When governments can decide what journalists say, we should all be worried

Original article by Peter Geoghegan republished from openDemcracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

OPINION: UK National Security Bill is latest in long line of cynical attempts to maintain secrecy and stifle journalism

Journalism, as George Orwell famously said, is “printing what someone else does not want printed”.

But what happens if the someone who doesn’t want your story printed also has the power to put you in prison?

That sounds like the kind of question journalists in places like Iran or North Korea might have to contend with. But it’s a dilemma someone like me, living and working in the UK, could be asking soon, too.

The National Security Bill currently going through Westminster contains a clause saying that “providing” information that may “materially assist a foreign intelligence service” can be punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Here at openDemocracy we pride ourselves on publishing stories that the government and others in power would much rather never see the light of day.

We’ve revealed how the Treasury helped Putin’s sanctioned warlord to sue a British journalist in London, how Russian oligarchs have bankrolled the Conservatives, how dark money flows into British politics and more.

Investigative journalists like us at openDemocracy often receive sensitive information. Could our reporting be used by foreign powers to embarrass the British government?

The honest answer is ‘yes’. But does saving our government’s blushes mean the public shouldn’t know that the British army was aware of the dangers of ‘Snatch Land Rovers’, associated with the deaths of over 34 British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or how the UK’s corporate secrecy vehicles are used to hide oligarchs’ ill-gotten gains?

Crucially, Sharpe’s promise that journalists won’t get caught in the security bill’s dragnet will not be enshrined in law

In recent days, Rishi Sunak’s ministers have made some minor amendments to the National Security Bill in the face of organised opposition by openDemocracy and other media outlets. (A huge thank you to the more than 8,000 oD readers who sent emails to their MPs demanding changes to the bill.)

The government has been at pains to say we shouldn’t be worried. In the Lords this week, one minister, Andrew Sharpe, said that it is “almost inconceivable that genuine journalism will be caught within the threshold for criminal activity”.

But it’s the “almost” that should worry all of us.

The National Security Bill replaces older secrecy legislation, and is supposed to counter the activity of hostile foreign powers in the UK. But the bill’s provisions are so wide-ranging that it is not hard to see how journalists – and whistleblowers – could be caught by it.

Crucially, Sharpe’s promise that journalists won’t get caught in the security bill’s dragnet will not be enshrined in law.

Why can’t we just trust our leaders when they say that hacks like us have nothing to worry about?

Well, their track record isn’t good. This is a government that ran an Orwellian ‘Clearing House’ that vetted Freedom of Information requests from journalists and others. When we revealed what was happening, Michael Gove, the minister in charge, smeared us and our journalism.

The Clearing House has now been closed down, but journalism is still under threat.

London’s libel courts are still being used by the world’s rich and powerful to silence public criticism. Last year, Dominic Raab pledged to legislate to end so-called “strategic litigation against public participation” cases, or SLAPPs.

But Raab’s rhetoric has not turned into reality. openDemocracy is currently subject to a SLAPP case, as are many of our journalistic allies.

Rishi Sunak has allotted no parliamentary time for anti-Slapp legislation – which means it’s very unlikely to happen. Should we be surprised when one of Sunak’s own appointments, former chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, issued legal threats against journalists and campaigners who asked questions about his tax affairs?

Sunak and his ministers are fond of saying how much they care about free speech and the freedom of the press. But when the government gets to decide what information journalists can – and can’t – report, we should all be worried.

Original article by Peter Geoghegan republished from openDemcracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingWhen governments can decide what journalists say, we should all be worried

Because ‘Publishing Is Not a Crime,’ Major Newspapers Push US to Drop Assange Charges

Original article from Common Dreams republished under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” The Guardian, The New York Times, and other media outlets warned.

JAKE JOHNSONNovember 28, 2022

The five major media outlets that collaborated with WikiLeaks in 2010 to publish explosive stories based on confidential diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department sent a letter Monday calling on the Biden administration to drop all charges against Julian Assange, who has been languishing in a high-security London prison for more than three years in connection with his publication of classified documents.

“Twelve years after the publication of ‘Cablegate,’ it is time for the U.S. government to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets,” reads the letter signed by the editors and publishers of The New York TimesThe GuardianLe MondeDer Spiegel, and El País. “Publishing is not a crime.”

The letter comes as Assange, the founder and publisher of WikiLeaks, is fighting the U.S. government’s attempt to extradite him to face charges of violating the draconian Espionage Act of 1917. If found guilty on all counts, Assange would face a prison sentence of up to 175 years for publishing classified information—a common journalistic practice.

Press freedom organizations have vocally warned that Assange’s prosecution would pose a threat to journalists the world over, a message that the five newspapers echoed in their letter Monday.

