Glenn Greenwald becomes target of effort to criminalize journalism in Brazil

The Associated Press reports:

Several weeks after publishing explosive reports about a key member of Brazil’s far-right government, U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald was called before a congressional committee to face hostile questions.

“Who should be judged, convicted and in prison is the journalist!” shouted congresswoman Katia Sastre, an ally of President Jair Bolsonaro.

And by some accounts that wasn’t an empty threat: A conservative website reported that federal police had requested that financial regulators investigate Greenwald’s finances. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and his Brazilian husband also say they have been receiving detailed death threats, calls for his deportation and homophobic comments in an increasingly hostile political environment.

Greenwald, an attorney-turned-journalist who has long been a free-speech advocate, has found himself at the center of the first major test of press freedom under Bolsonaro, who took office on Jan. 1 and has openly expressed nostalgia for Brazil’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship — a period when newspapers were censored and some journalists tortured. [Continue reading…]

In China ruled by Xi, no one is allowed to speak truth to power

The New York Times reports:

She was once one of China’s most feared journalists, roaming the country uncovering stories about police brutality, wrongful convictions and environmental disasters. But these days, Zhang Wenmin struggles to be heard.

The police intimidate Ms. Zhang’s sources. The authorities shut down her social media accounts. Unable to find news outlets that will publish her work, she lives largely off her savings.

“The space for free speech has become so limited,” Ms. Zhang, 45, said. “It’s now dangerous to say you are an independent journalist.”

China’s investigative reporters once provided rare voices of accountability and criticism in a society tightly controlled by the ruling Communist Party, exposing scandals about babies sickened by tainted formula and blood-selling schemes backed by the government.

But under President Xi Jinping, such journalists have all but disappeared, as the authorities have harassed and imprisoned dozens of reporters and as news outlets have cut back on in-depth reporting. One of the most glaring consequences of Mr. Xi’s revival of strongman politics is that the Chinese press is now almost entirely devoid of critical reporting, filled instead with upbeat portrayals of life in China under Mr. Xi.

Critics call it the “total censorship era.”

“We’re almost extinct,” said Liu Hu, 43, a reporter from the southwestern province of Sichuan who was detained for nearly a year after investigating corrupt politicians. “No one is left to reveal the truth.” [Continue reading…]

Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest shows the power of one newspaper’s investigation

Brian Stelter writes:

In the past year the Jeffrey Epstein case was catapulted onto the national news radar by one newspaper, the Miami Herald, and by one reporter in particular, Julie K. Brown. The paper’s “Perversion of Justice” series came out last November, and Brown has stayed on the story ever since.

As soon as The Daily Beast broke the news that Epstein had been arrested on Saturday evening, fellow journalists and other observers credited Brown and thanked her for the tenacious investigation.

Law enforcement officials are also giving credit to the reporting. “We were assisted” by “some excellent investigative journalism,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said at a Monday morning press conference.

William Sweeney, the assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York office, added, “We work with facts. When the facts presented themselves, as Mr. Berman hinted at, through investigative journalists’ work, we moved on it.” [Continue reading…]

Michelle Goldberg writes:

The Epstein case is first and foremost about the casual victimization of vulnerable girls. But it is also a political scandal, if not a partisan one. It reveals a deep corruption among mostly male elites across parties, and the way the very rich can often purchase impunity for even the most loathsome of crimes. If it were fiction, it would be both too sordid and too on-the-nose to be believable, like a season of “True Detective” penned by a doctrinaire Marxist.

Epstein socialized with Donald Trump, who in 2002 described him to New York Magazine as a “terrific guy” whom he’d known for 15 years. “It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side,” said the future president. In 2000, a porter who worked next door to Epstein’s Manhattan home told a British newspaper, admiringly, “I often see Donald Trump and there are loads of models coming and going, mostly at night. It’s amazing.”

Epstein also hung out with Bill Clinton, who rode on his jet several times. Ghislaine Maxwell, a close companion of Epstein who has been accused of working as his procurer, attended Chelsea Clinton’s wedding in 2010, long after Epstein’s exposure. Following his arrest on Saturday, Christine Pelosi, daughter of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, tweeted, “It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated but we must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may.”

Among the mysteries of the Epstein case are why powerful prosecutors of both parties treated him with such leniency. [Continue reading…]

News organizations are timidly changing their approach to covering climate crisis

The New York Times reports:

As Europe heats up, Greenland melts and the Midwest floods, many news organizations are devoting more resources to climate change as they cover the topic with more urgency.

In Florida, six newsrooms with different owners have taken the unusual step of pooling their resources and sharing their reporting on the issue. They plan to examine how climate change will affect the state’s enormous agriculture sector as well as “the future of coastal towns and cities — which ones survive, which ones go under,” according to a statement released when the initiative was announced last month.

Florida’s record-breaking heat waves, devastating storms like Hurricane Michael and increased flooding at high tide have not been lost on Mindy Marques, the publisher and executive editor of The Miami Herald, one of the six organizations taking part in the effort.

“It’s undeniable that we are living with the impact of changes in our climate every day,” Ms. Marques said.

The other five outlets that have joined the initiative are The Palm Beach Post, The South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Tampa Bay Times, The Orlando Sentinel and WLRN Public Media. Ms. Marques said the partnership was not politically motivated.

“We’re not launching a campaign,” she said. “We’re launching information, knowledge.”

The Guardian, the left-wing British daily, recently updated its house style to prefer the phrase “climate emergency” over “climate change.” It also recommends “climate science denier” in place of “climate skeptic.” The publication has also started listing the global carbon dioxide level on its daily weather page.

The New York Times established a desk dedicated to climate change in 2017, with editors and reporters in Washington and New York who collaborate with bureaus around the world.

