Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The First Casualty of War & Peace.
Media activists based Bristol, UK working alongside Iraqis also based the city and with the support of peace campaigners - have set up what is arguably the first truly uncensored and democratic media outlet since Saddam's Ba'ath Party, with the aid of the CIA, brutalised its way into power. Their collective efforts have created 'Almuajaha.com, the Iraq Witness', a way for the people of Iraq to write and comment on their own experiences and share this information with the world at large. Al Muajaha is an open access news website based on the Indymedia technology system. For those that are unaware of the Indymedia movement (IMC), from its beginnings in the Seattle protests in 1999 the model and its underlying technology has grown to encompass every continent on the globe, where it allows anyone to post writings, news stories, comments, films and photos. So successful has it become as a democratic source of information that activists involved with it have often been on the blunt end of a states unhappy with such information freedom, most notable being the raids on the IMC Genoa centre and CIA tailing of the IMC Prague activists during the NATO 2002 summit.

Truth is a tricky thing to pin down and in times of war its virtually impossible. Years after each war, and once the patriotic shrink-wrap has been removed, the historians begin picking it apart and we start to discover the surprising and often unpalatable truths of the conflict. But with more wars on the horizon, the spectre of Depleted Uranium and the death toll from both state and private terrorism rising, we cannot wait. Finding out what really happened, who it really happened too and why - this process must begin now. Part of this means the people of Iraq need their own free media, and the activists helping with this area are showing practical mutual aid in the fullest of effects. The US is already making moves to colonise the post-Saddam media landscape; "We have every right as an occupying power to stop the broadcast of something that will incite violence," remarked Maj. Gen David Petraeus of the Army 101st Airborne Division as he assumed 'editorial control' of the only TV station in Mosul because it was showing Al-Jazeera; "Yes, what we are looking at is censorship but you can censor something that is intended to inflame passions." Iraq doesn’t have a 1st Amendment, though as journalist Greg Palast noted, maybe they could borrow the American one as they aren’t using it much these days. There are also $64 million worth of plans the first-ever 24-hour Arabic-language satellite television network - as the planners say; "The aim is to provide the Middle East's tens of millions of viewers with an alternative to their usual viewing diet of unremediated anti-American propaganda.." by replacing it with unremediated American propaganda. Yeah-ha, can’t wait till they graffitiAnn Coulter sound-bites on the 6000 year old ziggurat next to the US Marine Corps slogan; Always Faithful.

Just before Gulf War II the writer and activist and writer Arundhati Roy gave a speech to the Porto Alegre social forum where she exhorted us to; "...turn the war on Iraq into a fishbowl of the U.S. government's excesses." Media activism is part of this process, and not just of the US government, but of all governments, of all organisations who kill, destroy and oppress to maintain their privileged positions. To all those we have a message - welcome to the fishbowl, the world is watching.

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