LONDON’S ‘MEDIA FREEDOM’ CONFERENCE SMACKS OF IRONY: CRITICS BARRED, NO MENTION OF JAILED ASSANGE

In Gaza

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Kirill Vyshinsky: Imprisoned over 1 year in Ukraine, a journalist who *should* have been highlighted at the “Media Freedom” conference but was not.

July 15, 2019, RT.com
Irony is the word which comes to mind at the mention of the “Global Conference for Media Freedom” co-hosted by the UK and Canadian foreign ministers. Everything about this twilight zone gathering smacked of irony.

Irony that governments which support terrorists in Syria and whitewash Israeli murders of Palestinian journalists have the gall to hold a conference feigning concern for journalists’ rights and media freedom.

Irony that journalists actually suffering persecution and unjust imprisonment –like Kirill Vyshinsky and Julian Assange – were not the focus of the conference, with Assange only mentioned in passing, and Vyshinsky, presumably, not at all.

Irony most of all that a conference — according to Global Affairs Canada, an “international campaign to shine a global spotlight on media freedom…”– refused participation of two major and sought-out media outlets, both Russian: RT and Sputnik.

Organizers apparently tried to claim the reason for the exclusion was simply that they’d met their quota of journalists attending. But they didn’t maintain the lie to Western media, RT London correspondent Polly Boiko noted:

Behind our backs other news channels got a very different message: ‘We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation.’”

Former Guardian Chief Foreign Correspondent Jonathan Steele called the exclusion of RT and Sputnik a “disgrace”, also stating:

I think they’re trying to isolate RT and imply that it’s not a genuine broadcaster in the hope that British people and others around the world who watched RT International won’t continue to watch it.

The irony –yet again– is that Russia isn’t doing the same, isn’t isolating Western media.

Russia-based journalist Bryan MacDonald tweeted:

It’s like the world has turned on its head. Moscow is literally paying people to translate Western media into Russian (see @RT_InoTV). But the UK is in a panic about Russian outlets, even running covert operations, such as “Integrity Initiative,” to “combat” a perceived threat.”

Even the Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern at the UK’s exclusion of RT and Sputnik.

From the feedback on the UK Foreign Office tweet featuring CNN’s Christiane Amanpour about

reporting the truth”, it was refreshing to see that many saw this charade for what it was, calling it Orwellian, and noting that Britain is “torturing journalist Julian Assange as it uses @CAmanpour to produce propaganda claiming it cares about media freedom.

I couldn’t help chiming in, noting Amanpour’s exploitation of a Syrian child in order to demonize Russia.

Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

Theatre of the absurd. Truthful? Amanpour waved photo of Omran Daqneesh in face of Lavrov & essentially accused Russia of airstriking boy’s home. Boy’s dad told me no airstrike. It was fake news. https://www.mintpressnews.com/mintpress-meets-father-iconic-aleppo-boy-says-media-lied-son/228722/ 
Did Amanpour bother apologizing for her propaganda? Nope. https://twitter.com/foreignoffice/status/1148864435194347520 

MintPress Meets The Father Of Iconic Aleppo Boy, Who Says Media Lied About His Son

MintPress sat down with the father of the now-infamous Aleppo boy, Omran Daqneesh. Omran’s father, Mohammad Daqneesh, says his son was exploited by Syrian rebels and the media for political gain.,…

mintpressnews.com

Foreign Office 🇬🇧

@foreignoffice

‘Our job is to report the truth. It is not to be neutral, it is to be truthful’ @camanpour explains the vital role that journalists play in society. #DefendMediaFreedom

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The UK conference isn’t the first example of an international event hosting regime-change media while excluding critical media.

Earlier this year, when the Lima Group was meeting in Canada to discuss the self-proclaimed non-president, Juan Guaido, Canada likewise denied accreditation to Telesur and Russian media.

Global Affairs Canada alleged at the time there would be “reciprocal action against Canadian media in Russia.

However, Bryan MacDonald told me: “Any that wish can operate in Russia. There are no restrictions.”

Indeed, a perusal of the Twitter accounts of CBC and Radio Canada journalists shows they’ve continued reporting from Russia months since Canada’s allegation of reciprocal action.

Which outlets did Canada give access to during the Lima meeting? CNN, Univision, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, CBC, CTV, Global, and La Presse, among other regime-change networks.

Telesur noted at the time of the Canadian block:

The government did not provide any reasoning for the denial of Lima Group meeting access, but has recently been called out for limiting press freedom within the country based on the preferences of its government.

Sound familiar?

A regime change conference

The UK conference seems to have been a who’s who of terrorist and extremist supporters and journalists who whitewash their crimes. Or, as a Canadian journalist who attended put it, the conference was:

Meetings behind closed doors. Barring certain people from a press conference. Letting only hand-picked journalists ask questions. Here’s how Canada’s “media freedom” conference went down.

Andrew Lawton

@AndrewLawton

Meetings behind closed doors. Barring certain people from a press conference. Letting only hand-picked journalists ask questions. Here’s how Canada’s “media freedom” conference went down. https://tnc.news/2019/07/11/lawton-media-freedom-conference-pays-lip-service-to-press-freedom/ 

LAWTON: Media freedom conference pays lip service to press freedom – True North News

Canadian and British governments demonstrated they’re more interested in a glossy show of support for press freedom without conducting themselves in a way that fosters it.

tnc.news

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That same journalist noted,
only two pre-selected Canadian journalists were permitted to ask questions of Freeland and Hunt at a brief media availability on the first day of the conference. Media were not allowed in the room for what may have been the most consequential part of the conference, a session with government representatives from around the world on “how to sustain the impact of the (Defend Media Freedom) campaign after the conference.

Present were the BBC, CNN, and CBC, among others. Although these outlets have all systematically churned out disinformation on Syria and Russia, they were presented as truthful authorities on ‘media freedom.’

The BBC dubs itself “the most trusted international news broadcaster.” This lofty claim is easily debunked when looking at the BBC’s history of war propaganda on Syria, including its 2013, “Saving Syria’s Children”, a report which Robert Stuart has doggedly investigated, revealing its falsehoods.

Or the time the BBC used Italian photojournalist Marco Di Lauro‘s photo from Iraq to claim it was Houla, Syria.

beeb

As I wrote before, “Upon demand of the aghast journalist, the claim was later retracted and corrected, an “accident”…but who was listening by that point?”

Or that time the BBC’s Middle East specialist asserted a viral video was in a “regime” area of Syria –because of the “Syrian army flag” painted on a barrel– when the clip was filmed in Malta by Norwegians, and the barrel was painted with an out-of-sequence attempt at replicating Syria’s flag.

expert

But more telling about the BBC’s trustworthiness is the fact that, according to the Canary, “The UK Conservative government appoints the chair of the BBC board and its four national directors.”

Pegged as a Venezuelan investigative reporter, Luz Mely Reyes was invited to the conference. Reyes advocates for non-president Juan Guaido and is cheer-led by Western media gatekeepers like TIME and the Guardian. She was thus, indeed, a perfect guest for the regime-change conference.

Syrian participants included exclusively pro-regime-change journalists, such as:

-Karam Nachar, a “cyber-activist working with Syrian protesters via social media platforms,” according to his bio on Democracy Now, where, as with other regime-change supporters, he has appeared frequently arguing the case for western intervention.

-Wa’ad Al Khatib, promoted before Aleppo’s liberation in 2016 as an independent filmmaker. Her clips were featured by none other than the UK’s Channel 4, one of the worst offenders in war propaganda on Syria.

The irony is that Wa’ad al-Khatib was slated to speak about the role of local journalists with respect to international media coverage of areas. But she,like so many other darlings of Western corporate media, reported fully embedded in terrorist areas, clearly with the permission and approval of terrorists.

Chairing panels on safety and protection of journalists was none other than Sky News’ Alex Crawford. In June, Crawford was seen embedded with al-Qaeda in Idlib, as were CBS journalists, both teams presumably having entered Syria illegally.

One could muse that Crawford’s safety advice was: pay up to al-Qaeda and you’ll be fine moving alongside terrorists.

A panel on “Navigating Disinformation” was chaired by Chrystia Freeland – known for her allegiances to the Ukrainian authorities and the bloody coup that brought them to power, to the Venezuelan coup-plotters and to the White Helmets of al-Qaeda– not exactly the most neutral or balanced person to moderate.

