JFP 1/12: Can Cheryle Jackson End the War in Afghanistan?
Just Foreign Policy News
January 12, 2010
Can Cheryle Jackson End the War in Afghanistan?
Add Illinois to Pennsylvania as states where there is a contested Senate primary in which the war in Afghanistan has become an issue. The Chicago Tribune reports that the two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination for Barack Obama's former seat in the Senate have staked out opposed positions: Cheryle Jackson wants to end the war, while Alexi Giannoulias supports it.
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1) At least eight Afghan civilians were killed and a dozen wounded Tuesday during a street protest after a raid on an Afghan home Sunday by US and Afghan forces, the New York Times reports. Some Afghans maintained that US forces were present and participated in firing on civilians, but the US and Afghan officials denied that US soldiers were present.
2) Gen. McChrystal says he is not discouraged by estimates that there are many more al Qaeda fighters in Yemen than there are in Afghanistan where he is overseeing a major surge in U.S. troops, ABC News reports. McChrystal was reacting to a question citing intelligence estimates that there are only 100 al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan while there are as many as 300 in Yemen. McChrystal cited as evidence of the surge's success the fact that elements of the insurgency were expressing interest in negotiating with the Afghan government [a fact that predated the surge - JFP.]
3) The U.S. use of Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles to fire missiles is increasingly common in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports.
4) Thousands of Somali refugees are coming to Yemen, where officials who have long welcomed Somali refugees now worry that some of the new arrivals could become the next generation of al-Qaeda fighters, the Washington Post reports. Leaders of the Somali refugee community in Yemen fear that they will come under increased pressure from the Yemen government as the US and Yemen intenstify their "antiterror" campaign.
5) A community radio station in Honduras previously targeted by coup supporters was the victim of an arson attack, according to an alert from Reporters Without Borders. "Punishing those responsible for this attack will be a test for the government that is due to take office on 27 January," the organization said.
6) Many in Jordan are questioning their country's close intelligence cooperation with the United States, the Times of London reports.
7) Yemen's most influential Islamic scholar warned foreign governments against sending troops to his country, but said he would welcome international support to help Yemen stabilize and develop, the Wall Street Journal reports. Sheik Abdul Majid Al Zindani underscored his support for the government's fight against al Qaeda. He said he even supported U.S. trainers, who have helped to bolster Yemen's security forces. But he said his support was conditional, as long as U.S. or other foreign combat troops refrain from setting foot on the ground in Yemen.
8) Far from wanting to hide the existence of nuclear facilities from the outside world, Iran has wanted Western intelligence to conclude that it was putting some of its key nuclear facilities deep underground in order to deter a US or Israeli attack, argues Gareth Porter, writing for Inter Press Service. Porter argues that recent press discussion that Iran's tunnels are "complicating the West's military and geopolitical calculus" indicates some success for Iran's strategy.
9) U.S. military leaders and Taliban commanders are vowing that there will be no letup in fighting during the winter, as there was prior to 2009, the New York Times reports. According to Brookings, NATO fatalities dropped into the single digits in the winter, as did Afghan civilian casualties, in every year from 2001 to 2008. Last December, though, US fatalities were six times as high as in the previous December, and coalition fatalities over all were up 29 percent.
10) Venezuela's National Statistics Institute says poverty has fallen in Venezuela compared to a year ago, EFE reports.
11) International organizations have denounced the government of Ecuador for temporarily closing a TV station, notes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. But the suspension followed the second violation of a rule that prohibits the broadcast of false information that can lead to social disturbances. In the first offense, it had broadcast a false report indicating that the government's electoral commission had a "clandestine center" where voting results were manipulated. The second offense was a false report stating that, as a result of proposed exploration for natural gas on the island of Puná, the people there would not be able to fish for six months. Weisbrot notes that US-based organizations and editorialists who take an absolutist position on these issues with regard to countries such as Ecuador don't apply the same standards to the US.
1) Deadly Protest in Afghanistan Highlights Tensions
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 13, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - At least eight Afghan civilians were killed and a dozen wounded Tuesday during a street protest in a volatile town along the Helmand River, after a raid on an Afghan home Sunday by American and Afghan forces. The raid was seized on by Taliban provocateurs who organized the protesters and pushed them toward violence, local officials said.
