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NPR: Temporary Victory for Free Speech

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During a period when free speech is under attack almost like never before in the United States, a small victory has been recorded.

The background: A grand jury is meeting in Virginia to try to find a way to hang Julian Assange, only metaphorically of course.

National Public Radio announced today that its news director was stepping down after a review of her decision to fire Juan Williams after he appeared on Fox News and commented that he became nervous if he saw a person wearing Muslim garb get on a plane he was riding.

The same organization, under the orders of former Senior Vice President For News Ellen Weiss, had earlier come under attack for telling its employees that none of them should be present at a rally hosted by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in Washington, unless they were covering it.

In recent years, news managers, the same people who have come under attack for serving as tools of the administrations of presidents Bush and Obama, have told their staffs they shouldn't be seen as supporting any candidate or party in any manner. That means no donations, no bumper sticks, apparently dreams were not covered.

The most recent example of how this worked to the advantage of government is explained in detail in the latest issue of the New Yorker Magazine. It tells of how the tearing down of a statue of Saddam Hussein was used to indicate the Iraq War was over. Of course it wasn't.

In order to do this, photo editing was required to make it look like the big crowd present was ebullient Iraqis. In fact there were more journalists. Many news organizations have strict rules barring the use of Photoshop or other editing tools to make any changes in news photos.

It sort of reminds of the days when the Soviets would remove non-persons from photos. In at least one case, which may be Apocryphal, at least one person's feet were left.

Just last week NPR apologized for exaggerating how many documents Julian Assange's WikiLeaks had released.

But these apologies are the exception. Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter who helped lead the nation into the Iraq War by trumpeting false claims of weapons of mass destruction, criticized Assange for not verifying leaked documents before they were given to the New York Times, Guardian and others. She earlier had defended her accepting the Bush Administration's lies because it was not her job to question what they told her but to get the story out. Interesting, since what Wikileaks, also had gotten its information from the U.S. government.

This victory will likely be only a blip on the radar when the story of journalist/the internet/free speech are told.

The Department of Homeland Security has already begun shutting down Websites, with no notice. Congress is working on legislation giving Obama more power to control the World Wide Web.

Write anything he doesn't like and it will be considered to be aiding and abetting the enemy.

Whether this practice will stand remains an open question. There are so many ways around it. Throughout pre-wireless history there have been ways to get the word out against ruthless regimes.