provide any evidence whatsoever. However, if the British government requests (not demands, requests) someone to be extradited from the US, they must carry the burden of proof that this person needs to be sent to Britain. Good luck with that.

In the western Middle East, the IDF has pulled out of Beit Hanoun after their "Autumn Clouds" operation leaving 50+ dead and hundreds more wounded, in addition to intense destruction of housing and infrastructure. As The Guardian reports, "Israel pulls out, leaving a trail of death."

On the American elections, already "glitches" in the voting system are popping up all over the country, with problems reported in Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Florida, Colorado, Indiana, and Oklahoma. However, voter turnout seems to be approaching an unprecedented level for a midterm election. All of this is discussed in articles in The Guardian and RTE (Ireland).

I also have statement of fact to make: Joe Lieberman is not a Democrat, or an Independent-- he is a Republican.

VOTE BY PARTY ID TOTAL Lieberman Lamont Schlesinger
Democrat (39%) 32% 66% 2%
Republican (26%) 71% 9% 20%
Independent (35%) 54% 36% 9%

VOTE BY IDEOLOGY TOTAL Lieberman Lamont Schlesinger
Liberal (26%) 27% 70% 3%
Moderate (53%) 55% 37% 8%
Conservative (21%) 66% 13% 20%

"It will represent a significant change in the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative branches" of the United States government -Wolf Blitzer, CNN, on the democrats being projected to win control of the House of Representatives.

No, it won't. In general, the democrats are still, by and large, quite conservative. They want to stay in Iraq, they want to "win." The question, as posed by Chuch Schumer, was how much of an agressive foreign policy people will support... not that they want to stop the conservative imperial agenda, just that they don't want to do it the same way.

We can hold out hope that they might shine some light into the dark corners of the US government, and it is an important first step in initiating change... but it is not the end of the fight. It is only the beginning.


Saddam Hussein Trial

An article I came across today got me thinking: Saddam Hussein is on trial for the deaths of 148 Kurds in 1982, a charge that carries the death penalty as punishment. The fact that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq has directly lead to a minimum of 3,000 times that many deaths notwithstanding... doesn't anyone think it's strange that Bush II, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et. al. have set Saddam up on this trial for an act he committed the exact same year that Reagan, Bush I, Rumsfeld, Cheney, et. al. had Hussein's Iraq removed from the US. State Sponsors of Terror List so that he could be provided with military aid?

How does such a glaring irregularity escape the notice of the mass media????????????????????????????
Update 07-11-06
"Who will teach the White House some core values?" That's what I'm wondering. They claim Christian piety and yet applaud the handing down of a sentence of death on an adversary... have they never actual read Jesus' words "let whomever amongst you that is whithout sin be the first to cast a stone"? In other words, if you are completely innocent, then you are in a position to pass judgement. But there is no innocence in washington.

Instead, they set up illegal tribunals to try to vindicate an illegal war and scream out to the world that "justice has been served!" And yet the american "opposition party" agree with these policies, they want this "Iraq war" and they "want to win!" So therefore, all americans support the war, right? I mean, all of their politicians do, and in the american "democracy" the government represents the people... right?

This editorial was on Pravda.ru :

The Iraqi high tribunal has just announced the death sentence of Saddam Hussein. This should surprise no one. In fact, no other outcome was ever possible. From the moment he was captured in his underground hideout, Saddam's fate was sealed.

Saddam Hussein and the others were convicted for crimes that happened almost 25 years ago. 148 members of the pro-Iranian Dawa Party were executed for attempting to assassinate Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war. The executions followed a two year investigation, involving the torture and imprisonment of entire families, and judicial findings that 148 people were guilty of sedition for supporting Iran in the war and plotting to kill their own president.

While none of us would condone the mass execution of 148 people, we know little about what actually happened. Anonymous witnesses were brought forth, and in some cases, the witnesses did not even appear, but submitted affidavits instead. These people testified to the terrible experiences they and their loved ones had in prison. But whether they received fair trials, or were summarily executed, no one really knows. The transcript of the 1982 proceedings, and the evidence used to convict the defendants were excluded from the trial of Saddam Hussein. It's ironic that Saddam will be executed, essentially, for the unfair way in which these people were dealt with, yet his own trial was so unfair that the earlier proceedings and evidence were inadmissible.

Many have commented on the unfairness of Saddam's trial. Some have remarked that the trial is a political circus, searching for reasons to justify the war and the ongoing . Yet few see the larger issue, which is that the court itself is illegal under international law, setting a terrible precedent that overshadows the need to avenge crimes of the Iran-Iraq war.

...it continues...


Israeli Operations Continue in Gaza

Since Israel launched yet another military offensive on Gaza on wednesday, creativly named "Autumn Clouds," nearly fifty Palestinians have been killed and scores more wounded. These IDF operations in Gaza alone have been going on without a hiatus since June, and have caused the loss of some 300 Palestinians. However, due to the fact that a) it's happening in Palestine, and b) it's been happening for so long, it seldom makes the western news anymore.

In a scenario that eerily reminds me of Bloody Sunday in Belfast, the IDF opened fire on a group of women marchers, claiming that there were armed militants in the group. "Just World News" describes the situation in depth, taking note of grass roots non-violent social organisations (specifically womens organisations) organised by Hamas, similar to the African National Congress during the time of Nelson Mandela's leadership and it's placement on the US's terrorist groups list.

The town of Beit Hanoun (pop: 28,000) has been completely sealed off by the IDF and all adult males have been ordered to submit themselves to Israeli military "screening," in addition to house-to-house raids being carried out by IDF units and pounding by air strikes.

Beit Hanoun was also the scene for a standoff between the IDF and Hamas militants, with what Helena Cobban describes as a Hamas womens group defusing the situation, even after their group came under fire from IDF units.

A situation which was already bloody seems to be increasing in scale on a daily basis. On Friday alone nineteen people were killed, including women and children.

The Palestinian President has sent an urgent letter to the UN Secretary General asking, once again, for international intervention to put an end to the bloodshed. Kofi Annan's response was that he is "deeply concerned" with the escalating violence, but offered nothing other than rhetorical support.

The violence is escalating and it should be more than apparent to international observers that, like squabbling small children, both sides need to be sat down and dealt with through outside intervention.

Some useful suggestions for the situation:
  1. The US needs to cut off its unconditional military aid to Israel, instead offering such aid only on the condition that murderous incursions by the IDF into foreign territories is ended immediately and finally.
  2. Israel must withdraw from occupied territories back to the internationally agreed 1967 borders, and tear down its illegal perimeter wall.
  3. Iran must exert its influence on Hamas and Hizballah to stop targeting civilian areas, as it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.
  4. Israel must cease aggressive posturing against Iran that encourages the Iranian leadership to encourage Hamas and Hizballah to continue to provoke the IDF into attacks.
  5. The US must at once re-evaluate its position of unconditional support for Israeli policies and cease using its Security Council Veto to stymie any international attempt at mediation.

For those who genuinely value peace and security, these are simple suggestions. We can only hope that those with influence might take notice of the realities of this dangerous situation, but as The Osterley Times is reporting, the US has other plans.

Internet Governance Forum

Just a quick post about the Internet Governance Forum that was held in Greece over the past 3 days. Some information about it is available below.

The introductory remarks of the section that I, personally, am most interested in (the "openness section," i.e. the freedom-of-speech section) included the following, loosely transcribed:

The institutional fears of the new empowerment, because of the new fragility which is out there for governments and cooperation in power at the moment. The instinct of many still to control and intervene. Online censorship, the pressure now on bloggers. There's a particular case here in Greece at the moment. Should the major corporations use their massive bargaining power to change the terms that host governments give them to operate in some countries? Blocking by governments. Questions, should Internet service providers maximize freedom of expression in countries with restrictive laws on information and communication? The aspiration of knowledge for all. Those tensions that are built into the system. The tensions between defining copyright and intellectual property rights issues, how to balance the rights of the consumer and the content producer, and the threat to upholding human rights. Questions like, shouldn't companies resist compliance with local laws that are inconsistent with human rights principles? How to square that circle defined yesterday here at this time by the prime minister, Mr. Karamanlis, to enhance democracy, to have social cohesion and respect the rule of law. Recall Commissioner Reding's remarks yesterday. We must respect fundamental human rights and protect freedom of expression. That's the core of openness. So what are the best practices to strengthen freedom of expression through openness? What are the limits acceptable to preserve openness? Legal, policy, regulatory frameworks?

This forum has largely been relegated to secondary news sources recently, however it is an important one to have at least a small amount of knowledge about, based on the fact that the majority of us use the internet on a very regular basis, and there are those who would like to take away many of the inherent freedoms that the internet provides for the flow of information.

(I would like to take a random sidebar here and mention that recently I have had the opportunity to have a look through some of the scanned books available on Google Book search... it's basically an online library, with a large number of volumes available for perusal. If you have a few minutes to kill, it's well worth a look, just to look up a random topic you're interested in and see what books come up. And yes, they are actual published books, a large percentage of which were kindly scanned (by hand on desktop computer scanners by [I believe] the University of Michigan, and to them we should all say a big thank you.)