The incident, which American officers said they were investigating, highlighted the extreme volatility of the situation in southern Afghanistan and, in particular, in Helmand Province. Thousands of American Marines are moving into areas there that had previously stood as uncontested Taliban strongholds.
The protest began when several hundred Afghans gathered Tuesday in the central bazaar in the town of Garmsir, having heard reports that the American and Afghan forces had abused local Afghan women and desecrated a Koran in a nearby village two nights before. Local officials said the protest, which involved several thousand local Afghans, was organized by the Taliban's "shadow" governor for Garmsir, Mullah Mohammed Naim. "The Taliban were provoking the people," Kamal Khan, Garmsir's deputy provincial police chief said in a telephone interview.
The protesters in Garmsir began shouting, "Death to America" and "Death to Kamal Khan," and overturned several cars. They set a school on fire. Then they stormed the local office of the National Security Directorate, the Afghan domestic intelligence service.
The security directorate is sometimes blamed for providing faulty intelligence to the Americans, who then detain the wrong people. As the crowd moved in, agents opened fire, Mr. Khan said. In addition to the eight protesters killed and 13 wounded, an Afghan intelligence agent and two police were killed.
As the chaos unfolded, American officials said, a Taliban sniper began firing into the nearby American base, known as Forward Operating Base Delhi, a few hundred yards away. American officers said they killed the sniper, but no one else. In a statement, the Americans denied that they had fired on any protesters.
Still, the incident appeared to have soured relations between the Americans and at least some Afghans. "The Americans are blaspheming the holy Koran and violating and disrespecting our culture," said Jan Gul, a farmer whose son was killed in the protest. "We cannot tolerate such behavior. We will defend our religion."
Indeed, some Afghans maintained that the American forces were present with the Afghan agents and fired on the crowd. But Mr. Khan and American officers in Kabul denied that. The Americans denied the charges of desecration and sexual abuse but said they would investigate.
2) Gen. Stanley McChrystal Says Fight Is in Afghanistan, Not Yemen
First Elements of Afghan Surge Has Blunted Taliban Momentum
Judy Isikow, Clark Bentson and Mark Mooney, ABC News, Jan. 11, 2010
Kabul - Gen. Stanley McChrystal says he is not discouraged by estimates that there are many more al Qaeda fighters in Yemen than there are in Afghanistan where he is overseeing a major surge in U.S. troops.
McChrystal, America's top general in Afghanistan, was reacting to a question from ABC's "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer who cited intelligence estimates that there are only 100 al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan while there are as many as 300 in Yemen. "I don't think that this war's in the wrong place," McChrystal said in his exclusive interview with Sawyer. "I think that the Afghan people both need and deserve this assistance."
The most recent terror attacks on the U.S. have originated in Yemen, including the bungled "underwear bombing" of a Northwest jetliner over Detroit on Christmas day. Nevertheless, President Obama stated over the weekend that he has no intention of sending U.S. troops to Yemen or to Somalia, another lawless country where al Qaeda is trying to establish bases.
The bulk of the surge forces won't arrive in Afghanistan until the end of this summer. When all of the troops are deployed, the number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan will be close to 98,000.
[McChrystal] suggested that the Taliban is feeling the pressure and some elements of the insurgency are willing to consider an end to their attacks and negotiate with the government of President Hamid Karzai. "I can't speak for [Taliban leader] Mullah Omar. He's indicated no willingness, but I can certainly say that within his organization there are constant reverberations of interest in doing that," McChrystal said.
3) Despite Warnings, Military's Use of Drones on the Rise in Afghanistan
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Tuesday, January 12, 2010; 2:19 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/12/AR2010011201644.html
Delaram, Afghanistan - Using a pilotless Predator drone, the U.S. military this week fired a Hellfire missile into a crowd of suspected insurgents in Helmand province, killing 13 people and wounding three others, military officials said Tuesday. It was one of two such drone attacks on the same day.
Since taking over as the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has cautioned his troops against relying on aircraft to bomb targets unless there is a clear insurgent threat, as such bombings have previously killed civilians and inflamed anti-American sentiment among Afghans. Still, the use of Predator and Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles to fire missiles, while not as frequent as in Pakistan, is increasingly common in Afghanistan, according to U.S. military officials.
4) Somalis fleeing to Yemen prompt new worries in fight against al-Qaeda
Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Tuesday, January 12, 2010; A01
Kharaz, Yemen - Thousands of Somali boys and teenagers fleeing war and chaos at home are sailing to Yemen, where officials who have long welcomed Somali refugees now worry that the new arrivals could become the next generation of al-Qaeda fighters.