Fake Concern For Journalists; No Mention Of Assange, Kirill Vyshinsky

Glaringly absent from the agenda was the issue of Julian Assange, held at Belmarsh prison a short drive away.

John McEvoy@jmcevoy_2

This is the distance between the UK’s ‘defend media freedom’ event and Belmarsh prison. Julian Assange can probably smell the hypocrisy from his cell.

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the UK conference is happening at the same time that Julian Assange’s extradition papers are being signed by the UK.

On July 10, the first day of the conference, Hunt stated that countries that restrict media freedom must be made to pay a diplomatic price, saying:

If we act together we can shine a spotlight on abuses and impose a diplomatic price on those who’d harm journalists or lock them up for doing their jobs.

This from the Foreign Secretary of a government which is

holding journalist Julian Assange behind bars pending a US extradition hearing for exposing American war crimes.

When challenged by Ruptly journalist Barnaby Nerberka on Assange, in contrast to his lofty words on the previous day, Hunt said nothing.

Barnaby Nerberka@barnabynerberka

Jeremy Hunt refuses to answer my questions on the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the banning of Russian media from the ‘media freedom conference’

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Ukrainian-Russian journalist Kirill Vyshinsky was not featured in spite of having been unjustlydetained by Ukraine for 14 months now, a glaring violation of media freedom.

Russia in Canada

@RussianEmbassyC

🇷🇺 journalist Kirill Vyshinsky is imprisoned in accused of “high treason” for doing his job

🇨🇦 🇬🇧 so-called forum ignores his show trial & similar cases of attacks on , incl. @OSCE_RFoM condemned ban on Russian journalists accreditation

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Likewise, certainly absent was mention of Syrian journalist Khaled al-Khatib, killed in 2017 by ISIS (IS/Islamic State, formerly ISIL), or of any of theSyrian and allied journalists murdered by jihadists before he was.

The UK Foreign Office made the mistake of tweeting about the risk of “torture, disappearances and death,” in Eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian journalist Sergey Belous, kidnapped by Ukrainian armed forces in 2014, corrected him.

Foreign Office 🇬🇧

@foreignoffice

In the non-government controlled areas of Eastern Ukraine, journalists risk torture, disappearances and death.

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Sergey Belous@Belous_SR

Ha-ha-ha! Where you’ve been when I (war reporter, working as stringer for Ukrainian 112 chanel) was kidnapped by Ukrainian armed forces in 2014? Hypocrites! Stop spreading lies! What’s about or , for example?

See Sergey Belous’s other Tweets
Likewise, Mark Sleboda called BS, noting the over 20 journalist killed by “the militant forces & brownshirt paramilitary ‘batallions’ of the new regime.”

Clearly, the grandiose words of foreign ministers Hunt and Freeland apply only to journalists supporting regime change, not those targeted by allied governments and their terrorists.

After the Censorship  Conference

On Saturday, I read that a popular Ukrainian TV channel was attacked with a grenade launcher on the day an Oliver Stone documentary on Ukraine was to be aired.

Ivan Katchanovski@I_Katchanovski

It would be revealing reaction of new president @ZelenskyyUa to such undemocratic and illiberal actions of political appointees of Poroshenko regime and far right against US documentary that they have not seen and against freedom of the press & expression in .

Ivan Katchanovski@I_Katchanovski

Popular TV channel is shelled from grenade launcher in order to prevent its broadcast today of US by @TheOliverStone. It would reveal involvement of snipers in Maidan massacre. Would there be any reaction from US government? https://112.ua/glavnye-novosti/v-noch-na-13-myulya-dvoe-neizvestnyh-iz-granatometa-obstrelyali-zdanie-112-kanala-499728.html 

Здание телеканала 112 Украина обстреляли из гранатомета

Полицейские квалифицируют происшествие как террористический акт

112.ua

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“Any reaction from so-called ‘Global Media Freedom’ conference co-hosts Freeland & Hunt, or those who pledged to ‘shine a light on violations & abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of global public and working towards accountability’”.

My question was of course rhetorical, not honestly expecting those governmental representatives who signed a pledge “to work together to protect media freedom” to actually do that.

Their pledge entailed committing to “shine a light on violations and abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of the global public and working towards accountability.” How ironic.

RELATED LINKS:

“They Just Want Me in Prison”: MintPress Interviews Jailed Ukrainian Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky

‘They know that we know they are liars, they keep lying’: West’s war propaganda on Ghouta crescendos

FAKE NEWS WEEK: Why Channel 4 “News” Owes an Apology to Syria

Exploitation of children in propaganda war against Syria continues

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Voices from Syria’s Rukban Refugee Camp Belie Corporate Media Reporting

Global Research, July 05, 2019
MintPress News 4 July 2019

Eva Bartlett visited refugees in Syria escaping the horrid conditions in the Rukban Refugee Camp, a desolate outpost in the US administered deconfliction zone. What she found was very different than the ‘reality’ depicted by the Western press.

***

A little over a year ago — just after the Syrian army and its allies liberated the towns and villages around eastern Ghouta from the myriad armed jihadist groups that had waged a brutal campaign of torture and executions in the area — I interviewed a number of the civilians that had endured life under jihadist rule in Douma, Kafr Batna and the Horjilleh Center for Displaced People just south of Damascus.

A common theme emerged from the testimonies of those civilians: starvation as a result of jihadist control over aid and food supplies, and the public execution of civilians.

Their testimonies echoed those of civilians in other areas of Syria formerly occupied by armed anti-government groups, from Madaya and al-Waer to eastern Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite those testimonies and the reality on the ground, Western politicians and media alike have placed the blame for the starvation and suffering of Syrian civilians squarely on the shoulders of Russia and Syria, ignoring the culpability of terrorist groups.

In reality, terrorist groups operating within areas of Syria that they occupy have had full control over food and aid, and ample documentation shows that they have hoarded food and medicines for themselves. Even under better circumstances, terrorist groups charged hungry civilians grotesquely inflated prices for basic foods, sometimes demanding up to 8,000 Syrian pounds (US $16) for a kilogram of salt, and 3,000 pounds (US $6) for a bag of bread.

Given the Western press’ obsessive coverage of the starvation and lack of medical care endured by Syrian civilians, its silence has been deafening in the case of Rukban — a desolate refugee camp in Syria’s southeast where conditions are appalling to such an extent that civilians have been dying as a result. Coverage has been scant of the successful evacuations of nearly 15,000 of the 40,000 to 60,000 now-former residents of Rukban (numbers vary according to source) to safe havens where they are provided food, shelter and medical care.

Silence about the civilian evacuations from Rukban is likely a result of the fact that those doing the rescuing are the governments of Syria and Russia — and the fact that they have been doing so in the face of increasing levels of opposition from the U.S. government.

A harsh, abusive environment

Rukban lies on Syria’s desolate desert border with Jordan, surrounded by a 55-km deconfliction zone, unilaterally established and enforced by the United States, and little else aside from the American base at al-Tanf, only 25 km away — a base whose presence is illegal under international law.

It is, by all reports, an unbearably harsh environment year-round and residents of the camp have endured abuse by terrorist groups and merchants within the camp, deprived of the very basics of life for many years now.

In February, the UNHCR reported that young girls and women in Rukban have been forced into marriage, some more than once. Their briefing noted:

Many women are terrified to leave their mud homes or tents and to be outside, as there are serious risks of sexual abuse and harassment. Our staff met mothers who keep their daughters indoors, as they are too afraid to let them go to improvised schools.”

The Jordanian government, home to 664,330 registered Syrian refugees, has adamantly refused any responsibility in providing humanitarian assistance to Rukban, arguing that it is a Syrian issue and that keeping its border with Syria closed is a matter of Jordan’s security — this after a number of terrorist attacks on the border near Rukban, some of which were attributed to ISIS and one that killed six Jordanian soldiers.

According to U.S. think-tank The Century Foundation, armed groups in Rukban have up to 4,000 men in their ranks and include:

Maghawir al-Thawra, the Free Tribes Army, the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

Those armed groups, according to Russia, include several hundred ISIS and al-Qaeda recruits. Even the Atlantic Council — a NATO- and U.S. State Department-funded think-tank consistent in its anti-Syrian government stance — reported in November 2017 that the Jordanian government acknowledged an ISIS presence in Rukban.