“This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press,” the letter reads. “Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

The “Cablegate” leak consisted of more than 250,000 confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that offered what the Times characterized as “an unprecedented look at back-room bargaining by embassies around the world.”

Among other revelations, the documents confirmed that the U.S. carried out a 2009 airstrike in Yemen that killed dozens of civilians. Cables released by WikiLeaks showed that then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh assured U.S. Central Command Gen. David Petraeus that the Yemeni government would “continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.”

The media outlets’ letter notes that “the Obama-Biden administration, in office during the WikiLeaks publication in 2010, refrained from indicting Assange, explaining that they would have had to indict journalists from major news outlets too.”

“Their position placed a premium on press freedom, despite its uncomfortable consequences,” the letter continues. “Under Donald Trump, however, the position changed. The [Department of Justice] relied on an old law, the Espionage Act of 1917 (designed to prosecute potential spies during World War One), which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.”

Despite dire warnings from rights groups, the Biden administration has decided to continue pursuing Assange’s extradition and prosecution.

In June, the United Kingdom formally approved the U.S. extradition request even after a judge warned extradition would threaten Assange’s life.

Assange’s legal team filed an appeal in August, alleging that the WikiLeaks founder is “being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions.”

Original article from Common Dreams republished under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Additional video is a little dated: Jun 17, 2022 and refers to former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Continue ReadingBecause ‘Publishing Is Not a Crime,’ Major Newspapers Push US to Drop Assange Charges


(Reuters) – An Apple Inc shareholder proposal critical of the company’s app removals in China received a relatively high level of support at the iPhone maker’s annual meeting on Wednesday, enough to push the company to respond, experts said.

The proposal, which called for Apple to report whether it has “publicly committed to respect freedom of expression as a human right,” was defeated, but 40.6% of votes cast supported the measure, according to company figures.

The proposal highlighted Apple’s 2017 removal https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-apple-vpn/apple-says-it-is-removing-vpn-services-from-china-app-store-idUSKBN1AE0BQ of virtual private network apps from its App Store in China. Such apps allow users to bypass China’s so-called Great Firewall aimed at restricting access to overseas sites, and Apple’s action was seen as a step to preserve access to the country’s vast market.

Wednesday’s vote stood in contrast to previous years when critics made little headway with big investors on the issue.

Continue Reading

More Great White Sharks

because they are so beautiful && pisses them off so much

Error Great-White-Shark-1a Sorry, this file type is not permitted for security reasons.
It’s an image of a Great White Shark with it’s mouth open. I want to show it to you but it’s censored. You are not permitted to see a photo of an open-mouthed Great White Shark. I’ll try again.

123_1Great_White_Shark_Perfect_Proportion Great White Shark1 413_1teeth_shadow_great_white_shark great-white-shark-picture great-white-up-close_6455_600x450b great_white_shark_wallpaper-normal5.4


1/3/14: shark ‘right’ ;)

Continue ReadingMore Great White Sharks

UK politics news

A selection of recent UK and international news articles

Continue ReadingUK politics news

Yet more internet censorship from Cameron and the LibDems

David Cameron and UK’s ConDem coalition government return to the issue of web censorship with an announcement that the UK government is to order ISPs to censor ‘extremist’ websites.

The crime and security minister, James Brokenshire, said on Wednesday that measures for censoring extremist content would be announced shortly. The initiative is likely to be controversial, with broadband companies already warning that freedom of speech could be compromised.

Ministers are understood to want to follow the model used to crack down on online child abuse. The Internet Watch Foundation, which is partly industry-funded, investigates reports of illegal child abuse images online; it can then ask service providers to block or take down websites.

David Cameron has previously announced the censorship of internet search engines. This latest announcement represents a second tier of censorship at the point of internet access.

It is expected that David Cameron’s UK ConDem coalition government will censor such extremist sites as the Guardian newspaper that has published seditious material sourced by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the wikileaks site.

Guardian: NSA files live

Continue ReadingYet more internet censorship from Cameron and the LibDems

Continuing analysis of David Cameron’s web censorship

David Cameron spoke on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour at 4p.m. today. I didn’t listen to it although it will be on iplayer later. I’m commenting on this article instead.

Cameron’s comments are more nuanced e.g. not confusing Tor’s “dark net” and peer-to-peer, and have advanced from earlier this week. While the original announcements on Monday were about preventing access to illegal, child pornography Cameron is now talking of preventing children “stumbling across hardcore legal pornography”. So which is it? Wasn’t it 100,000 “unambiguous” search terms which lead to illegal content? Now it’s about children happening across legal hardcore porn? It’s not the same.

Cameron disagreed with the former head of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop), Jim Gamble who said this would not have a big impact as paedophiles did not use search websites to find these images, but instead go to the “dark corners of the internet on peer-to-peer websites”.