As the United States deepens its counterterrorism operations in Yemen, officials are concerned that extremists could find growing Somali refugee camps fertile ground for recruiting. U.S. and Yemeni authorities also fear that Islamist fighters from Somalia could slip into the country among the throngs of refugees, deepening ties between al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen and the particularly hard-line militants of Somalia.
Fleeing a failed state for a failing one, the Somali youths arrive daily in this refugee outpost, which is filled with rickety tents and tales of misery, in the vast desert of southern Yemen. They bring stories of brutality and forced conscription by al-Shabab, an Islamist force battling Somalia's U.S.-backed transitional government.
Yemen's fragile government fears that Somali fighters from al-Shabab will swell the ranks of Yemen's Islamist militants at a time when links between the Somali group and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are growing, according to Yemeni officials and analysts.
As it quietly wages war against extremists in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, the Obama administration could find itself confronting a unified, regional al-Qaeda on two continents. This would further stretch U.S. resources as Washington fights major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could also push Yemen - beset by mounting internal strife, poor governance, extreme poverty and dwindling resources - even deeper into a downward spiral. "Somalia for Yemen is becoming like what Pakistan is for Afghanistan," said Saeed Obaid, a Yemeni terrorism expert who wrote a book on al-Qaeda's Yemen affiliate.
Leaders of al-Shabab, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda's central body, said last week that they will send fighters to help al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. That prompted Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Qirbi to issue a stern warning through the state-run Saba news agency that Yemen will not allow "any terrorist elements from any country to operate in its territory."
In recent days, Yemeni security forces have staged raids on Somali refugee communities, detaining suspected loyalists of al-Shabab, which means "The Youth." Overnight, an atmosphere of fear has gripped the community, which numbers more than 1 million.
In Yemen, Somalis are worse off than Yemenis. Jobs are scarce. Thousands of Somali youths eke out a living washing cars. They sleep under trees and bathe in public water tanks. Most Somali refugees view Yemen as a transit point to richer nations such as Saudi Arabia. But in recent months, a war between the Yemeni government and Shiite Hawthi rebels in the north has stemmed the migration.
Salafist schools, which teach a puritanical brand of Islam, have attracted several hundred young Somali refugees with offers of free food and lodging, said Somali community leaders. They fear some could join al-Shabab.
Many Somali refugees refuse to leave their houses at night, fearing they will be picked up in a security sweep. "Nobody carries a Shabab I.D. It's not written on our foreheads," said Ali, the community leader. "We have all become suspects." Most Somalis, he noted, practice a moderate form of Islam that stresses tolerance.
At the Somali Refugee Council office in Sanaa, more than 20 refugees have reported losing their jobs in the past week, said Mohamed Abdi Gabobe, its chairman. The council, he said, is planning a demonstration to show solidarity with Yemen, in the hopes that this will lessen the pressure on the community.
But many refugees are worried about their futures. They say they have become the latest victims in the U.S. counterterrorism campaign. "When two elephants fight each other, it is always the grass that is destroyed," said Sadat Mohamed Yusuf, a Somali community leader. "We are the grass."
5) Arson attack on community radio station previously targeted by coup supporters
Reporters Without Borders, January 8, 2010
A community radio station that serves the Afro-Caribbean Garifuna community in the Atlantic-coast town of Triunfo de la Cruz was ransacked and torched on the morning of 6 January 2010. The station, called Faluma Bimetu or Radio Coco Dulce, has often been threatened because of its opposition to the June 2009 coup d'état and to real estate projects in the region.
"The arson attack on Faluma Bimetu confirms that news media that are independent or opposed to the coup are still in danger," Reporters Without Borders said. "The threat is all the greater for community radio stations, which are not recognised by Honduran Law."
The press freedom organisation added: "The government should help Faluma Bimetu to resume broadcasting because it fills an important communication function for the isolated and often marginalised Garifuna community. Punishing those responsible for this attack will be a test for the government that is due to take office on 27 January."
The unidentified persons who attacked Faluma Bimetu took its main computer before setting fire to one of the two cabins in the studio, station manager Alfredo López told the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC). The station will not be able to resume broadcasting for at least a week.
The 6 January attack was not the first time the station has been targeted. López was arrested by soldiers supported by police on 12 August in Tegucigalpa because of his participation in the resistance to the coup.