The Century Foundation also notes the presence of ISIS in Rukban and concedes that the U.S. military “controls the area but won’t guarantee the safety of aid workers seeking access to the camp.”

Rukban

The Rukban camp, sandwiched between Jordan, Syria borders and Iraq, Feb. 14, 2017. Raad Adayleh | AP

Syria and Russia have sought out diplomatic means to resolve the issue of Rukban, arguing repeatedly at the United Nations Security Council for the need to dismantle the camp and return refugees to areas once plagued by terrorism but that have now been secured.

As I wrote recently:

The U.S. stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock. So, by U.S. administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.”

The U.S., for its part, has both refused the evacuation of refugees from the camp and obstructed aid deliveries on at least two occasions. In February, Russia and Syria opened two humanitarian corridors to Rukban and began delivering much-needed aid to its residents.

Syria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Bashar al-Ja’afari, noted in May 2019 that Syria agreed to facilitate the first aid convoy to Rukban earlier this year, but the convoy was ultimately delayed by the United States for 40 days. A second convoy was then delayed for four months. Al-Ja’afari also noted that the U.S., as an occupying power in Syria, is obliged under the Geneva Conventions to provide food, medicine and humanitarian assistance to those under its occupation.

Then, in early March, the Russian Center for Reconciliation reported that U.S. authorities had refused entry to a convoy of buses intending to enter the deconfliction zone to evacuate refugees from Rukban.

According to a March 2019 article from Public Radio International:

[W]hen Syrian and Iranian forces have entered the 34-mile perimeter around the base, American warplanes have responded with strikes — effectively putting Rukban and its residents under American protection from Assad’s forces.”

Despite the abundance of obstacles they faced, Syria and Russia were ultimately able to evacuate over 14,000 of the camp’s residents to safety. In a joint statement on June 19, representatives of the two countries noted that some of the camp’s residents were forced to pay “militants” between $400 to $1000 in order to leave Rukban.

Media reports on Rukban … from abroad

While Rukban — unlike Madaya or Aleppo in 2016 — generally isn’t making headlines, there are some pro-regime-change media reporting on it, although even those reports tend to omit the fact that civilians have been evacuated to safety and provided with food and medical care.

Instead, articles relieve America and armed Jihadist groups of their role in the suffering of displaced Syrians in Rukban, reserving blame for Syria and Russia and claiming internal refugees are being forced to leave against their will only to be imprisoned by the Syrian government.

Emad Ghali, a “media activist,” has been at the center of many of these claims. Ghali has been cited as a credible source in most of the mainstream Western press’ reporting on Rukban, from the New York Times, to Al Jazeera, to the Middle East Eye. Cited since at least 2018 in media reporting on Rukban, Ghali has an allegiance to the Free Syrian Army, a fact easily gleaned by simply browsing his Facebook profile. He recently posted multiple times on Facebook mourning the passing of jihadist commander and footballer Abdul Baset al-Sarout. As it turns out, Sarout not only held extremist and sectarian views, but pledged allegiance to ISIS, among other less-than-noble acts ignored by most media reports that cite him.

Ghali ISIS

Ghali paid homage to ISIS commander Abdul Baset al-Sarout on his Facebook page

Citing Ghali as merely a “media activist” is not an unusual practice for many covering the Syrian conflict. In fact, Ghali holds the same level of extremist-minded views as the “sources” cited by the New York Times in articles that I reported on around the time Ghouta was being liberated from jihadist groups in 2018.

Four sources used in those articles had affiliations to, and/or reverence for the al-Qaeda-linked Jaysh al-Islam — including the former leader Zahran Alloush who has been known to confine civilians in cages, including women and children, for use as human shields in Ghouta — Faylaq al-Rahman, and even to al-Qaeda, not to mention the so-called Emir of al-Qaeda in Syria, the applauded Abu Muhammad Al-Julani.

Claims in a Reuters article of forced internment, being held at gunpoint in refugee centers, come from sources not named in Rukban — instead generically referred to as “residents of Rukban say”…

An article in the UAE-based The National also pushed fear-mongering over the “fate that awaits” evacuees, saying:

[T]here is talk of Syrian government guards separating women and children from men in holding centres in Homs city.There are also accusations of a shooting last month, with two men who had attempted an escape from one of the holding centres allegedly killed. The stories are unconfirmed, but they are enough to make Rukban’s men wary of taking the government’s route out.”

Yet reports from those who have actually visited the centers paint a different picture.

An April 2019 report by Russia-based Vesti News shows calm scenes of Rukban evacuees receiving medical exams by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, who according to Vesti, have doctors there every day; and of food and clean, if not simple, rooms in a former school housing displaced refugees from Rukban. Notably, the Vesti journalist states: “There aren’t any checkpoints or barriers at the centre. The entrance and exit are free.”

The Russian Reconciliation Center reported on May 23 of the refugee centers:

In early May, these shelters were visited by officials from the respective UN agencies, in particular, the UNHCR, who could personally see that the Syrian government provided the required level of accommodation for the refugees in Homs. It is remarkable that most of the former Rukban residents have already relocated from temporary shelters in Homs to permanent residencies in government-controlled areas.”

Likewise, in the Horjilleh Center which I visited in 2018 families were living in modest but sanitary shelters, cooked food was provided, a school was running, and authorities were working to replace identity papers lost during the years under the rule of jihadist groups.

Calling on the U.S. to close the camp

David Swanson, Public Information Officer Regional Office for the Syria Crisis UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Amman, Jordan, told me regarding claims of substandard conditions and of Syrians being forcefully held or mistreated in the centers that,

People leaving Rukban are taken to temporary collective shelters in Homs for a 24-hour stay. While there, they receive basic assistance, including shelter, blankets, mattresses, solar lamps, sleeping mats, plastic sheets, food parcels and nutrition supplies before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs, with small numbers going to rural Damascus or Deir-ez-Zor.

The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and has found the situation there adequate. The United Nations continues to advocate and call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian assistance and access to Rukban as well as to all those in need throughout Syria. The United Nations also seeks the support of all concerned parties in ensuring the humanitarian and voluntary character of departures from Rukban.”

Hedinn Halldorsson, the Spokesperson and Public Information Officer for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) based in Damascus, told me:

We looked into this when the rumours started, end of April, and concluded they were unfounded – and communicated that externally via press briefings in both Geneva and NY. The conditions in the shelters in Homs are also adequate and in compliance with standards; the UN has access and has done three monitoring visits so far.”

Syria Rukban

Syrian Arab Red Crescent members unload food and water for Rukban’s evacuees. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Halldorsson noted official UN statements, including:

“Alleged mistreatment of Rukban returnees

  • The United Nations is aware of media reports about people leaving Rukban having been killed or subject to mistreatment upon arrival in shelters in Homs.
  • The United Nations has not been able to confirm any of the allegations.

Regarding the issue of shelters, Halldorsson noted that as of July 1st:

  • Nearly 15,600 people have left Rukban since March – or nearly 40 per cent of the estimated total population of 41,700.
  • The United Nations has been granted access to the shelters in Homs on three occasions and found conditions in these shelters to be adequate.”

Confirming both UN officials’ statements about the Syrian government’s role in Rukban, the Syrian Mission to the United Nations in New York City told me:

The Syrian Government has spared no effort in recent years to provide every form of humanitarian assistance and support to all Syrians affected by the crisis, regardless of their locations throughout Syria. The Syrian Government has therefore collaborated and cooperated with the United Nations and other international organizations working in Syria to that end, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 46/182.

There must be an end to the suffering of tens of thousands of civilians who live in Al-Rukban, an area which is controlled by illegitimate foreign forces and armed terrorist groups affiliated with them. The continued suffering of those Syrian civilians demonstrates the indifference of the United States Administration to their suffering and disastrous situation.

We stress once again that there is a need to put an end to the suffering of these civilians and to close this camp definitively. The detained people in the camp must be allowed to leave it and return to their homes, which have been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army from terrorism. We note that the Syrian Government has taken all necessary measures to evacuate the detainees from the Rukban camp and end their suffering. What is needed today is for the American occupation forces to allow the camp to be dismantled and to ensure safe transportation in the occupied Al-Tanf area.”

