Journalists Face Most Deadly and Dangerous Period in Recent History

Originally published on April 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to a report released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that terrorist groups and governments have made recent years the most dangerous period to work as a journalist. Targeted by both terrorists and national security agencies, journalists across the world have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, murder, government surveillance, censorship, and imprisonment. As Islamic State continues releasing videos of beheaded reporters, the number of journalists detained in jails worldwide has more than doubled since 2000.

In its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press: Journalists caught between terrorists and governments, the CPJ reported that the incessant war on terror has escalated the risk to journalists’ lives as many of their murders remain unsolved. With the advent of mass electronic surveillance, journalists must now employ extreme countermeasures in order to protect the identities of their sources and often succumb to self-censorship while working in abject fear of arbitrary detention.

“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information—an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes,” wrote CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the review’s foreword.

In the U.S., the National Security Agency (NSA) is attempting to gather every piece of electronic communication sent or received. With the government recording our phone conversations, email archives, cell-site location, metadata, online activity, and GPS, reporters also have to contend with roving bugs and surveillance cameras in order to protect their source’s identity. Without employing surveillance countermeasures such as encryption tools and clandestine meetings, journalists can no longer guarantee the anonymity of their sources. The Obama administration is also responsible for aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers that provide information to reporters.

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Former Russian Deputy Prime Minister Assassinated

Originally published on March 1, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Hours after criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin on the radio and promoting an anti-war rally in Moscow this weekend, former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov was gunned down on Friday while crossing a bridge near the Kremlin. Recognized as an economic reformer and outspoken political leader critical of Putin’s rampant corruption, Nemtsov feared the Russian president would have him killed because of his opposition to the war in Ukraine. Since Putin assumed the presidency on December 31, 1999, over a hundred Russian journalists, authors, and activists have been killed.

Shortly before midnight on Friday, Nemtsov was crossing the Bolshoi Kamenny Bridge accompanied by a Ukrainian woman when a white car approached them. Conflicting accounts do not agree on what happened next. According to Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Investigative Committee, at least seven shots were fired from the passing car. But according to Russian-language news website Meduza, several people had exited the car before shooting Nemtsov.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Yelena Alexeeva announced that Nemtsov had been shot four times in the back, while his female companion remained unharmed. Six shell casings were found at the crime scene, which is located only 500ft from the Kremlin. Investigators believe Nemtsov’s murder was the result of a drive-by shooting.

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Save Critically Endangered Amur Leopards

Originally published on July 28, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Vladimir Putin, President of Russia; Xi Jinping, President of China

Goal: Stop the poaching and logging practices that are driving Amur leopards into extinction

Only a couple dozen Amur leopards survive in the wildernesses of China and Russia. Illegal poaching and forest logging are threatening to kill the last remaining Amur leopards. Without help from the Chinese and Russian governments, these rare and beautiful creatures will rapidly become extinct.

Poachers primarily hunt Amur leopards for their spotted pelts. They also poach animals that the leopards need to hunt as prey. By killing off their food supply, the Amur leopards will eventually starve to death.

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UK Announces Public Inquiry into Russian Spy’s Poisoning

Originally published on July 25, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Blaming Russia for the deaths of the 298 passengers aboard Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, including 10 passengers from the UK, the British government has announced a public inquiry into poisoned former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Seeking justice for her husband’s murder, Marina Litvinenko has met resistance from the British government until recent actions in the Ukraine and deteriorating diplomatic relations with Russia.

While investigating the assassination of investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, former FSB agent Litvinenko met with three former KGB officers at the Millennium Hotel in London on November 1, 2006. Forensic evidence has revealed Litvinenko’s teacup had been poisoned with the radioactive isotope, polonium-210. Enduring intense agony, Litvinenko entered a hospital and eventually died of heart failure 22 days later.

Before his death, Litvinenko revealed the names of his killers: Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, the former KGB officers who had tea with him, and Vladimir Putin, the man who had ordered his execution.

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Russia Denies Reopening Cuban Spy Base as Ukrainian Conflict Escalates

Originally published on July 20, 2014, at NationofChange.org

Responding to recent allegations, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly denied any intentions to reopen their signals intelligence (SIGINT) post in Cuba. While attending a BRICS summit in Brasilia on Thursday, Putin claimed, “Russia is capable of fulfilling the defense capacity tasks without this component.”

The Soviet-era spy facility in Lourdes, Cuba, began operation in 1967 after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban missile crisis. Located 155 miles from the US coast, the covert base intercepted classified radio signals from ships, submarines, and American spacecraft. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union required up to 3,000 personnel to staff the building.

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