If the attack was not politically motivated, it may have been linked to Garifuna opposition to real estate projects in the region and to the sale of some of their community lands by the municipality of Tela under questionable circumstances.
6) Jordanians Question Alliance With US After Humam Al-Balawi's CIA Suicide Bombing
James Hider, Times of London, January 12, 2010
Irbid, Jordan - The father received the bearded mourners with dry eyes, his grief tempered by the conviction that his son, a martyr to the cause of al-Qaeda's jihad, was already in Heaven. It is a common enough spectacle in the Islamist badlands of the Middle East or Central Asia - but yesterday's funeral was not in Afghanistan, nor even Pakistan. The farewell to Mahmoud Zaydan, 35, a teacher of Arabic and the Koran who was killed at the weekend by a US drone in Waziristan, Pakistan, took place in the peaceful Jordanian town of Irbid.
Jordan has long been one of America's closest allies in the region but only recently have Jordanians discovered how close to home the War on Terror is being waged. A suicide bombing last month at a CIA base in Afghanistan, perpetrated by a Jordanian double agent - and targeting, along with seven CIA officers, a fellow Jordanian - has put the country on the international terror map.
It exposed Jordan's close ties with US intelligence; a realisation that shocked and angered many Muslims in the country, normally seen as an oasis of peace in the turbulent area. At yesterday's funeral, the family of the dead al-Qaeda member had nothing but scorn for their Government's alliance with America. "The United States is fighting Muslims everywhere," the dead man's father, Mahdi Zaydan, said. "They'll fight to defend themselves and drive the Americans out, like the Soviets were driven out of Afghanistan."
Mr Zaydan said that his son had studied Sharia in Jordan before travelling to Pakistan in 1999 to teach Arabic and the Koran, and to pursue his studies. In the city of Peshawar, he fell in with members of the Taleban.
His other brother, Ibrahim, fought for the Taleban and was arrested in Kabul by the Americans in 2001, and held at Guantánamo Bay for more than five years. He was released two years ago and was present at the funeral yesterday in a former Palestinian refugee camp that has grown into a permanent neighbourhood of Irbid.
In his opinion, the Jordanian Government was "absolutely on the wrong side" by helping the Americans. The sentiment is shared by many devout Jordanian Muslims, especially those of Palestinian origin, such as Humam al-Balawi, the CIA suicide bomber, according to Rohile Gharaiheh, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. "The ones who joined the jihad did so because of the Palestinian issue, but it can also affect Jordanians because they don't know where their Government sends their sons," he said, referring to al-Balawi's recruitment by the Jordanian intelligence service. "The Government is making these terrorists; the Government is trying to please the Americans."
7) Yemeni Sheik Courts, Warns Foreign Governments
Zindani Backs Fight Against al Qaeda, But Tells U.S., Others Not to Send Troops
Margaret Coker, Wall Street Journal, January 12, 2010
San'a, Yemen - Yemen's most influential Islamic scholar warned foreign governments against sending troops to his country to battle al Qaeda, but said he would welcome international support to help Yemen stabilize and develop.
Sheik Abdul Majid Al Zindani, who the U.S. and the United Nations accuses of funding and supporting terrorism, has a prominent religious, political and civic role here, making him a key opinion maker in Yemen. Officials need to cultivate religious leaders like Mr. Zindani or risk alienating their sizable flocks as the government steps up its fight against al Qaeda.
Last week, Yemen's deputy prime minister called Mr. Zindani a law-abiding citizen. Other government officials have consulted with him about resurrecting a rehabilitation program for militants.
The sheik, speaking at a news conference Monday from his home in San'a, the capital, underscored his support for the government's fight against al Qaeda. He said he even supported U.S. trainers, who have helped to bolster Yemen's security forces.
But he said his support was conditional, as long as U.S. or other foreign combat troops refrain from setting foot on the ground here.
8) Iran Uses Fear of Covert Nuclear Sites to Deter Attack
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Jan 10
Washington - The New York Times reported Tuesday that Iran had "quietly hidden an increasingly large part of its atomic complex" in a vast network of tunnels and bunkers buried in mountainsides.
The story continued a narrative begun last September, when a second Iranian uranium enrichment facility near Qom was reported to have been discovered by U.S. and Western intelligence. The premise of that narrative is that Iran wanted secret nuclear facilities in order to be able to make a nuclear weapon without being detected by the international community.