But even among journalists who want to convey that climate change is a crisis, there is not unanimity about how to play it. [Continue reading…]

Among journalists cognizant of the gravity of the issue, it’s commonly said that the climate crisis is the biggest story of our time.

In fact, it is only part of an even bigger event in this planet’s history: the threatened loss of a majority of all species by the end of the 21st century.

Human beings have not only destabilized the climate and set in motion a sequence of massive environmental changes; we are also in the midst of an extermination process that is likely to continue even if through a social, political, and technological miracle we reverse the current level of emissions of greenhouse gases.

What kind of Pyrrhic victory would that be to save the planet if we have simultaneously also destroyed most of life?

Environment reporters facing harassment and murder, study finds

The Guardian reports:

Thirteen journalists who were investigating damage to the environment have been killed in recent years and many more are suffering violence, harassment, intimidation and lawsuits, according to a study.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which produced the tally, is investigating a further 16 deaths over the last decade. It says the number of murders may be as high as 29, making this field of journalism one of the most dangerous after war reporting.

On every continent reporters have been attacked for investigating concerns about abuses related to the impact of corporate and political interests scrambling to extract wealth from the earth’s remaining natural resources.

These resources end up in all manner of products – from mobile phones to pots and pans – with consumers largely unaware of the stories behind them. [Continue reading…]

Joe Biden and the ‘electability’ delusion — and why the media keep making the same mistake

Margaret Sullivan writes:

As Iowa journalist Robert Leonard talks to voters around his state, he finds himself baffled at the national portrayal of Joe Biden’s dominance in the presidential campaign.

The local Democrats he encounters respect the former vice president, he told me, but many of them also feel his time has passed.

They’re far more excited about other candidates, five in particular: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.); Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.; Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.); former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.).

So he shakes his head at the extensive coverage and commentary that depicts Biden as almost a shoo-in for a nomination that’s more than a year away.

One example: CNN’s morning briefing newsletter recently called Biden “the most formidable threat” to President Trump’s reelection chances.

CNN is far from alone. It’s common across the national media to see Biden pegged as the safest candidate for Democrats to put up to unseat Trump. He’s got that secret sauce: electability.

“Sure, Democrats think he’s electable, but they believe a half-dozen other candidates are, too,” Leonard, the news director of two Iowa radio stations, told me. “No one I have spoken with sees Biden as more formidable than other top candidates.”

But this thinking — much of it driven by early polling — creates a self-perpetuating effect: Biden is the front-runner, so he gets more media coverage. [Continue reading…]

Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018, study says

The New York Times reports:


It’s more than the combined ticket sales of the last two “Avengers” movies. It’s more than what virtually any professional sports team is worth. And it’s the amount that Google made from the work of news publishers in 2018 via search and Google News, according to a study to be released on Monday by the News Media Alliance.

The journalists who create that content deserve a cut of that $4.7 billion, said David Chavern, the president and chief executive of the alliance, which represents more than 2,000 newspapers across the country, including The New York Times.

“They make money off this arrangement,” Mr. Chavern said, “and there needs to be a better outcome for news publishers.”

That $4.7 billion is nearly as much as the $5.1 billion brought in by the United States news industry as a whole from digital advertising last year — and the News Media Alliance cautioned that its estimate for Google’s income was conservative. For one thing, it does not count the value of the personal data the company collects on consumers every time they click on an article like this one. [Continue reading…]

Bellingcat and how open source reinvented investigative journalism

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes:

It’s a brief window into a doomed soul. Clinging to his mother’s back, the child looks twice into the camera held by the man about to kill him. The natural curiosity of a child that fear has failed to extinguish. The smartphone captures the casual cruelty with which both mother and child are killed. Nearby, another mother and daughter are executed. One killer continues to pump bullets into the lifeless bodies with a glee that seems excessive even to his accomplices. “That’s enough, Tsanga!” one shouts. “That’s enough.”

In July 2018, when the video of the killings started circulating on social media, it was clear what had happened. The mothers and children were defenseless, they weren’t resisting, and they were killed with intent. Other facts, however, were less clear: Where did this happen, when was the video recorded, who were the killers, and why did they kill? The fact that the killers had filmed the crime suggested that they were confident in their impunity. Only precise answers to journalism’s enduring questions—what, where, when, who, and why—could revoke it.

This is the task that investigators at the BBC’s Africa Eye unit undertook over the next few months—an investigation for which they have just won a Peabody Award. Africa Eye was able to geolocate the site, matching topographical features from the video to satellite maps; establish the time, using shadows as sundials; confirm the killers’ identities, by cross-referencing social media profiles with government records; and establish that the executions were part of Cameroon’s counter-terrorism operations against the extremist group Boko Haram. Africa Eye’s findings led in February 2019 to the US’s withdrawing $17 million in funding for the Cameroonian Army and European Parliament’s passing a strong resolution condemning “torture, forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings perpetrated by governmental forces.”

The investigation was a triumph of journalism. The smartphone that had captured the victims’ last moments had turned from voyeur to witness. [Continue reading…]

The State Department has been funding trolls. I’m one of their targets

Jason Rezaian writes:

Even after spending a year and a half in prison in Tehran, I knew that if I wanted to go on writing about Iran, I would be a target for plenty of public attacks despite the abuse I had suffered at the hands of the Islamic Republic. And so it has been.

But I never imagined the U.S. State Department would be funding my attackers.

Last week, several astute Iran watchers drew attention to a series of inflammatory tweets associated with the Iran Disinformation Project, a State Department-funded initiative that its website claims “brings to light disinformation emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran via official rhetoric, state propaganda outlets, social media manipulation and more.” [Continue reading…]

Greta Thunberg slams presidents, celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and journalists for ignoring climate crisis