Till Mediekritik 04 11 22

Bifogar en artikel av professor Tafataona Mahoso som jämför lagstiftning i USA och Zimbabwe och hur dessa länder ser på ser på terrorister, mediernas och NGO: s roll.
Intressant med tanke på hur våra medier beskriver dessa båda länder och hur demokratiska(?) de är.
Ha det.
Jan-Olof Rönn

US is no paragon of free Press. It tightly controls mass media and foreign funding

AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona Mahoso
Through Voice of America's Studio 7 and through opposition organisations directly or indirectly receiving money from US sources, the United States of America has contributed immensely to the current propaganda against Zimbabwe's media and public security laws. The latest instalment of such propaganda is a Zimbabwe Independent story headlined "US slams AIPPA amendment" (November 19 2004).

What Zimbabweans are not told is that the United States itself, in fact, bases its own national security and sovereignty on the tight surveillance and control of foreign funding and information. The only difference may be that the US itself is home to many media transnationals which control and dominate information generation and distribution around the world, whereas Zimbabwe has to contend with the impact of such foreign-controlled information and funding without its own media multinationals. The doctrine of free flow of information was always a myth. The terrorist bombings of the US on September 11 2001 exposed that myth and revealed the realities which we outline here.

To come to the point, Section 802 of the Patriot Act defines the purpose of domestic terrorism as to intimidate the civilian population and to force the government to change or abandon policies which it believes to be in the best interest of the country and the people. In other words, domestic terrorism diminishes the sovereign power of the nation. The US has extensive laws against both internal and external threats to its national interest and security. The control of money and information is at the centre of those laws.

"It [the Section] defines domestic terrorism as those criminal acts dangerous to human life, committed primarily within the United States, that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population, or to influence a government policy by intimidation or coercion, or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping."

Thus the torching of a commuter bus belonging to the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) in Highfield and the destruction of a kombi ferrying pre-school children by MDC hooligans in 2002 would qualify as domestic terrorism under this US law.

But people may wonder how one could link terrorism, treason and destabilisation to information dissemination.

According to the US Code of 2001, "whoever prints, publishes, edits issues, circulates, sells, distributes or... publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States . . . whoever knowingly or wilfully advocates, abets, advises or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States; or whoever with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, published, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written matter or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States" shall be guilty of a crime.

In Zimbabwe, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and media outlets openly expressed their wish to have Zimbabwe plunged into a genocidal war which would help them remove the Government from power. This genocidal war was supposed to happen by January 2003.

In terms of anti-terrorism law, provoking a genocidal conflict is the ultimate terrorist act.

But US surveillance and control of communications media is not limited to domestic media alone. In the second half of 2004, Indymedia Internet Service Provider complained that the US Federal Bureau of Investigations and other security agencies seized Indymedia's internet servers resulting in more than 20 media sites being shut down in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy and elsewhere. The US government did not even bother to produce the charges against Indymedia or to explain why the sites had to be shut down.

The United States could afford to do so using its Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the amendments to the FISA through the Patriot Act.

While clearly forbidding the use of mass media to agitate for sedition, treason or terrorism, US law also seeks to protect strategic information and data as well as information networks, centres and sources.

For example, the Patriot Act designates for special protection "federal computers", those computers and systems used in the administration of justice, law and order, defence, financial regulation and banking.

Section 814 of the Patriot Act specifies these computers for vigilant protection. Causing damage to such systems attracts a prison sentence of up to 10 years for first offenders and up to 20 years for previously convicted offenders.

Section 105 of the same Act reinforces Section 814 by requiring a nation-wide electronic police force.

"The Director of the United States Secret Service shall take appropriate actions to develop a national network of electronic crime task forces. throughout the United States, for the purpose of preventing, detecting, and investigating various forms of electronic crimes, including potential terrorist attacks against critical infrastructure and financial payment systems."

Since the United States itself has for many years financed terrorist activities against other countries, the US government has put a priority on knowing who finances who, to do what, and from which sources. The movement of clandestine funds around the world is seen as the fuel for terrorist activities.

So, apart from requiring all public and private financial institutions to comply with strict reporting procedures on the movement of funds, the Patriot Act upgrades the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (Fin CEN) from being an administrative bureau to being a statutory authority within the Treasury Department (Ministry of Finance).

"FinCEN is to establish a financial crimes communications centre to furnish law enforcement authorities with intelligence information relating to investigations and undercover operations. It is to furnish information services to financial institutions, federal regulatory agencies, and law enforcement authorities, in the interest of countering terrorism, organised crime, money laundering, and other financial crimes. It is to assist law enforcement and regulatory authorities in combating the use of informal nonbank networks permitting transfer of funds or the equivalent of funds without records and in insuring compliance with criminal and tax laws. It is to provide computer and data support and data analysis to the Secretary of the Treasury for tracking and controlling foreign assets."

Section 316 of the Patriot Act is important in the protection of the US national interest and sovereignty because it extends the powers of the US president to designate an external source of threat from those powers limited to war time under the International Economic Emergency Act to those extended to combat terrorism under the new Act. The president can declare "the existence of an unusual or extraordinary threat to the US national security, foreign policy, or economy having its source, in whole or substantial part, outside the United States". Such a declaration then enables the same president to confiscate property or the assets of "any foreign person, foreign organisation, or foreign country that he determines has planned, authorised, aided, or engaged in such hostilities or attacks ..."

In March 2004, Zimbabwe captured 67 terrorists, together with a whole military airplane which originated in the US. In terms of US law, the assets of those financing the terrorists as a group or as individuals would have been forfeited to Zimbabwe. We do not have such laws here.

All financial institutions operating accounts on behalf of foreign banks are required by US law to keep detailed records of local persons authorised to represent the banks and to operate the accounts. The financial institutions are not only required to keep meticulous records; they are also expected to report to authorities any suspicious movement of funds, any suspicious transactions or disbursements.

A foreign bank, company or person who finances a group or project deemed to be a threat to the US using assets outside the US can be punished by substituting and seizing funds in interbank accounts in US financial institutions (belonging to the same entity) up to the value of the funds in the originally targeted offshore account.

From our brief exploration so far, it is clear that the US has shut down media outlets deemed to be a threat to its national security. This is over and above the media which the US and its allies shut down in the course of war in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

It is clear that all institutions and organisations having relations with foreigners and foreign powers in the US must be subjected to meticulous surveillance and detailed reporting procedures.

The funding of clandestine and hostile activities through third parties or informal channels, such as NGOs, may be treated as money-laundering for terrorist purposes. Just last week, Moslem organisations in the US were complaining that they could no longer freely make donations to charitable organisations in the Middle East because of fear that they could be framed and prosecuted for financing "terrorist" activities. But there is no doubt that such NGOs have to account for every penny they send out or receive.

Zimbabwean parliamentarians must therefore do thorough research before they agree to use the US as a paragon of democratic practices in the regulation of mass media, NGOs and financial institutions.

These parliamentarians often condemn our very democratic laws on the assumption that the US would never have similar or even harsher laws because it is "democratic".

The behaviour of our Parliamentary Legal Committee is very embarrassing in this regard. Its views seem to be based on neoliberal theory to the total disregard of the real environment in which democratic countries earn their democracy, protect and advance it.