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The Dirty Agenda of Reporters Sans Frontières

They're not squeaky clean. They probably can't even be rinsed clean.

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Pondering the attack by Reporters Sans Frontières on WikiLeaks and WikiLeaks' cryptic response, one could be inclined to use Google to see if any more information is available. There are very few links. One of the available links attempts to deconstruct the RSF attack line by line but that's a bit too pedantic.

What does turn up however are a number of articles not on the current controversy but on Reporters Sans Frontières. It would seem the RSF people are running a very dirty agenda.

Most people automatically assume with a name including 'sans frontières' ('without borders') that it must be some kind of international organisation with lofty ideals much like Medécins Sans Frontières.

Not so. It would in fact appear the founder of RSF deliberately chose the name to gain by association.

Medécins Sans Frontières

Medécins Sans Frontières are a legitimate organisation. They won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 'in recognition of the organisation's pioneering work on several continents'. The RSF aren't about to win anything similar.

There is however an organisation of the same caliber for journalists. But it's not RSF. It's the CPJ - the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ is funded by contributions from both individuals and corporations but does not accept funds from governments. CPJ have full-time staff in Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. They also work together with the International Freedom of Expression Exchange.

CPJ are totally legit - or what can one say about a board of directors and advisors with names like (until 2009) honorary cochairman Walter Cronkite, Andrew Alexander and Rajiv Chandrasekaran of the Washington Post, Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Dean Baquet and Geraldine Fabrikant Metz of the New York Times, Kathleen Carroll of the AP, Sheila Coronel and Josh Friedman of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, Anne Garrels at NPR, Cheryl Gould of NBC News, Gwen Ifill of the PBS, Jane Kramer of the New Yorker, Lara Logan of CBS News, Victor Navasky of The Nation, Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald, Burl Osborne of the Dallas Morning News, and Tom Brokaw of NBC?

CPJ are totally legit.

RSF are on the other hand rather flaky. The SourceWatch site reveals quite a lot of interesting things about RSF.

RSF receive considerable perks from Saatchi & Saatchi who design and conduct all the considerable RSF media campaigns for free. But there's a reason for that generosity as there is for everything about RSF.

RSF - in contrast to CPJ - accept governmental contributions which as of 2007 represented 12% of their budget. Both the French and US governments contribute significantly to the RSF bottom line. RSF accept contributions from the NED - the US National Endowment for Democracy founded in 1983 'to promote US-friendly democracy'. The NED get their funding from the US government and in turn share this with RSF.

Both the NED and RSF have been accused of meddling in the affairs of other countries and being set up to carry out CIA activities now prohibited by law. According to NED cofounder Allen Weinstein, 'a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA'.

Robert Ménard

RSF was founded by Robert Ménard of Algeria, later of France. Ménard first started the pirate radio station Radio Pomarède, founded the Association for Liberation of the Airwaves, then later created the magazine Le Petit Biterrois. Ten years later he founded RSF.

Ménard was arrested in 2008 for attempting to disrupt the lighting of the Olympic flame and is known (infamous) for his collaboration with fringe anti-Castro groups, going so far as to attempt to sabotage that country's now burgeoning tourist trade. He's also suspected of having dealings with the Bacardi rum clan.

RSF and Ménard aren't legit - they're anything but. And a closer examination of their activities by Diana Barahona of the Northern California Media Guild revealed some rather dirty secrets: it's obvious RSF are little more than a propaganda office that occasionally - but only occasionally - serve nonpartisan idealistic issues.

RSF's New York City representative Tala Dowlatshahi terminated a telephone interview when asked about US government funding; and even more notable is their role in the 2004 coup in Haiti engineered by the governments of France and the US - both significant funders of RSF.

According to Haiti-based US journalist Kevin Pina, RSF selectively documented attacks on opposition radio stations whilst ignoring other attacks to create the impression of state-sponsored violence. RSF blamed the government for the unsolved murders of two journalists, calling them 'predators of press freedom', but fell silent during the coup and its bloody aftermath when the police murdered radio reporter Abdias Jean and an attack was perpetrated on Raoul Saint-Louis, both of whom were opposed to the French/US coup.

Pina further claims the propaganda emanating from RSF was crafted by the US state department.

RSF/Ménard also went after Hugo Chavez starting as early as spring 2002 when four private Venezuelan television stations actively aided a coup against the government. Some of the RSF actions in Venezuela coincide too closely with funding received from the NED. Human rights lawyer Eva Golinger documented more than $20 million given by the NED and their parent USAID to opposition groups and private media companies in Venezuela, many of which headed the 2002 attempted coup.

The undesirable connections continue through the US invasion of Iraq. Whilst the 2004 RSF report mentions only that the invasion 'opened a new era of freedom', the International News Safety Institute reported 44 Iraqi journalists and support staff killed in the military action. Similarly, the RSF describe the bombing of the Iraqi Ministry of Information - a war crime according to the Geneva Convention - as 'ending decades of zero press freedom'. In response to the kidnapping of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj who disappeared in December 2001 and turned up later in Guantánamo, RSF all but removed mention of him from their website without commenting on his abduction - this in stark contrast to how they cover kidnappings carried out by Iraqi resistance fighters.


But worst of all is how RSF and Ménard have worked with fringe groups and the US government to crush Cuba. RSF made Cuba the primary target from the get-go, says Diana Barahona.

'It even gives the country a lower ranking on its press freedom index than countries where journalists routinely have been killed, such as Colombia, Peru, and Mexico. RSF has waged campaigns aimed at discouraging Europeans from vacationing in Cuba and the European Union from doing business there.'

