Through the meticulous work of Jeremy Scahill, an investigative reporter with the Nation Institute, we recently learned that President Obama had a direct role in keeping a Yemeni journalist in prison. I have to emphasize that unlike many mainstream media journalists Mr. Scahill was not lying down on a White House couch when he wrote his well researched piece. Despite the risks to his safety and well being he traveled to Yemen to conduct extensive interviews with many people who have been involved in the case.
According to Mr. Scahill the American administration claims that Mr. Shaye is an al-Qaeda collaborator. As always the case when it comes to national security issues the administration has refused to make public its classified evidence against him.
However, what is publicly known about Shaye’s case points to a character assassination campaign that is being carried out by the Obama administration given the fact that Shaye was the first journalist who broke the story about the covert American involvement in the drone attacks that claimed the lives of many innocent women and children.
To establish whether targeting independent Arab journalists and media is part of an established policy we have to look back to recent history. The three examples presented next will leave no doubt with regards to the existence of a program that, in my opinion, is sanctioned by top former and current American officials (and their allies by extension) to control the flow of information in order to silence truth tellers.
The first one relates to the bombing of the al-Jazeera office in Kabul in November 2001. Al-Jazeera was the first television outlet to establish presence on the ground because of a special permission they received from the Taliban. When the American army unleashed its might on Kabul al-Jazeera was the only network that transmitted images about the extensive bombardment campaign that was being carried out by the US army. Al-Jazeera had also exclusive access to top al-Qaeda leadership including Osama Ben Laden whom they interviewed on few occasions.
Apparently these two privileges were enough for George Bush to consider knocking out al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar as was later revealed by a secret memo. When confronted with the memo the former US administration objected to the assertion that it was after al-Jazeera because of its role in exposing the truth about the war in Afghanistan
The second example relates to the bombing of al-Jazeera office in Baghdad in April 2003. Again al-Jazeera was the first to be on the ground and had exclusive access to many figures within the inner circle of Saddam Hussein. Isn’t this what the media is supposed to do as to be able to have a scoop on the story? Or is this only allowed for Western media but is considered a crime for Arab media? Dima Tareq Tahboub, the wife of Tareq Ayyoub, one of al-Jazeera’s journalists who was killed (or rather assassinated) in the raid , believes the US administration was determined to suppress the independent Arab media.
Why is President Obama Keeping Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in Prison
The third example relates to the unjust imprisonment of Tayseer Allouni, a Syrian-Spanish journalist who worked for al-Jazeera’s office in Kabul when the American army invaded Afghanistan. He was the first journalist who managed to conduct an interview with Osama Bin Laden immediately after the war broke (while Bin Laden was still inside Afghanistan).
Spanish authorities charged Mr. Allouni with collaborating with al-Qaeda. He was later sentenced to 7 years in prison. Legal experts believe his trial and conviction violated the most basic principles of fairness. In fact, Europe’s Human Rights Court recently ruled that his imprisonment was illegal and even went as far to recommend the Spanish government pay him a financial compensation. He was recently released and allowed to travel to Doha after losing seven years of his life and professional career.
From the examples cited above we can see that Obama’s current war on free speech in Yemen is a continuation of Bush’s legacy. One only wonders what other plans Obama has in store for independent Arab media? Only time will tell.