This part is alarming: Mr Cameron said GCHQ were helping the National Crime Agency (NCA) to find people who use the “dark net” – stand-alone networks that sit separate to the web but are accessible to those that run the right software.

The problem is that it’s not illegal to use Tor and it has legitimate uses for political activists and dissidents and to evade censorship in oppressive regimes (as Cameron is intending for UK?). I use Tor and – as I have said before – I run a Tor relay.

Being a Tor user is most definitely not the same as being a paedophile accessing child pornography – so why target Tor users? I personally don’t use it as much as I used to – what does it matter if Cameron, Clegg, Miliband et al have half an hour’s notice of what to expect? This blog is pretty predictable unless I’ve got an exclusive. I’ll use it if I’m researching something sensitive or to access Pirate Bay which is blocked by court order in UK. The majority of internet traffic is peer-to-peer, probably sharing copyrighted material. So what?

“One of the things that came out of the meeting that gave me hope was that actually when people talk about these sites on the dark web where people are sharing revolting images, one of the experts said it’s not totally dissimilar to people downloading movies and music.”

I think that Cameron is responding to my criticism that Tor is not peer-to-peer. It is exactly like downloading movies and movie clips from a normal webserver. The only practical difference is that it takes longer.

“I’ve talked to parents who’ve had very direct experience of this happening, where the children were looking for something totally legitimate but ended up with, you know, some pretty horrible things in front of them …” I honestly don’t think that this happens.

Cameron is welcome to check things with me first … I won’t charge much. I’m sure that he knows many people that have my email address …

Continue ReadingContinuing analysis of David Cameron’s web censorship

Con-Dem David Cameron’s censorship and attack on human rights

Original graphic published at www.reachinglight.com.

Infographic: UK Filter to Block ‘Esoteric Content’ - Worldwide Implications

Hmm, esoteric content? web forums? This is a huge attack on free thinking and any type of organisation or collaborative endeavour. It will probably include geeky tech and alternative politics.

What will the web be like without conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists?

This post subject to change

Continue ReadingCon-Dem David Cameron’s censorship and attack on human rights

Politics news allsorts

A few links to UK political news stories accompanied by a few comments.

Inventor of the world wide web Tim Berners-Lee warns that … “a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy.”

“Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online.”

There’s a good account of Labour party / Unite / selection / membership troubles in Falkirk here. Looks like all sides are calling on Labour’s inquiry to be published.

Bankers’ clients make millions from dirt-cheap taxpayer-robbing sale of Royal Mail.

Paul Flowers: police arrest former Co-Op Bank chairman in drug inquiry

Image of Former Co-Op Bank Chairman Paul Flowers West Yorkshire police said a man aged 63 had been arrested on Thursday night in the Merseyside area in connection with an ongoing drugs supply investigation.

“He has been taken to a police station in West Yorkshire where detectives will continue their inquiries,” the force announced.

The escalating controversy surrounding Flowers after a video allegedly showed him handing over money for cocaine has prompted turmoil in the Co-operative Group and prompted its overall chairman, Len Wardle, to announce he will retire early from the job.

Allegations have emerged during the week, including claims surrounding Flowers’s resignation from Bradford council after pornography was found on his work laptop. Flowers is a Methodist minister and has been suspended by the church.

Conservatives are targeting Labour, which has a close relationship with the Co-op, claiming that senior party figures must have known of Flowers’s chequered past. Flowers was a Labour member and has been suspended since the allegations against him came to light, as well as being suspended from his role as a minister in the Methodist church.

Former Co-operative Bank Chairman Paul Flowers was a Methodist minister, took shovel-fulls of drugs, resigned as a councillor after gay porn was found on his official laptop and had gay orgies with expensive young rent-boys. Quite a colorful character.

Prime Minister David Cameron is trying to profit politically from the revelations about Paul Flowers because the Co-operative Group supports the Labour Party and sponsors Labour MPs and the Co-operative Bank makes ‘soft’ loans to the Labour Party.

Countless – five or six – inquiries have been initiated into the appointment of Paul Flowers and the running of the Co-op bank. A rescue deal to save the Co-op Bank by getting finance from nasty US hedge funds is intended. [24/11/13 http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2013/11/three-reasons-for-the-conservatives-to-be-careful-with-their-co-op-campaigning.html “Indeed, there are now no fewer than seven inquiries under way into aspects of the Co-op’s woes …”]

There is no need for these inquiries because I know how Paul Flowers was appointed Chairman of the Co-op bank after ten minutes online research. He rose through the active membership side of the Co-op and was appointed as a titular Chairman on condition that two able Vice-Chairmen were also appointed.

Paul Flowers is linked to dead paedo Cyril Smith. Money, drugs, religion, expensive young rent-boys … I want to know what contacts he had with Tony Blair.