Given that the United States has clearly demonstrated not only a lack of will to aid and or resettle Rukban’s residents but a callousness that flies in the face of their purported concern for Syrians in Rukban, the words of Syrian and Russian authorities on how to solve the crisis in Rukban could not ring truer.

Very little actual coverage

The sparse coverage Rukban has received has mostly revolved around accusations that the camp’s civilians fear returning to government-secured areas of Syria for fear of being imprisoned or tortured. This, in spite of the fact that areas brought back under government control over the years have seen hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians return to live in peace and of a confirmation by the United Nations that they had “positively assessed the conditions created by the Syrian authorities for returning refugees.”

The accusations also come in spite of the fact that, for years now, millions of internally displaced Syrians have taken shelter in government areas, often housed and given medical care by Syrian authorities.

Over the years I’ve found myself waiting for well over a month for my journalist visa at the Syrian embassy in Beirut to clear. During these times I traveled around Lebanon where I’ve encountered Syrians who left their country either for work, the main reason, or because their neighborhoods were occupied by terrorist groups. All expressed a longing for Syria and a desire to return home.

In March, journalist Sharmine Narwani tweeted in part that,

the head of UNDP in Lebanon told me during an interview: ‘I have not met a single Syrian refugee who does not want to go home.’”

Of the authors who penned articles claiming that Syrians in Rukban are afraid to return to government-secured areas of Syria, few that I’m aware of actually traveled to Syria to speak with evacuees, instead reporting from Istanbul or even further abroad.

On June 12, I did just that, hiring a taxi to take me to a dusty stretch of road roughly 60 km east of ad-Dumayr, Syria, where I was able to intercept a convoy of buses ferrying exhausted refugees out of Rukban.

Merchants, armed groups and Americans

Five hundred meters from a fork in the highway connecting a road heading northeast to Tadmur (Palmyra) to another heading southeast towards Iraq — I waited at a nondescript stopping point called al-Waha, where buses stopped for water and food to be distributed to starving refugees. In Arabic, al-Waha means the oasis and, although only a makeshift Red Crescent distribution center, and compared to Rukban it might as well have been an oasis.

A convoy of 18 buses carrying nearly 900 tormented Syrians followed by a line of trucks carrying their belongings were transferred to refugee reception centers in Homs. Members of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent distributed boxes containing beans, chickpeas and canned meat — the latter a scarcity among the displaced.

Rukban evacuation

Buses transported nearly 900 refugees from Rukban Camp to temporary shelters in Homs on June 12. Photo | Eva Bartlett

As food and water were handed out, I moved from bus to bus speaking with people who endured years-long shortages of food, medicine, clean water, work and education … the basic essentials of life. Most people I spoke to said they were starving because they couldn’t afford the hefty prices of food in the camp, which they blamed on Rukban’s merchants. Some blamed the terrorist groups operating in the camp and still others blamed the Americans. A few women I spoke to blamed the Syrian government, saying no aid had entered Rukban at all, a claim that would later be refuted by reports from both the UN and Red Crescent.

Image on the right: An elderly woman recounted enduring hunger in Rukban. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

An old woman slumped on the floor of one bus recounted:

We were dying of hunger, life was hell there. Traders [merchants] sold everything at high prices, very expensive; we couldn’t afford to buy things. We tried to leave before today but we didn’t have money to pay for a car out. There were no doctors; it was horrible there.”

Aboard another bus, an older woman sat on the floor, two young women and several babies around her. She had spent four years in the camp:

“Everything was expensive, we were hungry all the time. We ate bread, za’atar, yogurt… We didn’t know meat, fruit…”

Merchants charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (US $2) for five potatoes, she said, exemplifying the absurdly high prices.

I asked whether she’d been prevented from leaving before. “Yes,” she responded.

She didn’t get a chance to elaborate as a younger woman further back on the bus shouted at her that no one had been preventing anyone from leaving. When I asked the younger woman how the armed groups had treated her, she replied, “All respect to them.”

But others that I spoke to were explicit in their blame for both the terrorist groups operating in the camp and the U.S. occupation forces in al-Tanf.

An older man from Palmyra who spent four years in the camp spoke of “armed gangs” paid in U.S. dollars being the only ones able to eat properly:

The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. No one here had fruit for several years. Those who wanted fruit have to pay in U.S. dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so. They were spreading propaganda: ‘don’t go, the aid is coming.’ We do not want aid. We want to go back to our towns.”

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs, told me he’d fled home five years ago. According to Saleh, the Americans were in control of Rukban. He also put blame on the armed groups operating in the camp, especially for controlling who was permitted to leave. He said,

“There are two other convoys trying to leave but the armed groups are preventing them.”

Image below: Mahmoud Saleh from Homs said the Americans control Rukban and blamed armed groups in the camp for controlling who could leave. Photo | Eva Bartlett

Syria Rukban

A shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the United States:

“Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but were fear-mongered by terrorists into staying, told they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim parroted by many in the Western press when Aleppo and other areas of Syria were being liberated from armed groups.

The testimonies I heard when speaking to Rukban evacuees radically differed from the claims made in most of the Western press’ reporting about Syria’s treatment of refugees. These testimonies are not only corroborated by Syrian and Russian authorities, but also by the United Nations itself.

*

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Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and occupied Palestine, where she lived for nearly four years. She is a recipient of the 2017 International Journalism Award for International Reporting, granted by the Mexican Journalists’ Press Club (founded in 1951), was the first recipient of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism, and was short-listed in 2017 for the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. See her extended bio on her blog In Gaza. She tweets at @EvaKBartlett

Featured image:  An elderly women evacuated from Rukban complained of hunger due to extremely high food prices. Photo | Eva Bartlett

US exceptionalism: Exploiting certain Syrians, ignoring others

By Eva Bartlett

June 21, 2019 “Information Clearing House” –  Syria and Russia have been evacuating civilians from yet another region starved by its Western-backed terrorists. But Western corporate media ignore this and instead continue spinning nightmarish war propaganda on Syria.

Predictably, copy-paste Syrian reports emanate from Western governments and corporate media feign concern for civilians in Idlib while negating to mention that the Idlib governorate is an Al-Qaeda hotbed.

Back in Syria again, over the ‘Eid holidays, I spoke with residents about life in Damascus now, and highlighted the peace which exists – having been absent for many years prior when terrorists’ mortars rained down on the city.

But I was also interested in highlighting another issue: the evacuation of southeastern Syria’s Rukban Camp which has been under way for months; civilians have been plucked from starvation and intolerable conditions, and delivered to safety with access to food and medical care.

In February, Russia and Syria set up humanitarian corridors to start evacuating civilians to safe areas where they could receive medical treatment and resettle in their home areas or elsewhere.

In June, 2019, I travelled to a point where I could interview evacuees of the Rukban, the unbearable camp near the US-occupied Al-Tanf base.

United States of hypocrisy occupies & places blame on others

Rukban also lies on the border with Jordan. Over the years, it has become a hell on earth, with residents starving due to a lack of accessible food. In November 2018, there were around 50,000 refugees in the camp.

Most Western reporting on the situation in Rukban has blamed Syria and Russia for the scarcity of food in the camp. Surprisingly, a June 2018 article by US think tank the Century Foundation highlighted US control over the camp and surrounding areas.

“The Tanf–Rukban zone is patrolled by Coalition forces and their chosen Syrian partner, Maghawir al-Thawra… Also present are the remnants of a formerly Pentagon-backed group called the Qaryatein Martyr Battalions and three factions formerly linked to the CIA’s covert war in Syria: the Army of the Eastern Lions, the Martyr Ahmed al-Abdo Forces, and the Shaam Liberation Army.”

The US stymied aid to Rukban, and was then only willing to provide security for aid convoys to a point 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) away from the camp, according to the UN’s own Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

So, by US administration logic, convoys should have dropped their Rukban-specific aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups and just hoped for the best.

Even if the US intentions were good, experience has shown that when terrorist groups occupying an area have access to aid, they keep it for themselves, civilians don’t see it unless they pay a high price.When eastern areas of Aleppo were liberated in December 2016, even Reuters had to report that civilians blamed so-called ‘rebels’ for hoarding food they desperately needed.

