Americanmainstream media fact and fiction frequently diverge, leading to established narratives that bear little relationship to what is actually happening. The recent events in
Parishave most often been described as free speech colliding with religious extremism but the reality is that existing
Frenchhate crime legislation means that the country has only very limited freedom of expression. In
Franceyou can be arrested and imprisoned or fined heavily just for saying something that the government considers to be unacceptable even if you do nothing at all beyond that.
United Statesthere has been a virtual media evisceration of
Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is consistently demonized as an autocratic along the lines of the country’s former
Czaristrulers and it is frequently claimed that he is an ex-KGB thug and bully who seeks to muzzle the democracy in his country, to include the press and all independent political forces. He is also invariably depicted as the agent provocateur in the recent upheaval involving
But are the claims about
Putintrue or are they just the kind of pablum that is convenient to feed to a mass
Americanaudience that is essentially blissfully ignorant about what is going on in the world? With that possibility in mind, it would be useful to compare the record of the
Russianpresident with that of our own
President Barack Obama. Such an examination might well include their respective interactions in areas that most people would consider part and parcel of the essential liberties pertaining to a democratic society. They should include freedom of the press, ability to associate and organize political parties that oppose the one in power, government accountability, freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest and punishment. The respective governments should also be judged on whether their interactions with other nations are proportionate and serve actual national interests or not.
Press freedom is tricky. The
United Stateshas a notionally free press but it is in reality largely controlled by special and corporate interests that are not prepared to challenge the government in any serious way. It is currently ranked 46 th in the world by
Reporters Without Borders’ freedom index, just in front of
Obama Administrationhas initiated twice as many prosecutions for violation of the
Espionage Actas all previous administrations combined. The ongoing six year long pursuit of the sources of
New York Timesjournalist
James Risensuggests that the freedom to do investigative journalism in the
United Statesis limited when it runs up against government secrecy. In yet another case, a
James Rosenhad his emails and phone records seized while twenty phone lines used by the
Associated Presswere monitored by federal law enforcement.
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