Back on topic, the IGF is essentially just a big meeting with no policy-making power that was put together with the intention of getting a large percentage of "stakeholders" in the internet together to try and find some common ground on what have emerged as some somewhat contentious issues regarding internet use, such as the balance between transparency and privacy, the prevailing english-language monopoly on internet programming and use, internet security, etc. As mentioned before, this forum has no policy-making power, however based on the fact that the intention was to get together some influential groups on the subject, it's conclusions are likely to at least carry some influence.

I haven't had time to look through much of the information available or the conclusions reached, but some of the sources include the Internet Governance Forum Official Website, some background on its creation, the original group that this forum was built upon, and the UN Secretary General's message to the forum.

With the constant assaults on freedom of speech in recent years in some of the worlds most industrialised nations, it is important to take note of issues such as internet regulation.

To give just one example, lets look the the US's "War on Terror." Some will argue that the "terrorists" using the internet, i.e. Al Qaeda cells allegedly communicating messages to each other, should (naturally) have this ability taken away from them. But who is to say what is a terrorist message? Is an internet post that could be interpreted as inciting violence against "coalition" forces in Iraq a terrorist message? As some neo-conservative advocates are arguing these days, if a withdrawl of US forces from Iraq would be a victory for "the jihadists," than isn't anyone who says the US should get [their imperial occupation forces] out of Iraq then supporting the terrorists, and as such supporting terrorism, and as such engaging in what the military commissions act of 2006 calls "hostilities" against the U.S., and shouldn't they be silenced? Perhaps shipped off to Auschwitz (sorry, I mean Guantanamo)? Where should it end?

Who was it that once said "I may not like what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" ?


"Call to Bloggers" to stand up for freedom ahead of world meeting on future of Internet

AI Index: POL 30/055/2006 (Public)
News Service No: 277
27 October 2006

Embargo Date: 27 October 2006 00:01 GMT

"Call to Bloggers" to stand up for freedom ahead of world meeting on future of Internet
Urgent appeal for Iranian blogger held incommunicado

Amnesty International today issued a ‘Call to Bloggers’, asking them to get online and stand up for freedom of expression on the internet. The organisation says this is a critical time when fundamental rights – particularly freedom of expression and privacy – are under threat from governments that want to control what their citizens say, and what information they can access.

The call comes as the online world prepares to meet at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF, Athens 30/10 – 2/11) to discuss the future of the internet. Amnesty released a statement to the IGF today and is sending a delegation to ensure that human rights are not sidelined and remain at the heart of the forum’s discussions.

Amnesty’s International's statement also coincides with an urgent appeal on behalf of a blogger in Iran who was detained this month. Kianoosh Sanjari was arrested earlier this month while reporting on clashes between security forces and supporters of Shi'a cleric Ayatollah Boroujerdi. He is being held incommunicado and Amnesty International fears that he may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment. Sanjari had allegedly gone to the home of Ayatollah Boroujerdi in the capital, Tehran, to prepare a report on the clashes that were taking place there.

Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said:

“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending. We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.

“The Internet Governance Forum needs to know that the online community is bothered about free expression online and willing to stand up for it.”

Amnesty International is calling on governments and companies to ensure that human rights – particularly the rights to freedom of expression, association and the right to privacy – are respected and protected.

Steve Ballinger added:

“The internet is a powerful force for human rights, enabling the free flow of ideas and information around the world.

“But some governments have sought to curtail this freedom. People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website. Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information. Companies have restricted internet searches to stop people accessing information that repressive governments don’t want them to see.

“Countries and businesses have failed to respect, protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression, association and privacy, and the rights of human rights defenders.”

Yahoo! via its Chinese partner company, Alibaba, has provided the Chinese authorities with private and confidential information about its users that has been used to convict and imprison journalists. It has also agreed to censor and deny access to information. Microsoft shut down the blog of New York Times researcher Zhao Jing on the basis of a Chinese government request. The company has also admitted that it responds to directions from the Chinese government in restricting users of MSN Spaces from using certain terms. Google has launched a censored version of its international search engine in China.

Amnesty International is also highlighting the cases of prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for the expression of their peaceful views online.

Chinese journalist Shi Tao used his Yahoo! account to email a US-based website about an internal government directive instructing journalists how to handle media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." Yahoo! provided information to the government that was used in his prosecution.

Tunisian lawyer and human rights defender Mohammed Abbou is serving a three and a half year prison sentence largely for publishing articles critical of the Tunisian authorities on the internet.

Vietnamese political dissident Truong Quoc Huy was first arrested in October 2005 with two other young people after chatting on a democracy and human rights website. He was held incommunicado for nine months then released, but on 18 August 2006 he was rearrested in an internet cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, where he had logged on to a chatroom. His whereabouts remain unknown and no charges have been publicised.