When Madaya, heavily propagandized about in early 2016, was restored to safety in 2017, I travelled there and spoke to residents who again solely blamed terrorists for their starvation. Same in eastern Ghouta, where residentsspoke of starvation and executions, by terrorists.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that if Americans at al-Tanf could get supplies from Iraq and Jordan, they could have also brought in humanitarian aid for Rukban civilians, were they actually so concerned.

Unsurprisingly, in Syria’s and Russia’s eyes, the US is holding civilians in Rukban hostage. This became more apparent when America refused to shut down the camp, quite clearly preferring to have a raison d’être for continuing their illegal occupation of southeastern Syria.

Even the Middle East director for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Amin Awad, said that civilians in Rukban were being held against their will, as “human shields”“deprived of basic services,”according to Sputnik News.

Awad pointed the finger at traders in the camp bearing responsibility for the suffering of civilians in Rukban, but civilians I spoke to also included America in their blame.

Rukban’s displaced speak out

On a stretch of road between the Rukban camp and the Homs refugee centre they were headed to on June 12, I met some of the roughly 900 Syrians evacuated that day on 18 buses. Another convoy of trucks carried their tattered personal belongings.

I approached many with questions about life in the camp, moving from bus to bus to speak with them.

An old woman sitting on the floor of one bus said she’d been in the camp for four years, that everything was expensive and they were hungry all the time. She gave the example of being charged 1,000 Syrian pounds (around US$2) for five potatoes.

Mahmoud Saleh, a young man from Homs governorate, told me he’d fled home five years ago. When I asked who was in control in Rukban, he replied without hesitation: “The Americans.”

An older man from Palmyra, four years in the camp, spoke of “armed gangs,” paid in US dollars, being the only ones able to eat properly.

“The armed gangs were living while the rest of the people were dead. Those who wanted fruit had to pay in US dollars. The armed groups were the only ones who could do so.”

I asked about access to medical care.

“Medical services! There is no medicine at all.” He pointed to a young woman behind him who he said had lost two babies because she couldn’t get a C-section.

In another bus, a shepherd who had spent three years in Rukban blamed “terrorists” for not being able to leave. He also blamed the US. “Those controlling Tanf wouldn’t let us leave, the Americans wouldn’t let us leave.”

Many others who I spoke to said they had wanted to leave before but believed the fearmongering from terrorists who told them they would be “slaughtered by the regime,” a claim floated in corporate media when Aleppo was being liberated.

The Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that some Rukban residents had to pay as much as US$1000 to “militants controlled by the US side” in order to leave.

As of June 13, Russia’s Ministry of Defence reports that 14,347 people, mostly children and women, have been evacuated from Rukban since February 23.

International media & their dubious sources

As evacuations of civilians from Rukban have unfolded, any Western corporate media that bothers to report on them has spun them as ‘forced displacement’ to ‘regime areas’ where civilians will be ‘imprisoned and tortured.’

Yeah, Syria and Russia are simply hell-bent on finding any way to torture Syrian civilians, to the extent that they will waste considerable amounts of money and time to so, or at least, that’s what corporate media would have you believe.

And just as Western corporate media relied on the words of “media activists” and “unnamed sources” in their warpropaganda prior to and during the liberation of eastern Aleppo and eastern Ghouta, hostile media are again relyingon such sources for reporting on Rukban.

Canada’s Globe and Mail went as far as to cite the utterly non-credible, Qatar-based, Syrian Network for Human Rights in a recent article claiming that thousands of Syrians who have returned home have been arrested.

As journalist Max Blumenthal humorously pointed out in his investigation into this Qatar-influenced body, “citing the Syrian Network for Human Rights as an independent and credible source is the journalistic equivalent of sourcing statistics on head trauma to a research front created by the National Football League, or turning to tobacco industry lobbyists for information on the connection between smoking and lung cancer.”

Contrasting the claims, Syrian authorities have stated that UN representatives have permission to visit the refugee centres. The Russian Reconciliation Centre stated that UN bodies, including the UNHCR, visited the shelters.

As of June 16, the Russian Reconciliation Centre reports that “1,299,977 IDPs have returned back to their homes”in Syria since September 30, 2015, and that since July 2018, “175 medical and 863 educational organizations have been recovered.”

Those are some odd statistics given that Western media and politicians would have us believe that the Syrian and Russian governments are terrorizing civilians and gleefully destroying infrastructure in Syria.

Or perhaps what Western media, governments, and lobby groups are spouting is just more, unoriginal, war propaganda.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine (where she lived for nearly four years).

This article was originally published by “RT” –

Canada and the Propaganda War on Venezuela

Global Research, April 27, 2019

“I have ground zero information on everything that happens there. And trust me, what the Canadian public, and the American public and the international community are watching is a huge Hollywood show.”

– Venezuelan in Canada, from an interview with Eva Bartlett

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Click to download the audio (MP3 format) 

The US and Canada have long sought regime change in Venezuela.

In order to enable this agenda, the political leadership of the two countries have been drowning their populations with propaganda. According to the standard account, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has undemocratically ceased power, and is oppressing his own people. President Maduroand his predecessor Hugo Chavez are singularly to blame for a devastating economic situation forcing millions to flee the once prosperous South American nation. [1]

Mainstream media, pundits, and popular television comedy show hosts like John Oliver are only too happy to uncritically echo these interpretations of the plight of the Venezuelan people. More to the point, they appear to be presenting as fact an embellishment of the difficulties facing ordinary and poor Venezuelans.

Among standard talking points: people across the nation are taking to the streets to oppose Maduro’srule, leading to violent reprisals by the government and crackdowns on dissident mediaMaduro’smismanagement of the economy has led to empty grocery store shelves. President Maduro, back in February, authorized the destruction of aid entering the country from neighbouring Columbia. Maduro’spresidency is illegitimate and the opposition National Assembly’s recognition of Juan Guaidó as interim President is constitutionally valid.

Audiences in the U.S. and Canada are led to believe the people of Venezuela overwhelmingly oppose Maduro’s ‘grip’ on power, but are helpless to challenge his ‘authoritarian’ rule.

As with ‘humanitarian wars’ Western nations have sanctioned over the last two decades, even liberal critics of their nations’ interventionist policies feel the need to express their position with a disclaimer of sorts along the lines of ‘He may be a bad guy, but…’

Aggressive foreign policy toward Venezuela or any other country requires at least tacit support from domestic populations in nominally democratic countries like Canada, hence the need by Western leaders to control the foreign policy narrative. This is why it is necessary for the broader public to ascertain the actual facts on the ground, and confront the assertions providing a pretext for foreign interference, particularly military intervention, in another country’s internal affairs.

This week, the Global Research News Hour takes on conventional messaging on the Venezuela situation with three provocative interview guests.

In the first half hour, frequent guest Yves Engler joins us to share some insights into Canada’s actual interests in Venezuela as well as provide background on a specific Canadian think tank, known as the Canadian International Council, which is acting to shape Canadian policy in an imperialistic direction. Excerpts of a recent talk by former Canadian Ambassador to Venezuela, Ben Rowswell are incorporated into this discussion.

In the second half hour, two Canadian journalists, Eva Bartlett and Dimitri Lascaris, talk about what they saw and experienced in Venezuela during their recent visits to the country. They also help us make sense of social and mainstream media distortion of the realities on the ground.

Yves Engler is one of Canada’s foremost Canadian foreign policy critics and dissidents. He is the author of nine books on Canadian foreign policy including The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy (2009), and his most recent, Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada. His articles have appeared at rabble.ca, canadiandimension.com, and on his own site yvesengler.com.

Dimitri Lascaris is a lawyer, activist, and journalist. A former partner with Siskinds LLP, Lascaris was once named one of Canada’s most influential lawyers by Canadian Lawyer Magazine. He is currently a correspondent and Board member of The Real News Network and the Chair of the Board of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

Eva Bartlett is a Canadian independent journalist and activist. She has spent years on the ground covering conflict zones in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Palestine. She is a recipient of the International Journalism Award for International Reporting. Eva recently returned from a visit to Venezuela. She will be speaking in Hamilton on Monday April 29th.

(Global Research News Hour Episode 257)

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Click to download the audio (MP3 format)

The Global Research News Hour airs every Friday at 1pm CT on CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg. The programme is also podcast at globalresearch.ca . Excerpts of the show have begun airing on Rabble Radio and appear as podcasts at rabble.ca.

