Congressional resolution shows pro-censorship attitude

This morning Fareed Zakaria at GPS on CNN raised an interesting issue previously talked about in this place and at Foreign Policy.

There is a resolution moving through Congress — already passed by the House — that would make the United States government arbiter of “fair” reporting.

The resolution — HR 2278 — states:

It shall be the policy of the United States to–

(1) designate as Specially Designated Global Terrorists satellite providers that knowingly and willingly contract with entities designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under Executive Order 13224, to broadcast their channels, or to consider implementing other punitive measures against satellite providers that transmit al-Aqsa TV, al-Manar TV, al-Rafidayn TV, or any other terrorist owned and operated station;

(2) consider state-sponsorship of anti-American incitement to violence when determining the level of assistance to, and frequency and nature of relations with, all states; and

(3) urge all governments and private investors who own shares in satellite companies or otherwise influence decisions about satellite transmissions to oppose transmissions of telecasts by al-Aqsa TV, al-Manar TV, al-Rafidayn TV, or any other Specially Designated Global Terrorist owned and operated stations that openly incite their audiences to commit acts of terrorism or violence against the United States and its citizens.

Zakaria notes on his web page and on-air commentary:

A bill that passed the House with only three dissenting votes might set the stage for a crackdown on anti-american media, deeming them “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” groups. Given a “crisis of governance,” Fareed questions whether this is the best use of Congress’s time and wonders at a world in which the US Congress is against free speech while Arab countries are for it.

Marc Lynch made a similar point a month ago:

A meeting of Arab Information Ministers at the Arab League in Cairo yesterday rejected a Congressional resolution calling for sanctions against Arab satellite television stations which allegedly incite terrorism or promote anti-Americanism. It would be pretty pathetic that the Arab League — the Arab League!! — is taking a stronger position in favor of media freedoms than the U.S. Congress. But don’t worry — leading Arab states still seem quite keen to find their own Arab ways to repress and control the media.

I join with Lynch in saying I have no doubt that the Arab countries are keen on keeping their media in line and therefore, I have no great love for those governments.

But for the U.S. Congress to advocate the U.S. government engage in censorship is outrageous.

In this commentary today, Zakaria noted that the issue is getting more international coverage than U.S. domestic. In fact, a quick Google search shows that ONLY the the Library of Congress, the international press and a few Arab-American organizations have anything to say about it.

The Washington Post has it on it calendar but no story.

Granted the resolution still has to pass through the Senate. Hopefully the Senate Foreign Affairs committee will kill the bill and make a stand against censorship. But when has an American politician ever earned points standing up against a motion that sounds anti-terrorist?

The move is bad. As Zakaria pointed out, CNN could end up on the list whenever it does its job of interviewing people in the Arab world.

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Filed under Censorship, International News Coverage, Middle East, Press Freedom

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