THE ROVING EYE Exposed: US press 'freedom'
By Pepe Escobar
Last week, independent journalist Sam Husseini went to a news conference by
Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia at Washington’s National Press Club -
where Husseini is a member.
Then he did something that is alien to United States corporate media culture.
He behaved as an actual journalist and asked a tough, pertinent,
no-holds-barred question. Here it is, as relayed by Husseini's blog:
want to know what legitimacy your regime has, sir. You come before us,
representative of one of the most autocratic, misogynistic regimes on the face
of the earth. Human Rights Watch and other reports of torture, detention of
activists, you squelched the democratic uprising in Bahrain, you tried to
overturn the democratic uprising in Egypt and indeed you continue to oppress
your own people. What legitimacy does your regime have - other than billions of
dollars and weapons? 
Prince Turki, former Saudi
intelligence supremo, former pal of al-
Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, former Saudi ambassador to the US, reacted by
changing the subject. 
Were this to happen in the Middle East, Husseini would have been duly kidnapped
by Saudi intel, tortured and snuffed out. Ask the remains of Colonel Muammar
Gaddafi. For much less - saying out loud in an Arab League meeting that King
Abdullah was a traitor, because he was encouraging the George W Bush
administration to invade Iraq - the House of Saud did everything in its power,
for years, to make sure Gaddafi was taken out.
Turki exhibits all the trademark democratic credentials of the House of Saud.
He refers to the push for democracy in the Arab world as "Arab Troubles".
After the Turki shoot
According to Husseini, on the same day of the news conference he received "a
letter informing me that I was suspended from the National Press Club 'due to
your conduct at a news conference'. The letter, signed by the executive
director of the club, William McCarren, accused me of violating rules
prohibiting 'boisterous and unseemly conduct or language'."
Husseini, communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, which
showcases critical journalism from all over the world, is a calm, thoughtful
man with impeccable credentials. The accusation is not only bogus - it is
Was this a one-off? Obviously not. Flashback to January 2009, at the same
National Press Club, during a news conference by then-Israeli foreign minister
Tzipi Livni. When Livni was asked a tough question - once again by Husseini -
the mike was cut, and the conference abruptly terminated. My cameraman,
Sebastian Pituscan, was there with me. 
So this is how the much-lauded "freedom of the press" myth in the US actually
works. If you perform the job of an actual journalist, telling truth to power,
forget about attending press conferences at the White House, Pentagon or State
Department. You won't even be admitted in the building.
If you are an official from a "valuable ally" - such as the House of Saud or
the regime in Israeli - you are assured a tough question-free pulpit anywhere
you choose, especially if you're fluent in English.
But if you are an official from a "rogue" regime, the maximum you can aspire is
to be humiliated in public, as it happened to Iranian President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad at Columbia University in New York. Especially if you don't speak
English, and most of what you say is lost in translation.
On the other hand, if you are a travelling US corporate media hack, you can get
away with murder.
Example. During the Asian financial crisis, in 1997 and 1998, I went to
countless press conferences where parachuted US hacks intimidated Asian leaders
as if they were a bunch of hooligans (the hacks, not the leaders). Perky chicks
emerging from some two-bit journalism school in the flyover states treated
then-Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad as if he was a child rapist,
because he had established capital controls.
Mahathir turned out to be right - as Malaysia overcame the crisis much earlier
than those, such as Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea, that surrendered to
the International Monetary Fund's dreadful "adjustments".
In 1989, Chinese students protesting in Tiananmen Square were hailed by US
media as heroes standing up to tyranny. In 2011, American students protesting
all across the country against financial tyranny are "lazy", "bastards", both,
or downright criminalized.
United States corporate media could not possibly admit that repression in
Tahrir Square by Egyptian riot police is exactly the same as repression in New
York, Oakland, Portland or Boston by American riot police.
Still there's no word from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization about setting
up a "humanitarian" no-fly zone over selected Occupy sites in US cities. They
are still consulting with the House of Saud.
1. See the blog here.
2. Video of
the exchange is
3. The exchange is