The Global Research News Hour now airs Fridays at 6pm PST, 8pm CST and 9pm EST on Alternative Current Radio (alternativecurrentradio.com)

Community Radio Stations carrying the Global Research News Hour:

CHLY 101.7fm in Nanaimo, B.C – Thursdays at 1pm PT

Boston College Radio WZBC 90.3FM NEWTONS  during the Truth and Justice Radio Programming slot -Sundays at 7am ET.

Port Perry Radio in Port Perry, Ontario –1  Thursdays at 1pm ET

Burnaby Radio Station CJSF out of Simon Fraser University. 90.1FM to most of Greater Vancouver, from Langley to Point Grey and from the North Shore to the US Border.

It is also available on 93.9 FM cable in the communities of SFU, Burnaby, New Westminister, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Surrey and Delta, in British Columbia, Canada. – Tune in  at its new time – Wednesdays at 4pm PT.

Radio station CFUV 101.9FM based at the University of Victoria airs the Global Research News Hour every Sunday from 7 to 8am PT.

CORTES COMMUNITY RADIO CKTZ  89.5 out of Manson’s Landing, B.C airs the show Tuesday mornings at 10am Pacific time.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio CICV 98.7 FM serving the Cowichan Lake area of Vancouver Island, BC airs the program Thursdays at 6am pacific time.

Campus and community radio CFMH 107.3fm in  Saint John, N.B. airs the Global Research News Hour Fridays at 10am.

Caper Radio CJBU 107.3FM in Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia airs the Global Research News Hour starting Wednesday Morning from 8:00 to 9:00am. Find more details at www.caperradio.ca

RIOT RADIO, the visual radio station based out of Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario has begun airing the Global Research News Hour on an occasional basis. Tune in at dcstudentsinc.ca/services/riot-radio/

Radio Fanshawe: Fanshawe’s 106.9 The X (CIXX-FM) out of London, Ontario airs the Global Research News Hour Sundays at 6am with an encore at 4pm.

Los Angeles, California based Thepowerofvoices.com airs the Global Research News Hour every Monday from 6-7pm Pacific time.

Notes:

  1. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-363198772.html

US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and ‘needed’ intervention

Eva Bartlett
Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist with extensive experience in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Her writings can be found on her blog, In Gaza.
US is manufacturing a crisis in Venezuela so that there is chaos and 'needed' intervention

America has for years been waging an economic war against Venezuela, including debilitating sanctions which have dramatically affected the state’s ability to purchase medicines, and even mundane replacement parts needed in buses, ambulances, etc. Alongside the economic war there has been a steady propaganda war, but in recent months, the propaganda has escalated dramatically, from corporate media to US political figures.

Venezuela is described as “the country pilots are refusing to fly to,” as per a March 18, 2019, AP article on American Airlines cancelling all flights to Venezuela, containing scary phrases like “safety concerns” and “civil unrest.

On March 9, American cancelled my Miami-Caracas flight on the basis that there wasn’t enough electricity to land at Caracas airport. Strangely enough, the Copa flight I took the following day after an overnight in Panama had no problem landing, nor did Copa flights on the day of my own cancelled flight, according to Copa staff.

The cancellation of flights to Venezuela then lends legitimacy to the shrill tweets of Marco Rubio, Mike Pence, John Bolton, and the previously unknown non-president, Juan Guaido.

I’ve been in various areas of Caracas since March 10, and I’ve seen none of this “civil unrest” that corporate media are talking about. I’ve walked around Caracas, usually on my own, and haven’t experienced the worry for my safety corporate media is telling Westerners they should suddenly feel more than normal in Venezuela.

In fact, I see little difference from the Venezuela I knew in 2010 when I spent half a year here, except the hyperinflation is absurdly worse and in my absence I missed the years of extreme right-wing opposition supporters street violence – a benign term for the guarimbas which saw opposition supporters burning people alive, among other violence against people and security.

So it strikes me that the decision of American Airlines to stop flying to Venezuela is not about safety and security issues, but is political, in line with increasingly hollow rhetoric about a humanitarian crisis that does not exist, even according toformer UN Special Rapporteur, Alfred de Zayas.

I asked Paul Dobson, a journalist who has lived in Venezuela the last 14 years, if anything like this had happened before. Turns out it has, also at a very timely moment.

At the time of the National Constituent Assembly elections, July 30, 2017, the major airlines – including Air France, United, American, pretty much all of the European airlines – suspended their flights one day before the elections, citing “security reasons.” Most of the services were reopened about four days after the elections, some of them two weeks after the elections.

So were there ‘security concerns? I asked Paul.

This was towards the end of street violence (guarimbas) that had been going on for six months in the country. Why didn’t they suspend their activity six months before, two months before? They did it the day before the elections, clearly trying to influence votes and the way that people see their country internationally. There were no extra security concerns that day than any day over the last 6 months. So, there was really no justification for it. And it caused massive problems on the ground, around elections.”

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Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

I spent most of afternoon in Petare, one of poorest areas of Caracas & the most sprawling series of barrios in Latin America. Ppl I met there spoke about Imperialist & economic war against them, & how they will continue defending their country. Night & day fr these howling idiots

America manufactures crises; Venezuelans respond with calm

On February 23, a month after a previously largely-unknown, US-backed man named Juan Guaido claimed he was the president of Venezuela, there was a short-lived period of instability at the Venezuelan border with Colombia, when America insisted on forcing aid trucks into Venezuela.

Aid trucks that burned that day were the result of attacks of masked young men on the Colombian side, and not from the Venezuelan military as western corporate media and Marco Rubio would have you believe. Less-known is that the ‘aid trucks’ contained very odd humanitarian aid, including nails and wire.

Were their fake concerns genuine, the US could have done what Cuba, China, and Russia, among others, have done and send the aid through appropriate channels, like the UN and the Red Cross. America’s attempt to ram trucks through Venezuela’s border has been revealed as the cheap propaganda stunt that it was.

A couple of weeks later, suddenly there was a very timely country-wide power outage for six days, affecting most things in Venezuelan infrastructure and life, a reality that Palestinians in Gaza have been living since at least 2006 when Israel bombed their sole power plant, never since allowing them to import the parts needed to adequately repair it.

When I lived in Gaza, I grew accustomed to outages of 16-22 hours a day, for months on end. Near-daily sustained 18 plus hour power outages continue in Gaza, but that’s not something the regime-change squad were or are outraged about.

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Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

being kids, Plaza Venezuela, Caracas, yesterday.

63 people are talking about this
Western media coverage of the blackout was tabloidesque, claiming without any proof whatsoever that 300 people had died due to the outage, portraying Venezuelans collecting water from a spring at the Guaire river in Caracas as collecting dirty sewage water, looting (which actually occurred in the Western border city of Maracaibo and not in Caracas, unless there were localized and unreported incidents), and in general blaming the Maduro government for everything under the moon.

Talking with journalists of Mision Verdad, an independent Venezuelan investigative news site, I learned that one of the targets of looting was a mall in Maracaibo, where electronics were the items of choice, not food. Another incidentreportedly involved looting beer and soft drinks. Odd behaviour for a starving people in a humanitarian crisis.

When I arrived three days into the outage, aside from darkened buildings, empty streets, and in following days long lines at water dispensaries and ATMs, I saw no instability. Instead, I saw and learned of Venezuelans working together to get through the drastic effects of the power outage.

I learned at the Ministry of Urban Agriculture of how they took vegetables and crops to hospitals and schools during the electricity outage, but also of how urban agriculture has become an act of resistance in a climate of war and fake news. At a circular plot next to a social housing block I saw young men and women working the land, bursts of lettuces, herbs, beetroots, spinach, and peppers, as well as plots still being planted.

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Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

I know this is inviting Miami trolls & HRW groupies to jump on me & say poorest Venezuelans can’t afford these prices (8000 around US $2 & a bit, depending if 3200 to $1 or 3500, etc).
However, got these yesterday & they’ll last me a few days, avacadoes longer.

131 people are talking about this
At the Fabricio Ojeda commune, in Catia—a western Caracas barrio of over 1 million people—residents spoke of the 17 tons of produce they generated a few years ago, then sold in the community at prices 30-50% lower than the average market price.

