Senior Editor, Outlaw Patriot News & Independent Contributor, Hagmann Report
Assuredly, some of you remember the story of Amber Lyon, the CNN reporter that blew the lid off of the practices at CNN and CNN International in regards to their placement of stories at the behest of countries that pay, and her assertion this year that the US government does the same in order to squash stories that are unfavorable and promote stories that they want in the public eye. However, there are likely some of you, also, that either don’t remember the tale or simply don’t remember the specifics. So, let us take a walk down memory lane just a short way and remember this story and look how it relates to the current surge from MSM and the out-going Obama administration in their talk of “fake news” and “domestic propagandists”…
(Cue “Gilligan’s Island” theme song: “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…”)
Amber Lyon, a young journalist and photographer, was sent as part of a four-person crew to Bahrain in March, 2011, to cover the events that were unfolding there and what would become known as the “Arab Spring”. The goal was to produce a one-hour long documentary on the use of the internet and social media by the protestors and how these technologies were revolutionizing the act of protest and organization of dissent. However, the next eight days that the crew spent in-country would be eventful, to say the least, and would become career defining for the young journalist, who in her own words, “got into journalism to expose, not help conceal, wrongdoing”.
As pointed out in Glenn Greenwald’s (of Snowden leak fame) piece for the Guardian from September, 2012, upon arrival in Bahrain, the crew soon discovered that many of the sources that had previously agreed to speak with them were now in hiding or had disappeared. Some of those that worked together with them faced punishment at the hands of the brutal Bahraini regime, as did the protestors they interviewed. Some that spoke with the team faced criminal charges shortly after, and a doctor that gave the crew a tour of his village and set up meetings with some of the government opponents had his house burned to the ground days later. Lyon and the crew were also detained by government forces – 20 men in black ski masks disembarked from military vehicles, held them at gunpoint while they deleted their photos and video, and then took them in for questioning for over six hours. In addition, in subsequent interviews, Ms. Lyon recounted the fact that while there, she and her crew had stayed on a US military facility, where they were threatened by military members, and that they had also uncovered that much of the tear gas and weaponry supplied to the Bahraini regime were coming from the US.
Upon return to the US, the footage that Ms. Lyon and the crew shot in Bahrain wound up as a 13 minute segment within the one hour documentary. It aired once on CNN, the American branch that had funded the documentary (to the tune of over $100,000, a hefty price tag for a documentary of its size) titled “iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring”, on June 19, 2011. The 13 minute segment can still be viewed via YouTube, here. The segment is not for the faint of heart, as it recounts brutal torture of activists at the hands of government forces through interviews with the activists, stories from family members of activists that had disappeared, the shooting of unarmed activists by government forces, and justifications from government officials of the actions taken. It clearly showed the cruel treatment of dissenters at the hands of a US “partner” in the Middle East. The program received numerous awards for the cutting-edge storytelling and received international attention. However, despite the awards and attention, and despite the fact that the Arab Spring movement being thrust into the forefront of news coverage worldwide, CNN International, the most-watched English speaking news source in the Middle East, did not show the program. As pointed out in Greenwald’s article from 2012, it would have been prudent for CNN International to have used the program, as well, as it had been funded by the American branch of CNN, and so it would have been basically free programming for their use in a time when both brands were struggling financially.
Producers and reporters at CNN were dumbfounded as to the reasoning why CNN International would not broadcast a program on the largest international story of the time, and a program that had received such praise from the media community. They stated as much in emails to Lyon and encouraged her to find out why. She scheduled a meeting with Tommy Maddox, who was then the president of CNN International to discuss why it would not broadcast the documentary. After two meetings, it was becoming clear that Lyons was getting nowhere with Maddox, who refused to explain why the program would not be aired on CNN International. However, she continued reporting from the region and was contacted by management about them receiving complaints from the Bahraini regime on Lyon and the iRevolution documentary. They began to pressure Lyon to include information and claims from the Bahrain regime in her reporting. Bahrain even enlisted top PR firms, paying exorbitant funds to pressure CNN and manage the growing image problem the country was facing, which included the former campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate and DNC chair, Howard Dean.
In March, 2012, Lyon was laid off from CNN and began to go public with the censorship at CNN. She said it critically affected her ability to report accurately and endangered the lives of those that came forward to tell their stories. Shortly, thereafter, he agent was contacted by CNN and told that her severance package and insurance benefits would be terminated if she continued to speak publicly on this matter, or negatively of CNN. However, this simply spurred her forward, as she saw the CNN severance package as “dirty hush money” to silence her.
Following Greenwald’s article, which really broke Lyon’s story into the mainstream, CNN International released a rebuttal to the story, which can be found here. You will notice in it that the rebuttal admits that CNN International has carried advertising and sponsored content since the 90s, however, in typical MSM fashion of speaking out of both sides of their…mouth…they also claim that no deal ever buys editorial influence. Riiight… You can also find Greenwald’s response to the CNN International rebuttal here, and Lyon’s response here.
As the media and establishment politicians continue rhetoric devised to further divide and alienate large swathes of the US population by painting them to be gullible enough to fall for fake news distributed by Russian security forces aimed at toppling the US government, it is important for us to remember stories like that of Amber Lyon and her treatment by one of those MSM outlets that is screeching the loudest. Her story clearly illustrates the connection between paid-for reporting and the influence of government over the press, which is supposed to be protected under the First Amendment in this country. Through programs like Operation: Mockingbird the shadow government has gained influence into our newsrooms, placing reporters and editors at the highest levels, and through the television, internet, and printing press, has gained access directly into our living rooms and around kitchen tables, thus not just controlling the narrative but also influencing how we, as Americans, view the world around us. We must reject the status quo in reporting and demand better journalistic integrity from the press.
I fully believe that what we are witnessing in these cries of fake news and domestic propagandists are the death throes of an establishment media that has lost touch with the people that they are supposed to influence. They became an echo chamber of views from the East and West coasts, but they forgot the little man in the interior of the country – the little man that for the most part has enabled their first-world lifestyles and built the exceptionalism that has allowed their slide into decadence. For many years, that little man has let their shenanigans go on with little or no fight because he was busy working for the things that made up the American Dream. But in an age where the American Dream has become harder to attain, and with no work to keep him busy, the little man has awakened and grown into giant, the same giant that swept into the election season and overthrew the status quo. That giant must now realize that despite striking with a hard right hook, the fight is far from over – he must not go back to sleep.
Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.