But all the evidence indicates that the real story is exactly the opposite: far from wanting to hide the existence of nuclear facilities from the outside world, Iran has wanted Western intelligence to conclude that it was putting some of its key nuclear facilities deep underground for more than three years.
The reason for that surprising conclusion is simple: Iran's primary problem in regard to its nuclear programme has been how to deter a U.S. or Israeli attack on its nuclear sites. To do that, Iranian officials believed they needed to convince U.S. and Israeli military planners that they wouldn't be able to destroy some of Iran's nuclear sites and couldn't identify others.
The key to unraveling the confusion surrounding the Qom facility and the system of tunnel complexes is the fact that Iran knew the site at Qom was being closely watched by U.S. and other intelligence agencies both through satellite photographs and spy networks on the ground well before construction of the facility began.
The National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahideen E Khalq anti-regime terrorist organisation, held a press conference on Dec. 20, 2005, in which it charged that four underground tunnel complexes were connected with Iran's nuclear programme, including one near Qom.
NCRI had created very strong international pressure on Iran's nuclear programme by revealing the existence of the Natanz enrichment facility in an August 2002 press conference. A number of its charges had been referred to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for investigation.
It is now clear that there was nothing in the tunnel complex at Qom related to the nuclear programme when the NCRI made that charge.
Given the close ties between the MEK and both the U.S. and Israel, however, Iran's decision makers had to be well aware that foreign intelligence agencies would focus their surveillance in Iran on the tunnel complexes that the MEK had identified.
The New York Times article on Iran's tunnel complex indicates that Iran's strategy has succeeded in influencing on debates in Israel and the United States over the feasibility of a devastating blow to the Iranian nuclear programme. The Times called the tunneling system "a cloak of invisibility" that is "complicating the West's military and geopolitical calculus".
It said some analysts consider Iran's "passive defense" strategy "a crucial factor" in the Obama administration's insistence on a non-military solution.
9) War's Fury No Longer Pauses For Afghan Winter
Rod Nordland, New York Times, January 12, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghanistan's high mountains and harsh weather once meant that winter was a respite from much of the war's violence, but as the deaths of six Western soldiers in three separate attacks on Monday show, this winter is proving to be different.
American military leaders and Taliban commanders are vowing to carry the fight to each other and skip the traditional winter vacation, and there is every sign that they are doing just that.
Though the trend has been building, in past years, the Taliban generally slipped off to sanctuaries in Pakistan, or just stayed home, while NATO forces enjoyed a drop in attacks and a steep decline in the body count from December through March.
A combination of factors has changed that. American troop levels nearly doubled in 2009, meaning more missions against the Taliban - and more potential targets for them. Military crackdowns by Pakistan along the border have in some places made it harder for insurgents to flee there.
The Taliban have in any case consolidated their hold over large parts of southern Afghanistan and have less need to fall back than in previous years. Seeking to make a political point, they have also stepped up the frequency of their attacks and are now using methods like improvised explosive devices and suicide bomb attacks that are less affected by the weather.
According to the Brookings Institution's Afghanistan Index, NATO fatalities dropped into the single digits in the winter, as did Afghan civilian casualties, in every year from 2001 to 2008.
Last December, though, American fatalities were six times as high as in the previous December, and coalition fatalities over all were up 29 percent.
10) Poverty Drops in Venezuela to 24%
EFE, January 10, 2010
Poverty in Venezuela stood at 24.2 percent of the population at the end of 2009, down from 27.5 percent the previous year, according to the National Statistics Institute
Caracas - Poverty in Venezuela stood at 24.2 percent of the population at the end of 2009, down from 27.5 percent the previous year, while the proportion of indigent people declined from 7.6 percent to 6 percent, the National Statistics Institute, or INE, said on Friday. INE chief Elias Eljuri said at a press conference that these figures correspond to the measurement of per capita income.
The INE also measured "structural poverty," which is calculated based on "basic necessities satisfied," Eljuri said, adding that this indicator also showed a "very marked" decline in poverty. Structural poverty stood at 23.6 percent, significantly less than the 31.2 percent of a year ago, he said.
The INE also measures so-called "chronic poverty," a group that includes those who measure as poor both in income and satisfaction of basic necessities. This chronic poverty stood at 23.7 percent in 2003, when the indicator was first measured, but fell to 11.4 percent by the end of 2008, Eljuri said.