Steve Ballinger said:

“We bring with us to the Internet Governance Forum the voices of thousands of people who share our concerns and who have supported Amnesty’s irrepressible.info campaign.

“We are calling on governments to release prisoners who are held just for expressing their peaceful views online, and to stop unwarranted censorship of internet sites and searches.”

The organisation welcomed the opportunity presented by the IGF to raise concerns with human rights and the internet.

Steve Ballinger added:

“We are looking forward to participating in the IGF, and being part of a process that will protect human rights on the internet. Amnesty’s job in Athens will be to ensure that human rights are not sidelined – they must be at the heart of all the forum’s discussions.”

Note to Editors
For more media information, including advanced copies of Amnesty International’s statement to the IGF, its appeal to bloggers and its Urgent Action appeal for Iranian blogger Kianoosh Sanjari, please contact:
Steve Ballinger, Amnesty International press office, +44 (0)20 7033 1548 or +44 (0)7891 565592

For a copy of AI's Urgent Action for Kianoosh Sanjari, please see: http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGMDE131212006
From 27 October, Amnesty International’s statement to the IGF will be available at this link: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engpol300542006

For more information on Amnesty’s campaign for internet freedom see: http://irrepressible.info

Public Document
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566
Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW. web: http://www.amnesty.org

For latest human rights news view http://news.amnesty.org

AI Index: POL 30/055/2006 27 October 2006


Free and Fair Elections

Yesterday I mentioned EU Elections Inspectors busy at work in the Congo to oversee democratic elections there. I have also discussed in previous posts the question of "democracy" "promotion" both in the U.S. and in other nations, such as Iraq or Afghanistan. There is an interesting article pertaining to the subject on Salon.com today, regarding a documentary meant to be aired on HBO (of international "Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" fame) in the US this evening, November 2. The article is entitled "Hacking Democracy" and the introduction and link to the full article are below.

"Hacking Democracy"
On Tuesday, 40 percent of voters will cast ballots on electronic touch-screens. If you're not worried already about the dangers of paperless voting, this HBO documentary will blow your mind.

By Farhad Manjoo

Nov. 2, 2006 | "When people see what is really going on, there is no way we will allow this to continue," the crusading election-reform activist Bev Harris declares at the beginning of "Hacking Democracy," a documentary film about the flawed American election system that premieres on HBO on Nov. 2. It's a nice thought, one you want to believe: If only Americans could be made to understand the true, gut-sinking atrociousness of just about everything involved in U.S. elections -- from the gerrymandered districts to the undemocratic distribution of electoral power to the enormous influence wielded by partisan officials to the underfunded, overwhelmed local offices to, finally, the insanely dangerous technology we use to run the whole thing -- well, then, maybe folks would actually do something about the problem.

...it continues...

Some other interesting reading on the subject would include Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Conscent" regarding the current incumbents' (in their first run under Reagan) views on democracy abroad, specifically elections in Nicaragua, Guatamala, and El Salvador.


North Korea, American Elections, and The EU

Just a quick post today covering a couple of newsworthy items today (other than the first major snowstorm of the year in Stockholm).

The first is the fact that the predictions of Far East analysts regarding North Korea using their Nuclear tests as a ploy to gain an advantage in diplomatic negotiations in the stalled six party talks seems to be accurate. While the DPRK's official news site has said this all along, now even Reuters is reporting (via the Moscow Times) that North Korea is "ready" to return to the 6 party talks, apparently dropping their demand for strict one-on-one talks with the U.S. This is likely due to pressure from Beijing to stop with their "provacative" measures, and likely to have been their strategy from the beginning. As they have been asserting all along, they have no desire to see a large scale conflict erupt.

On the American Elections, I'm sure most people are aware of former Presidential candidate John Kerry's comments saying that if you don't work hard and study you end up in Iraq. This was aimed at the Bush administration, and he followed up that statement (after an attack by the White House saying he was attacking the troops that were serving) by explaining further that it was the bush administration who didn't do their homework and thus ended up in Iraq.

Perhaps slightly more important for the hopes of changes in the US Government is the recent work of M. J. Fox for democratic candidates who support stem cell research, which seems to be increasing the lead most democrats have over republicans in the US, mere days before elections.

It's also interesting to note that Hilliary Clinton is openly advocating direct negotiations with North Korea, Iran, and Syria, finally taking a stand against pervailing American militarism (or so it would seem).

Also in the news is a recently leaked EU report on Turkey "slamming" their economic progress, and likely to curtail EU spending in that country and strain relations. Also the EU election inspectors currently in the Congo for elections being held there are urging calm following disputable results. Where were they in 2000 in the US? Hopefully they'll make a showing at the US elections and try to keep everything on the up-and-up.