Thursday, August 9, 2007

US attacks free media in Lebanon

News that began emanating from Angry Arab's blog of the US using its political humanitarian tool, USAID, to coerce Lebanon's English newspaper The Daily Star into writing pro-government articles is a crucial topic worthy of greater discussion and transparency.

The Daily Star published a damning, investigative report by Lysandra Ohstrom on Hariri's gigantic real-estate group, Solidere, which can still be accessed on their website by clicking here.

Solidere is Rafik al-Hariri's legacy. A company that rebuilt one section of Beirut (the predominantly Sunni Downtown Beirut, leaving Beirut's Christian and Shi'ite quarters to rot) through monopoly, extortion, illegal confiscation of private property, exploitation of workers (underpaid Syrian labour), to name a few on a very long list of sins by Solidere. Ohstrom's article explores Solidere's unscrupulous deals in order to enlarge the pockets of Hariri. I urge all to read Lysandra's article while it still stands.

Today, Saad Hariri (son of Rafik) finds himself the leader of Lebanon's governing pro-American March 14 alliance. The Bush administration have been quite passionate about victory in Lebanon and is pursuing every possible policy - under and over the table - to ensure Bush's man in Hariri stays on top.

Bush's stubbornness to hold onto the March 14 alliance was conspicuously reiterated a fortnight ago when he declared that he would target anyone that tried to undermine the Siniora Government. So when The Daily Star published an article damaging Hariri's Solidere, the US was quick to respond. AngryArab quotes the USAID as stating the following:

"the USAID funders have requested that the coming pages (of Daily Star examiner section) all have their writers submit synopses of their pieces for vetting ... the political agenda of the donors is not to undermine the Fouad Siniora government".

This presents a serious issue in another episode of American hypocrisy. We can safely conclude after seven years of erratic rule by George W. Bush that the American agenda in the world was never about freedom or democracy. It baffles me that there are still Lebanese and Arabs out there who continue to delude themselves of a fictional Hollywood version of American imperialism in the Middle East. The US may seem rosy upon landing at JFK Airport, but its grandiose skyscrapers, efficient organisation techniques and neo-liberal values are not necessarily qualities it intends to share with us, inferior civilisations.

There can be no grander evidence of that than its attempt to eliminate free media and investigative journalism in Lebanon in order to protect its interests. The actions of the White House are in complete breach of the US Constitution, which is designed to uphold the freedom of the press. It seems the implementation of the US Constitution is not exactly universal.

Another distressing issue to point out is that the Bush administration is manipulating and interfering in the internal affairs of other countries by using government humanitarian agencies, such as USAID in this case. Reports emerged last year of the US bypassing Congress by dumping funds into so-called humanitarian groups that would then directly interfere in foreign countries, Ukraine and now Lebanon clear case scenarios.

Of course, The Daily Star caved in to pressure from the US by subsequently publishing this article praising USAID humanitarian projects in Lebanon.

Never-ending hypocrisy from the American part, but nothing we are not accustomed to in Lebanon. The US continues to work against democracy in Lebanon and the greater region, whilst the world remains oblivious.

No comments: