In the last decade, 26 countries have enacted formal statutes guaranteeing their citizens' right of access to government information. Now freedom of information advocates have a global internet link: freedominfo.org, a virtual network that offers summaries of existing laws governing access to information in 45 countries, along with current news and analysis.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has joined senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy in warning that the Bush Administration's proposed new cabinet-level Homeland Security Department threatens long-standing American freedoms while eliminating legal safeguards necessary to keep the agency open and accountable to the public.
"I have seldom been lied to so blatantly in my life," Amit Pal, editor of the Progressive Media Project, writes from Egypt. "On June 20, we had a lunch meeting with Nabil Osman, who is the chairman of the State Information Service here. He assured us that censorship was a relic of the past in this country, having disappeared after the 1970s, and that the press was free to criticize anything or anyone, including the president.
"The Union of Myanmar, which is ruled by a ruthless military junta, has retained Washington, D.C.-based DCI Assocs. to improve its relationship with the U.S.," trade publication O'Dwyer's PR writes. "DCI is to brief members of the Bush Administration and Congress that the former Burma is now committed to democracy and human rights. It also wants to be considered a foot soldier in President Bush's so-called 'war on terror.' DCI received a $100,000 retainer from Myanmar in early April, which will cover work through July 15. It will then bill Myanmar $35K a month. ...
The corporate media pay little attention to the growing grassroots movement seeking to do something about corporate power and propaganda run amok. All over the US groups of citizens are organizing meetings, discussions, conferences, protests, websites, initiative campaigns and other efforts focused on a common problem: corporate power's subversion of American democracy. The Democracy Revitalization Project is hosting its inaugural conference in Duluth, Minnesota, July 28 - 30.
Ben Fritz of Spinsanity.org analyzes the rhetoric in a recent New York Post column by John Podhoretz, who "frames the entire debate ... as a crude either-or proposition: we're either fighting ourselves or we're fighting the terrorists. ... Podhoretz would do well to remember, however, that questioning the performance of our government is not an act of treason. It's part of the process of open debate that is central to American democracy."
The Committee of Concerned Journalists (CCJ) has developed a set of principles outlining a "consensus about what journalists must offer and what citizens should expect." Its principles include "above all, truthfulness. ... proof that the journalists' first loyalty is to citizens. ...
Journalists are being far too timid in reporting the news, and the public is poorly informed about the media's role in democracy, veteran journalist Bill Kovach told media ombudsmen on Tuesday. "An awful lot of news organizations are far, far more timid than I would like them to be ... far, far more timid than they have any right to be," said Kovach, a former editor for The New York Times and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
It's official: Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company, has now changed its name to "Altria," from the Latin root for "altruism." The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids isn't impressed.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a media mogul who already owns most of the country's television outlets, is trying to stamp out the few voices of dissent left on the airwaves. "On Thursday, the conservative prime minister accused two journalists and a comedian who have been critical of him in the past of the 'criminal use' of state television," reports the New York Times. ... Under his government, Mr. Berlusconi said, state television 'cannot be so seditious.'"