One of the commune leaders spoke of raising rabbits as an affordable, and easy to maintain, source of protein.

We’re trying to achieve self sustainability of this produce, for the community. This is what we’re doing against the economic war,” he said.

Two days ago, visiting the Caracas barrios of Las Brisas, I asked Jaskeherry, head of a colectivo (organized group of people) how the community had managed during the power outage.

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Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

During a pro-Venezuela, anti-Imperialist march, I asked Paul Dobson of @venanalysis to speak briefly on corporate media/opposition’s attack on colectivos.
“Colectivo means collective, an expression of the organized community, incl workers, women’s, ecological, pensioners…”

164 people are talking about this
We had a contingency plan with all the colectivos in the area to organize ourselves to help the people. My fridge is connected to a power bank. The community brought their meat here and I stored it. We brought a cistern here. Around 300 families were benefiting from this. Each community has their own colectivo that does things like this to help out.”

I’ve heard from several different people here that one reason for the lack of chaos is that Venezuelans have already dealt with US-instigated crises, and have learned to remain calm at such times, surely to the dismay of US pot-stirrers who hoped for scenes of chaos, the pretext to US intervention.

Manufactured poverty; Support from & for government

I’ve gone into a number of smaller and large supermarkets in the lower middle-class areas of Caracas, and in it’s upper middle-class regions of Chacao and Altimira. There is food, including luxury items, which Venezuela’s poor can’t afford.

And in some stores there are said to be empty shelves, although I haven’t yet seen this.The policies of private companies —including the largest, Polar, whose CEO opposition supporters wanted him to run against Maduro in the last elections – to hoard goods and create false shortages is well known. That said, this theme that there is no food is one continually pumped by Western corporate media, along with the “humanitarian crisis” claim.

To help the poorest, the government initiated a food box delivery program known by its acronym, CLAP, wherein organized communities distribute government subsidized food to 6 million of Venezuela’s poorest families.

The system is not perfect, and I’ve heard complaints of boxes being late in reaching some communities. However, I’ve been told—including by a woman I interviewed yesterday who herself works in CLAP distribution—that problems lie in corruption on a local level, individuals in communities not distributing fairly or evenly.

Hotheads like Marco Rubio, and script reading corporate media, try to maintain that President Maduro has little support. But massive rallies of support, and a notable absence of opposition rallies of recent, counter that propaganda.

On March 16, for two hours I walked with Venezuelans at their anti-Imperialist, pro-government march, filming them, speaking with them, hearing person after person insist on their support for their elected president, Maduro.

Many or most of those marching were from Caracas’ poorest communities, the darker skinned, Afro-descendant Venezuelans that are scarcely given a voice by corporate media, almost certainly because they are ardent supporters of the government and Bolivarian revolution.

When I asked about their feelings of corporate media coverage of Venezuela, people told me it wasn’t depicting the reality, “they make it up, it’s all lies, all lies. The only president we recognize is Nicolas Maduro. And we want this man, Juan Guaido, to be arrested immediately”.

A young tax lawyer told me:

We’re here to support our (Bolivarian) project. We don’t want any war. We want medicine for our people—we don’t want sanctions from any government that prevent us from purchasing medicine. It’s very difficult for us to bring what’s needed for our people.”

Leaving the still crowded demonstration, I went towards Caracas’ eastern districts, hoping to attend one of the three or four opposition actions that a local journalist told me they had been tweeting about. None panned out.

A few days later, I went to Bellas Artes metro, the same scenario transpired, I couldn’t find the opposition protest that I’d heard was planned. Eventually, in front of the National Assembly, I did film between 15-20 well-dressed men and women not doing much other than standing around. Eventually, most passed by security and onto the premises. I didn’t hear them issue, or attempt to issue, any opposition statement, nor was there any violence from or against them.

A mass of government supporters arrived on motorbikes. A nearby man told me that these women and men on bikes had come to preserve the peace. He said that opposition had said they would stage a provocation (his words match what the local journalist told me, based on tweets to that effect from opposition/supporters), and that the pro-government bikers were not going to allow that to happen.

Height of hypocrisy and irony; US to ensure ‘foreign influences are not controlling Venezuela’

The US has been forcibly exerting its foreign influence over Venezuela for years, to the detriment of the Venezuelan people it crocodile-tear purports to care about. Most Western corporate media do not mention the manifold adverse effects of the immoral sanctions imposed on Venezuela.

At the end of January, UN human rights expert Idriss Jazairy denounced the sanctions, clearly noting they are, “aimed at changing the government of Venezuela,” and that, “Coercion, whether military or economic, must never be used to seek a change in government in a sovereign state.”

On top of this, America recently withheld US$5 billion intended for the purchase of medicines and raw materials used in medical production, Venezuelanalysis reported, after already freezing numerous Venezuelan assets, apparently holding them for their groomed puppet would-be president, Juan Guaido.

Unsurprisingly, John Bolton recently again menaced Venezuela, reiterating Trump’s, “all options are on the table,” military intervention threat and as though hallucinating blathered on about foreign influence and Venezuela and keeping the Imperialist Monroe Doctrine alive.

READ MORE: Bolton says Trump ‘very serious’ about ‘all options’ as Venezuela dismantles ‘terrorist cell’

In a meeting with the US Peace Council delegation in mid-March, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Jorge Arreaza, spoke of the openly-hostile US leadership.

When you have such an administration saying almost every single day, ‘all the options are on the table.’ And they say the military option is not discarded, then we have to be prepared for all of the options.

We told Mr.Elliott Abrams, ‘the coup has failed, so now what are you going to do?’ He kind of nodded and said, ‘Well, this is going to be a long term action, then, and we are looking forward to the collapse of your economy.’”

President Maduro, in a meeting with the delegation, told us:

We do not want foreign military intervention. Venezuelan people are very proud of the national independence. These people surrounding president Trump—John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, Marco Rubio, Elliott Abrams —every single day on Twitter, these guys are tweeting about Venezuela. Not about the US, the American people…they have an obsession with Venezuela, like a fatal obsession with Venezuela. This is extremely dangerous, and we need to denounce it and make it stop.

Having written extensively about the war propaganda and Imperialist rhetoric around Syria over the past eight years, this obsession is very familiar. As Alfred de Zayas, said in a recent interview:

If you call Maduro corrupt, people will gradually believe, he must be somewhat corrupt. But nobody reminds you that corruption in Venezuela in the 1980s and 90s – before Chavez, before Maduro – was rampant. The press is focusing only on Maduro, because the name of the game is to topple him.”

We’re seeing Syria (and Libya, Iraq…) all over again. The demonization of the leadership of a country America wants to dominate. The absurd rhetoric steaming daily from corporate owned media, pretty much in chorus. The troll army ready to attack with an energetic vitriol on social media anyone who dares to present a non-Imperialist perspective. And most worrisome, the acts of terrorism intended to hurt the people and incriminate the government.

Sadly, it seems the United States is ready to stoop to the same dirty tactics it and allies used against Syria over the past eight years: backing and collaborating with terrorists to attack the state. Indeed, last night while trying to finish this article, the power cut and remains off in many areas of the country.

Earlier this week, Information and Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez tweeted that the cause of this recent outage was an attack at the Guri Hydro complex, Venezuela’s central hydroelectric power plant and transmission area.

By today, electricity has partially been restored to Caracas.

Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

However, got these yesterday & they’ll last me a few days, avacadoes longer.

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Eva Bartlett

@EvaKBartlett

Yesterday in Petare, largest barrio in Latin America (& one of poorest in Caracas), I saw not-starving ppl purchasing similar vegs, plus meats, walking like normal ppl, not like a “crisis”.

Media is lying about a humanitarian crisis.

Same media that doesn’t care about Yemen. pic.twitter.com/Rz3e6bp46q

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I spent much of this afternoon riding on the back of a motorbike around Petare. The district is known as the largest “slum” in Latin America, an extended series of barrios, and is one of Caracas’ poorest and most dangerous areas. Wherever we rode, I looked for the humanitarian crisis corporate media insists exists. Instead, I found vegetables, fruit, chicken and food basics sold wherever I went, from the main square to hillside barrio of 5 of July (5 Julio).

