My previous blog dealt with the problems faced by the Main Stream Media (MSM) in America. Similar problems are evident in New Zealand – but on a far smaller scale.
In a small country such as New Zealand, it is a real struggle for an independent media organisation to survive – and, with the notable and honourable exception of Allied Press https://www.alliedpress.co.nz/ (which owns the Otago Daily Times and some other South Island media outlets) hardly any of the print media have outside the blogosphere.
It is an even greater struggle to pay for investigative journalism, or to send honest reporters to overseas trouble spots. I quote from ‘The Daily Blog’
“As of 2011 there were four major commercial players in the New Zealand media market: APN News & Media, Fairfax Media, MediaWorks and News Corporation/Sky. In other words, four companies, all overseas owned, predominated. There was a near duopoly in print and radio, a monopoly in pay television and only three significant competitors in free-to-air television, including the state-owned channels” – See more at: https://thedailyblog.co.nz/2013/12/05/who-owns-nz-media/#sthash.m51xXqMD.dpuf
The consequence of the above situation is that virtually all information and commentary about overseas events received by the average New Zealander, comes through foreign filters.
I had immigrated to New Zealand in 1985 and was living a quiet life as a business and family man with my political antennae in mothballs – until Bush & Blair’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Having had considerable experience of the Middle East and more than a passing acquaintance with Iraq, I knew that all the reasons and justifications for going to war, so ardently being advocated in the American and British media, gave a view of reality that was totally fabricated. In fact it was so false that the claims and reports would appear to have been deliberately planted by an agency with a determination to monger an unjustifiable and illegal war.
Given the overseas ownership of the NZ media, these falsehoods were being siphoned, unfiltered, into the minds of New Zealand voters. Helen Clark’s government deserves full credit for having resisted the siren call to battle that was emanating from what our present Prime Minister terms “our natural allies” (and whose current false arguments and blandishments for yet another Iraqi war, he and his cabinet colleagues seem spectacularly unable to resist.)
The trigger that ended my complacent enjoyment of the good life in this sweet country was pulled on the 21st December 2003. That day, I bought a copy of the Sunday Star Times. As usual I turned immediately to the ‘World’ section. What I read aroused an acute anxiety about the New Zealand media and the jeopardy in which the alienation of its ownership was placing my adopted country. On that day, with Mr Bush triumphantly accomplishing his mission in Bagdad and his forces desperately searching for the non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the Fairfax flagship paper contained only one article of foreign news. This occupied the whole of the front page of the ‘World’ section of the paper.
Having read the article, I immediately wrote a protest (as dug out from my files, below.) Unsurprisingly, it was neither published nor acknowledged. Having worked in military intelligence in the Middle East, I was perhaps less open to being duped by these deliberate lies, than would have been most of those who read it.
Eating Yellow Cake.
Conrad Black, who still owns Britain’s Daily Telegraph despite recently being forced to step down as its Chairman, appears to be having a last fling before being forced to relinquish all control. Conrad also owns the Jerusalem Post, The Chicago Sun and until 1998, a substantial stake in Australia’s Fairfax Corporation. Conrad’s political views are actively pro-Semite (of the Jewish rather than Arab variety,) and conservative in a neo- sort of way. Margaret Thatcher’s bon mot on the subject was “I like Conrad Black because he is the only person I have ever met who makes me feel positively ‘wet’.”
Black’s Daily Telegraph published on the 14th December, details of a letter connecting Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda. The letter has been reported around the World, but not as extensively as might have been anticipated. In New Zealand, it was published in the Sunday Star Times on the 21st December on a full page, with accompanying dramatic photos of collapsing twin towers. “Document links al Qaeda to Saddam’s Spies.”
The letter is allegedly a personal memo to Saddam Hussein from Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Takriti, at the time serving as head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and currently still on the run.
The first item in the memo details how Mohammed Atta, leader of the al Qaeda team that destroyed the twin towers, received training at an ISS supervised, Palestinian-run training centre in Baghdad and showed “…a firm commitment to lead the team which will be responsible for attacking the targets that we have agreed to destroy.”
The second item in the memo was a reference to a secret shipment that “a small team from the al Qaeda organization” had assisted the IIS in obtaining from Niger via Libya through the good offices of the Syrian President, “the fruit of your excellent secret meeting with Bashir al Assad on the Iraqi-Syrian border.” The only secret shipment that could possibly come out of Niger in this context would be yellow cake (uranium ore.) The origin of this document is a secret that the member of the Iraqi Governing Council who handed it to the Telegraph refused to reveal.
This is a dream document linking all Israel’s enemies (except Iran,) to both Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction and the destruction of the Twin Towers. It is the ultimate Christmas gift of a smoking gun for the American White House to present to the sceptical court of World opinion.
Of course before anyone would go to print with this stuff, they would have to satisfy themselves that it was authentic – especially so if they were working to the Fairfax mission statement.
