NBC News Pulls Veteran Reporter from Gaza After His Reporting About Israeli Attack That Killed Four Children Playing on the Beach

Ayman Mohyeldin, the NBC News correspondent who personally witnessed yesterday’s killing by Israel of four Palestinian boys on a Gazan beach and who has received widespread praise for his brave and innovative coverage of the conflict, has been told by NBC executives to leave Gaza immediately. According to an NBC source upset at his treatment, the executives claimed the decision was motivated by “security concerns” as Israel prepares a ground invasion, a claim repeated to me by an NBC executive. But late yesterday, NBC sent another correspondent, Richard Engel, along with an American producer who has never been to Gaza and speaks no Arabic, into Gaza to cover the ongoing Israeli assault (both Mohyeldin and Engel speak Arabic).

Reporter wearing flak jacket following a wounded boy on a stretcher in a hospital
Ayman Mohyeldin reports from Gaza City on killing of four Palestinian boys by Israel (Photo: NBC News)

Mohyeldin is an Egyptian-American with extensive experience reporting on that region. He has covered dozens of major Middle East events in the last decade for CNN, NBC and Al Jazeera English, where his reporting on the 2008 Israeli assault on Gaza made him a star of the network. NBC aggressively pursued him to leave Al Jazeera, paying him far more than the standard salary for its on-air correspondents.

Yesterday, Mohyeldin witnessed and then reported on the brutal killing by Israeli gunboats of four young boys as they played soccer on a beach in Gaza City. He was instrumental, both in social media and on the air, in conveying to the world the visceral horror of the attack. […]

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack. Charlton wrote that “the decision to have Engel report the story for ‘Nightly’ instead of Mohyeldin angered some NBC News staffers.”

Indeed, numerous NBC employees, including some of the network’s highest-profile stars, were at first confused and then indignant over the use of Engel rather than Mohyeldin to report the story. But what they did not know, and what has not been reported until now, is that Mohyeldin was removed completely from reporting on Gaza by a top NBC executive, David Verdi, who ordered Mohyeldin to leave Gaza immediately.

Over the last two weeks, Mohyeldin’s reporting has been far more balanced and even-handed than the standard pro-Israel coverage that dominates establishment American press coverage; his reports have provided context to the conflict that is missing from most American reports and he avoids adopting Israeli government talking points as truth. As a result, neocon and “pro-Israel” websites have repeatedly attacked him as a “Hamas spokesman” and spouting “pro-Hamas rants.”

Last week, as he passed over the border from Israel, he said while reporting that “you can understand why some human rights organizations call Gaza ‘the world’s largest outdoor prison,’”; he added: “One of the major complaints and frustrations among many people is that this is a form of collective punishment. You have 1.7 million people in this territory, now being bombarded, with really no way out.”

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Read full article at: https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/17/nbc-removes-ayman-mohyeldin-gaza-coverage-witnesses-israeli-beach-killing-four-boys/

Australian Government Considers Copying U.S. Ag-Gag Laws to Turn Animal Activists into Terrorists

by Will Potter at Green is the New Red:

When Amy Meyer saw a sick cow being pushed by a bulldozer outside a slaughterhouse, she did what any of us would in this age of iPhones and Instagram – she filmed it.

HSUS Press -- Undercover at Smithfield Foods B-roll - Pigs in cages
Undercover journalist filming at Smithfield Foods industrial pork operations … ag-gag laws are not only making this type of reporting illegal, but are classifying it as a form of terrorism. (Photo credit: HSUS)

Meyer, 25, knew it was not only cruel, it was a public safety risk.

Similar video footage had resulted in the largest meat recall in US history, when it was revealed that cows too sick to walk were being fed to school children as part of the national school lunch program.

Instead of being praised for exposing this, Meyer was prosecuted.

Even though she stood on public property, she was charged with violating a new law in Utah that makes it illegal to photograph or videotape factory farms and slaughterhouses.

This was the first prosecution of its kind in the United States, but if the agriculture industry has its way, it won’t be the last.

“Ag-gag” laws have spread rapidly, and today half a dozen states have made it illegal to film factory farms.

Now, the agriculture industry wants to bring ag-gag to Australia.

This legislation is a direct response to undercover investigations by animal welfare groups, which have exposed horrific animal cruelty.

For example, in Idaho this year, an undercover investigator with Mercy For Animals exposed workers beating, kicking and sexually abusing cows at Bettencourt dairy.

