Monday, August 28, 2006

US Hospitality to Foreign Journalists

Wayne Madsen Report - Home: reporting from abroad

August 28, 2006
"Information visas (I-Visa) -- a Bush administration method for controlling the foreign media's coverage of the United States.

You're a foreign journalist and you want to visit the United States to cover a story. If you think it is as easy as hopping on an airplane, even if you are a citizen or resident of a visa-waiver country, guess again. Journalists wishing to travel to the United States -- whether they are with print, television, radio, or Internet media -- must first obtain an "I-Visa" from the U.S. embassy or selected consulates responsible for their jurisdictions. Freelance journalists who are not under contract to a U.S.-recognized media organization need not apply.

Journalists must fill out a detailed application in which they are required to outline what story they are writing about and they must personally visit the U.S. embassy and consulate for 'administrative processing, biometric collection and a personal interview.' Biometric processing at the U.S. embassy in Copenhagen entails having one's thumb electronically scanned. Journalists visiting some U.S. diplomatic missions for the interview cannot bring in electronic devices (cell phones, PDAs, laptops ) [or] backpacks, suitcases and attach´┐Żcases.' At certain missions, U.S. embassy security personnel refuse to store such items during the interview process. Others confiscate cell phones and tag them for pick up after the interview process (needless to say, the interview process might last a bit longer if the local U.S. spooks decide to examine the journalist's cell phone call list and perform certain 'modifications.' At the Madrid embassy, the only bags that are permitted inside the compound are those having medical purposes, such as insulin kits.

Journalists must also provide their addresses in the United States and the names and addresses of those who they will be interviewing. So much for freedom of the press and the protection of journalists' sources."
And then there's the matter of what cronies you have to pay off to get this iVisa.

Right now, it is fortunate that most countries are not reciprocating against U.S. journalists in kind. In fact, there are very few countries that require special visas for journalists. The United States and a few tin horn dictatorships are among the few countries that restrict admittance and travel for foreign journalists. Israel severely restricts media access to the West Bank and Gaza. On the other hand, Cuba provides freer access for foreign journalists than does the United States. It is just that a vocal jingoistic minority in southern Florida and their lickspittles in the Bush administration don't want any American journalists to witness for themselves the relative freedom for foreign journalists to report from Cuba. Ask Cuban authorities the total lack of restrictions on journalists reporting on and photographing conditions inside the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay from their side of the fence and then consider the draconian restrictions places on U.S. and foreign journalists inside the U.S. military concentration camp.

If the Republicans and neo-cons are not run out of Washington soon, the situation for American journalists abroad may change dramatically. And the public's right to know will be the major casualty in such an event.

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