Cross posted at Interest of the State.
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, is apparently outraged at the crackdown of both foreign and domestic journalists in Egypt. In fact, she is so angry that the US has filed official protests to the Egyptian government concerning the issue. There have been several high profile incidents that could explain the recent calls for a more robust and free press in Egypt: Anderson Cooper was punched and slapped while filming the protests; Christiane Amanpour was greeted by hostile Mubarak supporters who forced her to leave Tahrir Square; and Brian Hartman, a reporter for ABC, was, along with his crew, threatened with beheading (luckily, a Lebanese colleague talked his way out of the situation).
However, before Mrs. Clinton should continue to lecture on the values of a free press, she ought to apologize for past American crimes. During the first several months of the Iraq War, Al Jazeera was, and remains, a deeply polarized news outlet. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld characterized what the station does as “vicious, inaccurate, and inexcusable.” Colin Powell and the Bush administration tried to financially destroy Al Jazeera, but to no avail. While these criticisms and schemings, unwarranted or not, are surely not criminal, other actions by the US government have been.
During the first chaotic months of the War in Iraq, the US engaged in propaganda war. The press essentially had its movements dictated to them by the US government. However, Al Jazeera, still relatively young, used its inherent wisdom and knowledge of the Middle East to provide a new and interesting perspective on the war. As the comments and scheming from above show, the US was not pleased with the new player in town or any other independent news sources.
The fiercely independent reporting of Al Jazeera and other news agencies, coupled with American anger towards the station resulted in a single day slaughter of 3 journalists: Tareq Ayyoub, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, was killed when the US bombed an Al Jazeera office after reports of unsubstantiated enemy fire from the building; Taras Protsyuk, a cameraman for Reuters, was killed when the hotel he was staying in, nearly full of journalists, was bombed; Jose Causo died in that same attack; and on the same day as the previous incidents, an Abu Dhabi television was bombed by US forces. While this could have been a sheer coincidence and massive failure on behalf of the US military, common sense would point the other way.
While the treatment of journalists in Egypt is despicable, Hillary Clinton has no right to lecture Egypt on how to treat its journalists. Until past crimes against journalists by the US are sincerely apologized for, and until the US stops sending the Egyptian government aid, only then can Clinton and the Obama administration preach about the necessity of a free press.
Don’t hold your breath.Published in