Continue ReadingPolitics news allsorts

David Cameron consorts with tax-dodgers to censor the web

Image of Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher
Jimmy Savile and Margaret Thatcher

It is announced today that Downing Street is to work with massive search engine tax-dodgers Google to hugely censor the web. Under the guise of attempting to frustrate paedophiles, Downing St and Google intend to censor 100,000 search terms.

Cameron and the UK government are simply hugely censoring the internet. This measure will not affect paedophiles since they don’t use Google to search for paedophile material. Instead it will frustrate users legally searching for legitimate materials. It is quite simply huge censorship of the web. It will actually – and is quite possibly intended to – have the opposite effect of assisting internet paedophiles by posing difficulties to independent researchers.

It is a mistake to think that the internet is not already hugely censored. Do you think that search engines do not already censor paedophile and alternative political materials? This blog is hugely censored for political reasons: you won’t find this blog in a school or library. Try searching for some terms from this blog like “war of bullshit”. [Just realised that it works on Google]

There are not 100,000 paedophile search terms and paedophiles don’t use Google anyway. How can this be anything except a huge exercise in censorship?

We have already seen that UK Conservatives want to censor the web. Their lobbying bill is a huge attack on democracy attempting to neuter charities and unions. They are simply trying to take out their opposition in a very evil way totally opposed to democracy, freedom and liberty.

If it is accepted that there simply is not 100,000 search terms related to paedophilia then what is going to be censored? There are elite paedophile rings protected by the UK authorities. Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith were protected by UK authorities. I know of one paedo who was close to Tony Blair who is protected by UK authorities. When you censor the web, you are protecting these paedos.

8.30pm 18/11/13


Jim Gamble, former Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) chief executive, said that while Mr Cameron’s influence has “accelerated” the process of getting the search engines to ban 100,000 search terms.

However he said it was the peer-to-peer networks that need to be targeted if the Government wants to track down paedophiles.

He said: “Very few paedophiles in my experience use Google.”

“At the end of the day a pop up message is not going to inform, educated or scare a paedophile they know what they do is wrong, that’s why they are secretive about it that’s why they hide in the peer to peer of the dark web where they cant be found.”

  1. Confirmation that paedos do not use Google as I stated earlier in this post.
  2. There is a confused use of terms. The dark web is a reference to Tor, which is not a peer-to-peer network (like BitTorrent).
  3. The paedos are using Tor not peer-to-peer.

[19/11/13 This story seems to have died very suddenly – there are only a few mentions today of yesterday’s events.


… Cameron claimed the search queries targeted, which were drawn up by child protection experts, were “unambiguous,” but that seems quite frankly impossible. There are reportedly as many as 100,000 terms on the list—for comparison, the second edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains 231,100 entries. There seems a real risk, then, of the algorithm overreaching and preventing web users from accessing perfectly legal content. …

[like (conservative or tory or lord or rich or falconer or blair) and (paedo or paedophile or nonce),

“straw rendition torture”,

“dodgy dossier”,

“misled parliament”,

“public inquiry”,

“conservative broken promises”,

etc. ]

Join the IWF to see child porn. This achieves nothing – police and intelligence services already have access.

[20/11/13 To clarify this.

Tor works by routing encrypted requests through a circuit of relays. The circuits change often. The Tor exit node is at the other end to the user and is unencrypted to the requested resource (on the open web, not if the target resource is on a Tor hidden service e.g. illegal paedo porn). The Tor user cannot be identified unless she has made a mistake e.g. identifying herself through an email address or has been infected as Anonymous did.

The confusion that spooks, ex-spooks, prime ministers and news reporters are showing between the Tor anonymity network and peer-to-peer networks is due to two issues.

  1. Prime Ministers and news reporters don’t understand it and are following the lead of spooks, ex-spooks and spooky advisors, and
  2. At the network level i.e. where spooks are intercepting traffic, they can’t distinguish Tor from peer-to-peer traffic so to them it is the same. {Later edit: 2 is based on intuition. It should not be taken as a statement of fact or knowledge.} ]

Confusion between Tor and peer-to-peer continues. Pursuing peer-to-peer seems a wasted effort.


The Internet Watch Foundation does not at the moment pursue images and videos on so-called peer-to-peer networks because it lacks permission from the Home Office. But it was announced on Monday that the watchdog would begin a six-month pilot scheme in collaboration with Google, Microsoft and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection agency (Ceop), so that IWF can develop procedures to identify and blacklist links to child abuse material on P2P services.

Independent: Search engines take on child abuse: The ‘massive breakthrough’ where little has changed

This post subject to change.

Continue ReadingDavid Cameron consorts with tax-dodgers to censor the web