||Issue No. 178||16 May 2003|
Interview: Staying Alive
Bad Boss: The Ultimate Piss Off
Industrial: Last Drinks
National Focus: Around the States
Politics: Radical Surgery
Education: The Price of Missing Out
Legal: If At First You Don't Succeed
History: Massive Attack
Culture: What's Right
Review: If He Should Fall
Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Satire: IMF Ensures Iraq Institutes Market Based Looting
The Locker Room
In Defence of Tom
Ministers of Misinformation Scoop Orwells
All media stars in their own right, the three all took top (dis)honours in this year's Orwell Awards for violations of press freedom. Bob and Don shared honours for the coveted Gold Orwellian international prize announced by the Alliance last week in Sydney. In very different environments, both carried on the traditions that Orwell satirised - Bob with his line on Iraq and his blatant mistruths while Don's analysis and account of current events was every bit as comical but with far more deadly impact. Ironically once awarded a presidential medal of freedom, Rumsfeld was honoured for introducing a system of US Govt-dictated censorship.
Meanwhile, national winner Philip Ruddock and the Department of Immigration was awarded for the manifestation of the policy of preventing scrutiny of the conditions in which men, women and children seeking refugee status are incarcerated. All recipients of these salubrious awards have been inspirations to each other in the course of their respective careers. Well done!
About Our Winners
In keeping with the spirit of G. Orwell, the judges agreed on Phillip Ruddock as the worthy recipient of the national prize.
Although it's true that his department deserves a lot of the credit for the restrictions under which the media operate, but under the Westminster system Phillip Ruddock is entitled to be recognised for his and their hard work.
While Ruddock is accessible to the media, what he spouts tirelessly is the party line.
He is the manifestation of the policy of preventing scrutiny of the conditions in which men, women and children seeking refugee status are incarcerated. At the same time he casts the policy as one of "protecting" these "illegal entrants", "illegal immigrants", and now we're really sure what to call them because according the latest directive from Ruddock's office they are .... Well, what are they?
As Media Watch reported recently, Ruddock has had his department send a stern letter to the news editors and producers of Australia, to
encourage media outlets not to use the label "refugee" or even "asylum seeker" in relation to the people on the two boats...from Vietnam until it is clearly established that these descriptions are appropriate... there is no reason to assume automatically that because people are in a boat in regional waters, reportedly heading for Australia, that they are refugees or in fact even seeking asylum here.
Jenny Hoskin, Public Affairs, DIMIA, 24 April 2003
Always Ruddock bats away the interrogatories with calm detachment,
explaining that these inhumanities are in the interests of the detainees and the nation (not to mention the vote harvesting potential for the government).
What could be more Orwellian?
And while the Senate Privileges Committee should be highly commended, the judges felt they didn't deserve the gong because they're not trying hard enough: they're only considering making receiving a leak a strict liability offence.
Internationally, in the traditions of Oceania and Eurasia, the judges decided to give the award jointly to Baghdad Bob and Donald Rumsfeld as honourable recipients of the inaugural Gold Orwellian award.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf is a character straight out of "Nineteen
Eighty Four" and its slogan strewn regime. His exposition of the
exact opposite of reality was a joy to behold. On top of that as
"Information" Minister his disinformation was just about unbeatable
and then there was his rigid enforcement of the Ba'ath Party line in
the Iraqi media.
As for Donald Rumsfeld, his analysis and account of current events was every bit as comical as Baghdad Bob's...but with far more deadly impact. The Iraqi seemed to have learnt his skills from the Master. Both of them had a fine understanding of one liners and the relative safety of only addressing media pools - bald lies can be asserted and broadcast before their truthfulness can be challenged. Rumsfeld gets a further leg up for the targeting and murder of Al Jazeera journalists
Our National Shortlisted Finalists Were:
Immigration Minister, Phillip Ruddock
For presiding over a federal government department and public affairs sector that has continually put up walls to the media by placing restrictions on interviewing asylum seekers, blockading access and filming of detention centers and, in the case of ABC reporter Natalie Larkins, arresting a journalist for "trespassing" outside the Woomera Detention Centre in 2002.
In her own words, Larkins said of the experience of Woomera:"It's ironic that international journalists have been given quicker and less restrictive access to prisoners at Camp X-ray at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba".
