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Marzieh Hashemi and the War on Independent Journalism

Marzieh Hashemi and the War on Independent Journalism
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Daniel Haiphong

The era of Trump has confirmed the existence of what some on the Black left such as Ajamu Baraka and Anthony Monteiro have called a crisis of legitimacy. A crisis of legitimacy haunts the ruling circle in all realms of the US Empire. It extends to the capitalist economy, which has become a drag on human progress due to its impoverishment of half of the world’s population. The US military is currently mired in a forever war on the planet that is costlier and less effective in preventing the rise of large competitors such as China and Russia from expanding their global influence. Perhaps nowhere is the crisis of legitimacy clearer than in the war on independent journalism being waged by the ruling elites in the US and Europe.

Marzieh Hashemi is the latest victim in this war on independent journalism. Hashemi is a Black Muslim and an American citizen who now lives in Iran while working as a Press TV news anchor. She was arrested without charge on Sunday, January 13th in a St. Louis airport after visiting an ill family member. Two days later, it was reported that Hashemi had been detained by the FBI without charge. Reports from those close to her have confirmed that she has been treated like a criminal despite being arrested as a “material witness.” Hashemi has been forced to remove her hijab and only given baloney sandwiches to eat despite how both actions on the part of the authorities are clear violations of her human rights.

The repression of Hashemi should come as no surprise. All sectors of the US state have organized around the repression of independent media, especially media emanating from targeted nations such as Iran and Russia. Hashemi and Press TV have faced brutal repression before. The Black journalist regularly has issues traveling to and from the United States due to her relationship with Iran. In 2014, Press TV journalist and American citizen Serena Shim was killed in a “freak accident” on the Turkish-Syrian border. Shim was covering the supply networks that Turkey had developed to bolster the “rebels” [including ISIS] waging a bloody war to overthrow the Syrian state. While no concrete evidence has come forward, there is reason to believe that Shim was killed by Turkish intelligence forces and their allies [the US included] in order to send a message to journalists attempting to relay the truth about the war in Syria. Shim had reported just prior to the “accident” that Turkish intelligence had threatened her safety.

The war on independent journalism intensified in 2016 with the advent of Trump and the Russiagate narrative. It was becoming clear during the 2016 Presidential elections that the two-party duopoly and its bipartisan consensus of war and austerity had lost legitimacy in the eyes of most voters and non-voters alike. Russia was blamed for Trump’s election. Anti-Russian hysteria was infused into the body politic to direct attention from the shortcomings of the ruthless and murderous system of US imperialism and to fulfill US domestic and foreign policy objectives. The biggest objectives: to continue the war drive against Russia undisturbed and repress independent political thought and action among disgruntled Americans.

The fulfillment of these objectives through Russiagate has brought about a post-truth age that is far more dangerous than the lies coming from the orange menace in the White House. All seventeen spook agencies in the United States have coalesced around the online demand made in 2016 from a shady organization called “PropOrNot” for independent journalism on the both left and right to be purged from the digital commons for collaborating with a foreign enemy, in this case, Russia. The organization listed The American Herald Tribune, Black Agenda Report, and other independent media as willful “dupes” of the Russian Federation. US corporate giants such as Google and Facebook changed their algorithms to block user access to independent media. Russia Today [RT] and Sputnik News were forced to register with the Justice Department as “foreign agents.” In fact, a US government source has revealed that Hashemi is likely being used as a material witness for a case against Press TV regarding whether the outlet should be forced to register as an “agent of a foreign government.”

The war on independent journalism has continued into the new Congress of the United States where a so-called “blue wave” is supposedly challenging the reactionary forces led by Donald Trump. This is a lie. The reactionary forces inside of the Democratic Party are no less dangerous to independent journalism than the Republicans. A new bill introduced by House Democrats, HR 1, intends to further institutionalize the assault against independent media by having intelligence agencies produce yearly reports on so-called “threats” to democracy posed by dissident opinion. Such reports are likely to be outsourced to corporations such as Newsgaurd, a so-called “fact-checker” created by Silicon Valley capitalists to rate independent media for the purposes of blocking their access in schools, libraries, social media apps, and computers [including mobile devices]. According to Whitney Webb, one only needs to examine Newsguard’s advisory board of neocon spooks to realize that it is an extension of the Wall Street and “Deep State” [i.e. the Real State] war on anyone and anything that challenges the corporate oligarchy and the military industrial complex.

The ascendency of Newsgaurd comes after the NATO-owned think-tank, the Atlantic Council, collaborated with Facebook and Twitter to eradicate alternative media criticizing US wars and police brutality. Prominent neocon Jamie Fly promised that the social media purge was just the beginning. Hashemi’s imprisonment is part and parcel of the US imperial state’s intensification of the war on independent journalism. Millions of people in the US and Western world rely on the journalism of Press TV to inform them about the truth of their governments’ wrongdoing. The truth is that people residing in the US and Western imperialist orbit are without a political current on the left strong enough to challenge the corporate control of the press or the surveillance regime that protects it.

Herein lies the grave danger of Hashemi’s detention and the current US-led war on independent journalism. As US imperialism has concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny few capitalist elites, the rulers of the system have intensified their ongoing assault on the poor and oppressed to the point where much of the US population is caught in its jaws. Hashemi’s detention and the ongoing Russiagate madness is a product of the same system that brought us the weapons of mass destruction lie to justify the murder of over two million Iraqis and the surveillance regime that currently collects and monitors every communication made by mobile and computer users in the US mainland. It is an outgrowth of the mass incarceration regime and the age of disposability whereby even the potential of organized resistance among the oppressed, especially Black people, has been deemed a “threat” to “national security.” We cannot forget the precedent that makes the arrest, detention, and mistreatment of Hashemi possible. We can’t forget that the fight for her freedom is a fight to defend independent journalism in the post-truth era of a decaying and decrepit US imperial order.

Source: American Herald Tribune, Edited by website team

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