“Latest announcements from
John Fairfax Holdings Limited
ACN 008 663 161
6. We are decisive, having regard to facts and rigorous analysis.
Serving its communities
1. Through high quality, independent journalism
2. We strive to be respected for quality in our journalism, which is based on truth, accuracy, integrity, fairness and balance.”
Given their corporate mission statement, here are some of the questions that it must be assumed the editorial staff of the Sunday Star Times will have answered to their own satisfaction – even if they haven’t yet shared the answers with their readership:-
• Why would the Niger shipment and Mohd Atta be mentioned in the same document? If they were both IIS operations, they would have been totally unrelated to each other. Intelligence services keep separate operations in separate leak-proof boxes.
• What sort of training would Atta require from Palestinians in Baghdad? We know it wasn’t flight training?
• How did Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, mortal ideological enemies, come to have such mutual confidence that they would exchange information that could prove fatal were it to get into a third party’s hands?
• How would the destruction of the Twin Towers further Saddam’s interests? What possible objective could justify the risk involved?
• Why was Syrian or Libyan intervention required? The Syrian Baath party and the Iraqi Baath party are such notorious enemies that the Syrians even sent troops to fight against Iraq in Gulf War I. When Bashir al Assad ascended to power in 1999 he visited Kuwait and famously referred to Saddam as “a beast.” The more parties involved: the greater the risk of exposure: the less trust there is between them: the greater the risk of exposure.
• Given that there are no recorded public meetings of Saddam and the Syrian leader since the latter came to power, why did Saddam need to be told by his head of intelligence that, a.) Saddam’s meeting with Assad was “excellent,” b.) that it was “secret” and c.) the location at which it had taken place?
• The evidence of an attempt by Saddam Hussein to obtain yellow cake from Niger, originally cited by the British and American administrations as an excuse for war, has been clearly demonstrated to be an elaborate fraud. There were many errors in the documentation including the signature on Niger Government documents of an official who had long departed its service. If fraud was required to prove the event on the last occasion, why should it now no longer be necessary?
• The big question is, who forged the original set of Niger government documents? Was it someone trying to convince a Western government to take action against Iraq or was it a Western Government trying to convince someone else, such as potential allies, or its own electorate, that it was justified in taking action against Iraq? The answer to this question might give a better insight into the origin of this new and fortuitous letter.
• The final question journalists should be asking, is why are the two Western governments, who were the apparent targets of the original Niger yellow cake fraud, apparently at no pains to discover or (if they already know it) reveal the origin of the document in question?
Though the Daily Telegraph has considerably improved its act since Conrad Black’s departure, to this day, Fairfax continues to accept its overseas news almost exclusively in the form of syndicated articles from the same potentially dishonest media sources. In doing so, it provides a wick into New Zealand’s foreign policy decision-making for other nations’ foreign policy agendas. These are not necessarily developed with New Zealand’s advantage in mind.
The problem of the elements of untreated foreign news garbage that the New Zealand media is feeding its readers (who include the political leaders, whose decisions cannot help but be influenced by it) continues. It is summed up in a letter I wrote two years ago, to the editors of New Zealand’s two leading Fairfax papers, The Dominion and the Christchurch Press. Here is a copy of the letter to the Dominion: the letter to The Press was almost identical (as were the syndicated news articles it published):
The Dominion Post
Last Saturday, I bought a copy of the Dominion Post. Of the eleven articles in the “World” section, none were written by New Zealanders. None attempted to present the world from a New Zealand standpoint.
Eight of these articles were syndicated from Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London. Murdoch was recently deemed by a UK Parliamentary Committee “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.”
Murdoch also controls Fox News in the USA, a media outlet notorious for its biased reporting and for its support for America’s illegal invasion of Iraq.
In the same vein, your two lead articles this Saturday appeared to have been written with a view to softening the public to accept the need for military intervention in Syria.
No serious questions were asked, or information given, as to what exactly is going on in Syria; who is providing arms and mercenaries to whom and whether or not the recent massacre in Houla was a false-flag operation conducted by one of the rebel factions.
There are New Zealanders, who could provide more relevant and better informed reportage on Middle Eastern and other global affairs. Why cannot we hear their voices?
Yours faithfully, etc.
My letter was neither published nor acknowledged.
Just to check if anything has changed at Fairfax in the interim, I bought a copy of Fairfax’s Weekend Press dated 28/Feb/15. Since my letter of June 2012, the quality of their reporting on foreign affairs appears if anything, to have further deteriorated. In their “World” section there were a total of nine articles. One of these was syndicated from the UK Daily Telegraph and eight from Rupert Murdoch’s Times of London. New Zealanders’ awareness of overseas events is being quietly tilted towards a foreign policy agenda that is most unlikely to coincide with our national interest.
What is also worrying, given the Fairfax operation’s centre of gravity, is that for every bit of bias Fairfax feeds into the minds of the New Zealand public, even more will be being fed to the Australian public.
Now here is some good news for New Zealanders – an opportunity to support and help develop a truly independent New Zealand centric, media outlet. Our democracy will be the poorer if this opportunity is missed.