'The above is not a matter of chance because it turns out that RSF is on the payroll of the US State Department and has close ties to Helms-Burton-funded Cuban exile groups.'

Helms-Burton is a US law from 1996 sponsored by two right wing US congressmen intended to squeeze Cuba even harder - this when the majority of the US congress are instead trying to normalise relations.

Jean-Guy Allard wrote about Ménard in his 2005 book El expediente Robert Ménard: Por qué Reporteros sin Fronteras se ensaña con Cuba, laying out the entangled activities, associations, and funding of the RSF founder in an attempt to explain what he calls Ménard's 'obsession' with Cuba.

On 27 April 2005 president of Paris daily Red Voltaire Thierry Meyssan published an article claiming Ménard negotiated a contract with Otto Reich and the Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) in 2001 where Reich was a trustee. The CFC receive the bulk of their funding from USAID (US Agency for International Development). The contract was allegedly signed in 2002 when Reich was appointed special envoy to the 'western hemisphere' by the US secretary of state. RSF received $25,000 for that first year and double that amount starting the year after.

RSF's Washington representative Lucie Morillon admitted RSF receive funding from the CFC and that the contract with Reich obligates them 'to inform Europeans about repression against journalists in Cuba' but denied the assault of anti-Cuba ads on European television and radio, full page ads in Parisian dailies, posters, leafletting at airports - and the April 2003 occupation of the Cuban tourism office in Paris - had anything to do with harming Cuban tourism.

The Special Period

Barahona explains what's really going on.

'RSF's emphasis on tourism is the key to understanding its role. After the 1989 fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern bloc support for Cuba's economy soon came to a halt and what Cubans call the 'special period' began.'

'Almost all of Cuba's sugar harvest had been sold to the communist bloc in the Cold War era and in return the island imported two-thirds of its food supply, nearly all its oil, and 80% of its machinery and spare parts from the same sources. Suddenly 85% of Cuba's foreign trade vanished.'

'Deprived of petroleum, Cuban industries and transportation ground to a halt. For the first time in many years malnutrition on the island began to appear as rations were reduced to little more than rice and beans.'

'But Cuba disappointed the plotters by surviving. A centerpiece of the island's recovery was the government's decision in 1992 to develop the tourism industry which has gone a long way to replace desperately needed foreign exchange the country lost.'

The hawks in Washington, along with CANF and the Bacardi rum family, plotted to try to make things go downhill for the wee Caribbean island. 'We do not wish it but if blood has to flow, it will flow', wrote CANF chair Jorge Mas Canosa. Miami terrorists started infiltrating the island, attacking hotels and other tourist targets.

Luis Posada - a former CIA agent who helped organise the Bay of Pigs invasion and was part of a 1965 coup attempt in Guatemala and the Iran-Contra affair, a former COO of Venezuelan intelligence organistion DISOP, with connections to the Bacardi clan, convicted in absentia of the 6 October 1976 bombing of Cubana flight CU-455 that killed 73 people, held by authorities for eight years before being sprung by CANF chair and Reagan buddy Canosa, and thought by some to have been involved in the assassination of JFK and a plan to assassinate Henry Kissinger - organised a series of Cuban hotel bombings in 1997 which he's admitted to and which killed Italian tourist Fabio di Celmo and wounded 11 others.

Posada's reaction? 'It is sad someone is dead but we can't stop', he told the New York Times. The 1997 bombings were funded by the US-backed CANF whose chair Canosa took charge of logistics as well.

RSF's Ménard admitted in a 1995 interview with Columbian journalist Hernando Calvo Ospina supporting these anti-Cuban elements and always considering Cuba '*the* priority in Latin America'. Once Helms-Burton was signed into law by Clinton in 1996, RSF reps attended a Paris meeting of Cuba dissidents, after which Ménard traveled to Havanna to recruit people to write anti-Cuban stories for publication. RSF are also mentioned in a 2004 US report that recommends an additional $41 million in funding.

Ménard's good friend Otto Reich at the CFC helped spring Orlando Bosch from a Venezuelan prison where he was being held for his part in the bombing of CU-455. (Reich was the US ambassador to Venezuela at the time.) Posada was again operational in El Salvador, helping run the Iran-Contra operation. Reich helped the George W Bush administration organise attempts to oust Hugo Chavez and was transferred to the National Security Council in 2002, where he oversaw the Haitian 2004 coup which RSF and Ménard supported with a smear campaign against the incumbents.

RSF and Ménard are known to have rightist friends in the EU and the US including CFC director and - simultaneously - head of Bacardi Manuel Cutillas.

RSF also receive free publicity from Saatchi & Saatchi and Vivendi Universal print all their books for free. Saatchi & Saatchi are part of the French Publicis Groupe, the world's 4th largest marketing/PR conglomerate with an annual advertising budget with Bacardi estimated at $50 million.

Reporters Sans Fact-checking Washington has issued some idiot statement, based on a bunch of quotes we never made.
 - WikiLeaks tweet

See Also
Twitter: WikiLeaks
Wikipedia: Luis Posada
Medécins Sans Frontières
Wikipedia: Orlando Bosch
Blogspot: Diana Barahona
Wikipedia: Cubana Flight 455
Committee to Protect Journalists
SourceWatch: Reporters Sans Frontières
International Freedom of Expression Exchange
US District Court: US v Luis Posada Carilles 2007-04-06
The Nobel Prize in Peace 1999 - Medécins Sans Frontières
Amazon/Hernando Calvo Ospina: Bacardi: The Hidden War
CounterPunch/Diana Barahona: Reporters Sans Frontières Unmasked

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