In response, the dairy industry supported SB 1337, an ag-gag bill that prohibits any “audio or video recording” at a farm facility.

It punishes those who expose animal abuse more harshly than those who commit the violence. The bill passed into law just weeks ago.

Time and again, wherever undercover investigators expose cruelty, the industry fights back with attempts to keep consumers in the dark.

Why? Because when people see the reality of factory farming, they demand change. For instance, one of the nation’s largest egg producers testified during an ag-gag hearing that, after an undercover video was posted online, 50 businesses quickly called and stopped buying their eggs.

And, according to the first study of its kind, published in the Journal of Agricultural Economics, when animal welfare issues are reported in the news, consumers respond by eating less meat.

Factory farmers have been so desperate to silence their critics that they have even called investigators “terrorists”.

Senator David Hinkins, the sponsor of Utah’s ag-gag bill, said it was needed to stop “terrorists” such as “the vegetarian people” who “are trying to kill the animal industry”.

This terrorism rhetoric has worked its way to the top levels of government.

FBI files have revealed that the government has even considered prosecuting those who film animal cruelty as “terrorists”.

Now, this is spreading to Australia.

New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson has said undercover investigators are “akin to terrorists”.

West Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back, and a number Australian federal politicians, have voiced support for US-style ag-gag laws.

Ag-gag is coming to Australia because animal advocates have been incredibly effective.

There is a long history of open rescues and undercover investigations here, and activists such as Patty Mark and Animal Liberation Victoria are known internationally for their pioneering work.

Meanwhile, national media exposes such as Four Corners’ “A Bloody Business” have outraged the public and created a national dialogue about live exports.

Australians have an opportunity that we lacked in the United States: you can stop these dangerous proposals before they ever become law.

If there is one thing I have learnt in my reporting on ag-gag laws, it is the power of an informed public to create change.

Amy Meyer stands as an example of that power. Just 24 hours after I broke the story of her prosecution, it had created such an uproar that prosecutors announced they were simply dropping all charges.

Meyer had never intended to face prosecution, or to lead by example, but she rose to the occasion. Australia has the power to do the same.

Fortresses of Solitude: Journalists Barred from Prison Isolation Units

Via Solitary Watch:

Cell doors in ADX FlorenceSupermax prisons and solitary confinement units are our domestic black sites—hidden places where human beings endure unspeakable punishments, without benefit of due process in any court of law. On the say-so of corrections officials, American prisoners can be placed in conditions of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation for months, years, or even decades.

At least 80,000 men, women, and children live in such conditions on any given day in the United States. And they are not merely separated from others for safety reasons. They are effectively buried alive. Most live in concrete cells the size of an average parking space, often windowless, cut off from all communication by solid steel doors. If they are lucky, they will be allowed out for an hour a day to shower or to exercise alone in cages resembling dog runs.

Most have never committed a violent act in prison. They are locked down because they’ve been classified as “high risk,” or because of nonviolent misbehavior—anything from mouthing off or testing positive for marijuana to exhibiting the symptoms of untreated mental illness.

A recent lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners in ADX, the federal supermax in Florence, CO, described how humans respond to such isolation over the long-term. Some “interminably wail, scream, and bang on the walls of their cells” or carry on “delusional conversations with voices they hear in their heads.” Some “mutilate their bodies with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, and writing utensils” or “swallow razor blades, nail clippers, parts of radios and televisions, broken glass, and other dangerous objects.” Still others “spread feces and other human waste and body fluids throughout their cells [and] throw it at the correctional staff.” While less than 5 percent of US prisoners nationwide are held in solitary, close to 50 percent of all prison suicides take place there.

After three years of reporting on solitary confinement for Solitary Watch, a website I co-founded, I’m convinced that much of what happens in these places constitutes torture. How is it possible that a human-rights crisis of this magnitude can carry on year after year, with impunity?

I believe part of the answer has to do with how effectively the nature of these sites have been hidden from the press and, by extension, the public. With few exceptions, solitary confinement cells have been kept firmly off-limits to journalists—with the approval of the federal courts, who defer to corrections officials’ purported need to maintain “safety and security.” If the First Amendment ever manages to make it past the prison gates at all, it is stopped short at the door to the isolation unit.

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Read full article at: http://solitarywatch.com/2013/03/05/fortresses-of-solitude-journalists-barred-from-prison-isolation-units/