On the hillside of Avila, the mountain overlooking Caracas, I saw at intervals while riding lines of people collecting spring water in jugs since the power outage has affected water distribution. I also saw lines of tankers, being organized by the municipality and with the military, to distribute water around the city and country. A chart listed over twenty hospitals designated to receive water.

The Venezuelan government has accused America of being behind both the March 7 outage and this week’s, stating the former was a combination of cyber, electromagnetic and physical attacks on the power grids (like the alleged secret US plan to do the same to Iran’s grid), and the latter a direct physical attack on the Guri complex, causing a fire at three transformers.

Clearly, the goal of such attacks is to create so much suffering and frustration among the public that there is chaos, and a “needed” US intervention.

The chaos has not happened, the people have refused it.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

EVA BARTLETT ON “THE SILENCED VOICES OF THE SYRIAN PEOPLE”

Eva Bartlett 

In February 2019, I joined a very informative panel of journalists and activists speaking on a variety of current and important issues, including control of media and their role in war propagandizing–along with NGOs, Syria, the White Helmets, and much more. I traveled after that panel and have been busy working on a number of things since, so didn’t have the chance to share this till now.

Here is my segment, during which I present examples of Syrian voices ignored by media and some of media’s blatant lies, contrasting what I saw and heard on the ground on 11 trips to Syria.

Originally uploaded at:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVsVrhu4OQU

Please also see these incredible presentations:

Patrick Henningsen, War – the ultimate goal of all propaganda
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntyPWXj9anY

Vanessa Beeley -The tale of the White Helmets in the Western media,on the ground in Syria and beyond
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDD0BBNC_mA

 

Related links (chronological order of mention):

-Talk With American-Syrians in Latakia, part 1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc2HRk42O-w

-Talk With American-Syrians in Latakia, part 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvFeGIoISLo

-Father Frans van der Lugt quote
https://dissidentvoice.org/2015/10/deconstructing-the-nato-narrative-on-syria/

-Dr Hussam al Samman, Madaya anecdote
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHhvSvl4XCs

-Dr Amer Ghantous on media lies around Daraa
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMtz25fCTEo

-Dr Amer Ghantous full interview
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwr7RcyG7WI

-Madaya starvation:
https://www.mintpressnews.com/order-returns-to-western-syria-civilians-recount-horrors-rebel-rule/232380/
-men from Madaya speak on terrorists hoarding food, starving civilians
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L-Ktf7UkHx8
-al-Waer, Dec 2015, food and supplies entering al-Waer
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1109530025723657&set=a.1128530780490248.1073741883.100000000104830

-Homs starvation and words of civilians:
https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/liberated-homs-residents-challenge-notion-of-revolution/
-Douma—terrorist rule, CW lies
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/429349-syrians-tell-terrorists-white-helmets/
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/428514-douma-civilians-chemical-hoax/

Douma Medical Student Testimony Contradicts Mainstream and White Helmets Chemical Accusations
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx3I8S9ih1M
A look at a part of the labyrinth of tunnels built by the terrorists formerly occupying Douma
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlmRdYTSjPE
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/syria-chemical-attack-gas-douma-robert-fisk-ghouta-damascus-a8307726.html
-Omran Daqneesh lies & exploitation

http://www.mintpressnews.com/mintpress-meets-father-iconic-aleppo-boy-says-media-lied-son/228722/

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/391958-aylan-omran-child-victims-syria-propaganda/

Omran Daqneesh Father on boy’s mild injuries
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpL6jETGvvI

https://www.rt.com/op-ed/401994-omran-aleppo-boy-syria/
-Daraa hospital and school damage & terrorist snipers proximity, May 2018
https://www.facebook.com/EvaBoBeeva/posts/1925005744176077
https://www.facebook.com/EvaBoBeeva/posts/1925893510753967
https://twitter.com/EvaKBartlett/status/1011971483961307136

-Daraa September 2018
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-busuQHngc
-Foua & Kafraya suffering:
https://21stcenturywire.com/2016/09/06/syria-the-children-of-kafarya-and-foua-are-crying-in-the-dark/

-Zahraa, Homs:Where is the West’s compassion & condemnation following terror attacks in Middle East?
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/330702-terrorism-west-hypocrisy-syria/

-university hospital children injured by terrorist attacks
https://ingaza.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/university-hospital-damascus-meeting-victims-of-western-backed-mortar-and-rocket-terrorism/
-mortar terrorism
https://zeroanthropology.net/2014/09/11/the-terrorism-we-support-in-syria-a-first-hand-account-of-the-use-of-mortars-against-civilians/

-Lyse Doucet/BBC dishonest journalism
https://www.rt.com/op-ed/408618-syria-war-propaganda-media-west/
-Mhardeh

https://www.mintpressnews.com/mhardeh-a-call-from-a-martyred-christian-town-for-syrias-full-liberation/250281/
https://www.globalresearch.ca/mhardeh-a-syrian-christian-town-besieged-and-targeted-by-the-west/5659638

Mhardeh: Shadi Shehda on his murdered children, mother, and wife, killed by terrorists in Idlib
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVSyWz–e5c
-Aleppo normal life

Life in Old Aleppo, around the historic Citadel
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqtTjbrm4Ec

old Aleppo shop owner: Just leave us in peace and we will re-build
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfopq-QLYHQ

Fares Shehabi on improved life in Aleppo since liberation
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz22FUMViLs

Fares Shehabi: Aleppo Factory Defying al Qaeda An Example of Rising Up Undefeated
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2uyKdrpBLc&t=6s

Old Aleppo: November 2016 Terrorist Snipers Vs Today’s Peace
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPMTXEZcIiE

Signs of Reconstruction Among the Destruction in Old Aleppo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7lKj5AeVm8

Syrian Independent MP on Western Sanctions: “They are directly affecting the Syrian people”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=419PwNIFjuI

From A Main Square in Aleppo That Was Sniped & Bombed By “Moderate” Terrorists
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyHB0f3DdZ4&
Aleppo Taxi Driver and Singer 🙂
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7UOaN214tQ

Ibrahim, an Aleppo Resident, Speaks About Experiences as Syrian Army Volunteer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_f13cJGJrQ&

Shops Re-Opened in Old Aleppo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BbRgYhYDrk

Reconstruction in Aleppo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CiMgNbLDCG0
Lively Clothes Market, Aleppo–The City That Did NOT Fall
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmgq5uU5UVM

Steadfast Syrian Taxi Driver: I love my Country, Leadership, Army
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H43oanu7MyQ

KIRILL VYSHINSKY, IMPRISONED IN UKRAINE FOR PRACTICING JOURNALISM (RADIO INTERVIEW)

Very grateful to Phil Taylor of The Taylor Report for having me on the show yesterday to speak about the case of Kirill Vyshinsky, imprisoned without trial in Ukraine since May 2018. [LISTEN HERE]
The Taylor Report writes:
“Feat. Eva Bartlett, independent journalist and rights activist, author of ingaza.wordpress.com

Phil interviews Eva Bartlett concerning her interviews with broadcaster/journalist, Kirill Vyshinsky, and his lawyer, Andriy Domanskyy.

Vyshinsky has been in custody in Kiev, Ukraine, since May 2018 without trial. Human rights groups have had little to say about Vyshinsky, since they practice a double-standard when journalists are perceived as political adversaries of the West.

Vyshinsky has been charged with high treason by Ukrainian security forces though the news agency he leads, RIA Novosti Ukraine, publishes a wide range of articles by journalists both for and against the current government of Ukraine, which was installed by a US-supported coup in 2014.

Bartlett discusses the many irregularities of Ukrainian justice in Vyshinsky’s case. She also investigates the possibility that his continuing incarceration might be connected with the upcoming Ukrainian election, and the scheme to try to swap Vyshinsky for a Ukrainian charged with espionage in Russia.”

Note: My interview with Andriy Domansky will be published on Mint Press News in the next day or two.

Please see the following related links:

“They Just Want Me in Prison”: MintPress Interviews Jailed Ukrainian Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky

Media Ignores the Plight of Kirill Vyshinsky: A Russian Journalist Imprisoned Without Trial in Ukraine   Eva Bartlett speaks with journalist Vladimir Rodzianko (Владимир Pодзянко) Rodzianko on the detention of Кирилл Вышинский by Ukraine since May 2018.

Release Imprisoned Journalist Kirill Vyshinsky (petition)

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