Eljuri said that the drop in the indicators "doesn't mean there is no poverty in Venezuela, as many trying to ridicule the official figures" say that's what the government is attempting to convey. "When we say that poverty is at 6 percent by households, there are around 2 million people living in extreme poverty."
But those people are receiving a series of services through the different social programs developed by the government "that they didn't receive before" and that are not included in per capita income, he said. "In this government, social investment has had great importance and has increased significantly. Some 45 percent of the national budget is going to social spending in 2010," Eljuri said.
The poor classes "are receiving many benefits that are not reflected as income. For example, there are more than 4 million children who eat their three meals (a day) at Bolivarian schools, which means that those homes don't have to pay for those meals," he said.
11) Media Battles in Latin America Not About "Free Speech"
Latin America's battle between progressive governments and hostile right-wing media is playing out in Ecuador
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Friday 8 January 2010 18.00 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/jan/08/ecuador-press-freedom-media
For the past month in Ecuador there has been a battle over regulation of the media. It has been in the front pages of the newspapers most of that period, and a leading daily, El Comercio, referred to the fight as one for "defense of human rights and the free practice of journalism." This was in response to the government's closing down of a major TV station, Teleamazonas, for three days beginning December 22.
International organizations such as the Washington-based Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists joined the Ecuadorian media in denouncing the government's actions, with the CPJ calling it "nothing but an attempt to intimidate the media into silence."
But as is generally the case when private media monopolies are challenged by progressive governments, the view presented by these powerful corporations and their allies in the US is one-sided and over-simplified. Ecuador, with a democratic left government, is facing the same challenge faced by all of the left-of-centre governments in the region: the private media is dominated by heavily monopolised, often politically partisan, right-wing forces opposed to the progressive economic and social reforms that electorates voted for. All of these governments have responded to that challenge.
In Argentina, a new media law seeks to break up the media monopoly held by the Clarín Group, which according to press reports controls 60% of the media. The Brazilian government created, for the first time in 2007, a federally-launched public TV station. The Bolivian government, which faces perhaps the most hostile media in the hemisphere, has also expanded public media. What all of these governments are doing - although they would not put it that way - is trying to move their media more in the direction of what we have in the US. That is, a media which is heavily biased toward the interests of the wealthy and the upper classes, but nonetheless adheres to certain journalistic norms that limit the degree to which the media is a direct, partisan, political actor.
In the case of Ecuador, it is worth looking at the details of why Teleamazonas' broadcasting was suspended for three days. The government found that it had, for the second time in a year, violated a rule that prohibits the broadcast of false information that can lead to social disturbances. In the first offense of this type, for which the station was fined, it had broadcast a false report indicating that the government's electoral commission had a "clandestine center" where voting results were manipulated. The second offense, committed in May, was a false report stating that, as a result of proposed exploration for natural gas on the island of Puná, the people there would not be able to fish for six months. Since most of the workers on the island makes their living from fishing, the false report actually did lead to social disturbances. Both of these reports were found to have no basis in fact. It is also worth noting that social disturbances in Ecuador are often more serious than in the US: eight of the last ten presidents did not serve out their terms of office.
That said, reasonable people may differ on what is the proper role of government in the regulation of media, or what limits - if any - should be placed on freedom of expression. Some civil libertarians object to laws allowing individuals to file civil lawsuits for libel or defamation, and certainly a case can be made that in the UK, for example - where the law allows a much broader range of action against media than in the US - that this unduly inhibits the press.
But international organisations or editorialists who take an absolutist or anarchist position with regard to countries such as Ecuador should apply the same standards to the US and other rich countries.
For example, about two weeks before the 2004 US presidential election, the Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland, which owns the largest chain of TV stations in the US, decided to broadcast a film that was highly critical of candidate John Kerry. Nineteen Democratic senators sent a letter to the US Federal Communications Commission calling for an investigation, and some made public statements that Sinclair's broadcast license could be in jeopardy. Sinclair backed down and did not broadcast the film.
The reason that such actions are rare in the US is that the media rarely breaks certain rules or even comes close. This is true even of Fox News, which is considered to be the most partisan of major US media outlets. And it is difficult to think of any cases of US media doing what Teleamazonas did: broadcasting false reports that appear to be intended to destabilise the government. It simply would not be tolerated in the US.
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