The Federal Attorney General, Daryl Williams
For his enduring ability to avoid even-handedness with the media. This included the Government's anti-terrorism legislation, which was blocked by the Senate, that significantly beefed up ASIO's powers and incriminated journalists in the process if caught protecting their sources. Then their was also the attempt to amend the criminal code which would make revealing leaked documents a crime.
The Senate Privileges Committee
For attempting to give itself the ability to fine, jail or otherwise penalise journalists and the media for doing their jobs when it foreshadowed its intention to examine whether leaked documents should constitute contempt.
Peter Reith, former Federal Defence Minister
For his release of photos purporting to prove refugees threw their children overboard and his lies and misuse of the media during the Children Overboard issue in the lead-up to the Federal Election.
Qld person or persons unknown
For abiding by the "shooting the messenger" ethos when they fired upon journalist Hedley Thomas' home.
Our International Shortlisted Finalists Were:
Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe
For his dedication to muzzling the media in Zimbabwe by attacks on journalists and being behind legislation designed to give the government greater control over who can work as a journalist in the African nation.
The government's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act means the media can be imprisoned for publishing ``falsehoods''.
Twelve journalists have been charged under the act since it came into force last year. Despite the Guardian's reporter Andrew Meldrum being found not guilty of this at his trial, he was deported the very next day anyway.
Mugabe's media laws also allows for a two-year jail term for working as a journalist without accreditation and so all Mugabe has to do is withdraw accreditation from foreign journalists he doesn't like and they either leave the country or face jail.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, "Baghdad Bob", Iraq's Minister for
If George Orwell was writing today, he wouldn't need to invent newspeak. He'd have Baghdad Bab to do that for him in his determined campaign of misinformation in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary during the Iraq war. A few of his newspeak gems:
-- "There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"
-- "I blame Al-Jazeera - they are marketing for the Americans!"
-- "They're coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks."
-- "We have them surrounded in their tanks"
-- "I have detailed information about the situation...which completely proves that what they allege are illusions ... They lie every day."
-- "Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness, as he is a man of great honour and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes
Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense
Holder of the presidential medal of freedom, Don has been honoured for introducing something new to journalism: government sponsored self-censorship. Who else showed such commitment that he was able to take a break from invading Iraq to personally telephone major broadcasting companies to encourage them not to broadcast images of American POWs? This followed his earlier exercise in government sponsored self-censorship in encouraging media corporations not to broadcast images or comments of bin Laden.
All journalists would have felt that much safer by his deep contrition
Given that he showed such enthusiasm to accept responsibility whenever things went wrong in Iraq, it is only fair that he also be credited with the censorship achievements of the US Army who:
Caused collateral damage to Reuters cameramen in Baghdad in the Palestine Meridien hotel, by shelling them with (friendly) tank fire, then trying to argue they shot first. With their cameras.
And showed their respect for global media by bombing the Al Jazeera press offices. Twice.
Of course, their spokesperson demonstrated their deep understanding of their obligations to protect journalists with their comments after the initial deaths: "Reporters who get between coalition and Iraqi forces put themselves at extreme risk.''
Rumsfeld also oversaw the incredibly useful briefings throughout the war.
Who can forget the red line around Baghdad which, once crossed, would lead to the use of chemical weapons? Apparently, the red line is now in hiding in Syria.
Or the briefing that the bodies of the American POWs shown on television had been found. Twice. Then, of course, they were found alive.
It's irritating when those pesky journalists won't swallow self-censorship line. Luckily, plucky corporations like NBC are there to step in. They've been nominated for sacking correspondent Peter Arnett for saying what everyone thought but, apparently, weren't allowed to say.
Not content with one warning shot, NBC is now reviewing the comments by another NBC News correspondent Ashleigh Banfield in which she criticised the network's coverage of the war in Iraq. In a statement, NBC News rushed to defend her right to speak freely.....no, that's wrong....actually they said: "We are deeply disappointed and troubled by her remarks, and will review her comments with her."
With close to half a century of fighting press freedom, it is difficult to see what Fidel Castro could have done to top all his achievements. But the chutzpah of locking up 28 journalists in March when attention was fixed half a world away shows that all the newcomers still have a lot to learn from the old masters.
Nominations were accepted from members of Australia's media and the Media Alliance. Final judging was undertaken by past Gold Walkley winners
Kate McClymont, Richard Ackland and Mark Davis.
Stay tuned over the next year to see what violators have in store for us and make your vote count in 2004!
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