Project Censored’s top 10 stories show old patterns alive and well

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click to enlarge ANSON STEVENS-BOLLEN
Anson Stevens-Bollen

2. Journalists Investigating Financial Crimes Threatened by Global Elites

Financial crimes of global elites, involving the flow of dirty money through some of the world’s most powerful banks, have made major headlines in recent years, most notably with the Panama Papers in 2016 and the FinSen Files in 2020. But we’d know a great deal more if not for the flood of threats faced by journalists doing this work — a major story that hasn’t been told in America’s corporate media, despite a detailed report from Foreign Policy Centre (FPC), “Unsafe for Scrutiny,” released in November 2020.

The report was based on a survey of 63 investigative journalists from 41 countries, which found that 71% had experienced threats and/or harassment while doing their investigations, with a large portion of those (73%) experiencing legal threats as well. Its findings were described by Spencer Woodman in an article for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“The report found that legal threats are chief among the types of harassment facing journalists conducting financial investigations, and often seek to exploit a skewed balance of power between often-underfunded reporting enterprises and the legal might of attorneys hired by the world’s wealthiest people and corporations,” Woodman wrote. “Focusing on frivolous cases known as ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation,’ or SLAPPs, the report asserts that such actions ‘can create a similar chilling effect on media freedom to more overt violence or attack.’” Legal threats are often communicated via private letters, “and, if successful in achieving their aim, the public will never know,” the report said.

Physical threats and online harassment were also a grave concern, but they were geographically uneven. “While no journalists surveyed in North America reported physical threats, 60% of respondents working in sub-Saharan Africa, and 50% of respondents from North Africa and the Middle East region reported threats of physical attack,” Woodman noted. Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered by a car bomb in Malta in October 2017, but he added, “The report asserts that an assassination is often not a starting point for those seeking to silence reporters but instead a crime committed after a pattern of escalating threats, noting that Caruana Galizia had faced numerous legal threats and actions and that her family is still fighting 25 lawsuits over her reporting.”

Project Censored noted Galizia’s murder along with that of Slovak investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, adding that “According to FPC’s report, an additional thirty reporters from Brazil, Russia, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and other countries who were researching financial corruption have been murdered since 2017.”

As for legal threats, “Unlike Canada, Australia, and certain US states, the United Kingdom has not passed anti-SLAPP legislation, making its courts an attractive venue for elites seeking to use the law to bully journalists into silence,” Project Censored noted, citing a May 8, 2021, Guardian column by Nick Cohen which described the UK’s court system as “the censorship capital of the democratic world.” Cohen in turn cited the case of financial reporter Catherine Belton, author of the 2020 book, Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West. “As Cohen explained, in response, a host of Putin’s super-wealthy associates are now bombarding Belton with one lawsuit after another,” Project Censored observed.

The silence about this silencing has been deafening, Project Censored noted. There has been some coverage overseas, but “To date, however, no major commercial newspaper or broadcast outlet in the United States has so much as mentioned the FPC’s report.”

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