Archive for journalism

Article on W2i Digital Cities Convention

I got tagged by my editor at Digital Communities to cover last week’s Digital Cities Convention in Philadelphia. You can read the article here.

Digital Communities is industry funded, but with editorial independence (as far as I can tell). The readers are supposed to be city and industry folks, but I’m trying to write articles that are at least understandable and hopefully useful for a broader audience.

This article tries to use the convention to get a snapshot of the field of municipal wireless, which is changing really fast and getting much more competitive.

My friend asked me about one section in it:

Terry McGowan from PacketHop agreed. At the end of the second day, I jokingly asked him if he’d rung up any sales at the conference. He gave an answer, but in a common obstacle in writing this article, when I confirmed the quote with him, the Director of Corporate Marketing intervened and rephrased the answer: “The conference was very worthwhile for PacketHop,” said Kevin Payne of PacketHop. “We found that there was a lot of interest in our solutions for municipal services and that there were many opportunities to meet with actual decision makers.”

“Why was it a common problem in writing this article?” she asked.

It’s a common problem because I’m easy to talk to, actually interested in what people are saying, and most people are nice and happy to engage on a human level. (Others are self-important or trying to impress.) But then I’m more ethical than most reporters – I identify myself and check quotes with people – while PR flacks are mostly twits who idolize Ari Shapiro in the sense that they think they’re job is to deflect questions rather than answer them.

Compare my original paragraph:

Terry McGowan from Packethop agreed. At the end of the second day, I jokingly asked him if he’d rung up any sales at the conference. “I wish it were that easy,” McGowan said, “but there has been some interest.” [...] McGowan continued, “There weren’t a lot of people here, but they were the right people.”

That actually sounds like he and I had a conversation, which we did; Terry seemed like a nice guy doing. I filled in the rest, which is a writer’s job, describing how the product is a “solution for municipal services” and who the “right people” are. The PR translation was absurd to the point of offensive.

It’s also worth pointing out that Sascha Meinrath and co. submitted a proposal to the Department of Homeland Security in 2003 for an open source version of what PacketHop does – self-forming wireless mesh networks for emergency responders, specifically medical – but was turned down, only to find out that DHS then funded the development of a proprietary solution for 100 times as much money.

It’s really my fault for checking quotes with people. As my editor said, “if the person said something, they said it. If the journalist was up front as to who he is and that he is media, then that quote is fair game — even if the person later wanted to retract the quote or not have it used.”

I certainly was up front about who I was with John Rivers, the Cisco rep, who even said, “I can give you this one” before giving me not very useful quotes. I used them just to show that we had talked, but then he said in a follow up email, “I do not recall making either comment and do not support your including either in an article. For official quotes from Cisco, you should contact someone in Cisco Media relations.”

So I think I’ll stop that practice.

While I’m being negative, I should also thank Joe Caldwell from US Internet, the folks from IBM (who did pass me on to a PR person, but at least didn’t recant what they said in person), Erika from W2i, and Robert Ramsay who all gave useful quotes and stood by them. That makes a reporter’s job a lot easier.

Upcoming articles will be on hard-to-find sources of federal funding for broadband projects and the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the World Wide Web, as well as profiles of of ConnectKentucky and One Economy.

Please send me any thoughts or suggestions relating to those ideas or other potential articles, if you have them.

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Loose Cannon Blasts Comcast

Bruce Schimmel, in his latest Loose Cannon column, dropped a bomb on Comcast. Apparently, Monopolia Comcasticus “has never met certain minority and women business goals” as required in its franchise agreement with the City of Philadelphia. The penalty for this violation, according to the article, should be about $4.4 million.

Rebate, anyone?

Mind you, Comcast is still allocating its share of subcontracting money to local businesses, just not ones that are owned by women or African Americans.

It’s not surprising that Comcast would so blatantly flout its agreement with the City or that the City wouldn’t confront the local behemoth. We’re still waiting for our public access channels.

The absurd thing is how much time City Council spent pressing Earthlink on precisely this issue. As I blogged when Comcast was before City Council in June,

Councilman Nutter asked some pointed questions, including about Comcast’s fulfillment of its minority- and women-owned business requirements. Considering how intently Council focused on that issue with Earthlink, it was revealing to see how little they pressured Comcast on it.

Apparently, this caught Bruce’s eye, as well, and he followed up on it doggedly, getting the data and crunching the numbers. It would be nice if the City would now get a payday out of it, but little chance with this administration. Bruce deserves some appreciation regardless.

The way Bruce tells it, without Nutter, we’d still be speculating. So his article pushes me a bit towards Ruby Legs‘s  positon in support of Nutter for Mayor, even while most of the other people I know in Philly are backing Fattah. A willingness to buck Comcast is pretty much the first thing I look for in a Philly politician.

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The Closure of Clamor Magazine

If you are a subscriber to Clamor Magazine, you will receive a letter this week announcing that it is going out of business. The letter says, in part:

We’re writing to you today because we’ve decided to stop publishing Clamor. We set out to create an independent magazine that would bulldoze borders, defy dogma, and inspire instigation. We wanted to create a magazine that extended the vibrancy of the underground zine community to a larger general audience and share the enthusiasm and energy we saw in our fellow do-it-yourselfers. We intended to redefine the progressive magazine. And while we feel like we accomplished those goals at various stages, one goal we never fully realized is that of making Clamor economically sustainable.

… The obstacle of servicing old debt on an otherwise sustainable project while also negotiating major shifts in the magazine industry have proven too burdensome for us to continue publishing. But effective movement media doesn’t need to last indefinitely to be successful. We’re confident that many people have been inspired to do great things after reading about others doing the same in Clamor. We know this because we’ve been consistently inspired by the stories of struggle and triumph in Clamor. And while we’ll miss that, we’re also confident that there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise.

Always respectful of the people who have made the enterprise possible, the publishers – Jen Angel, Jason Kucsma, Nomy Lamm, and Mandy Van Deven – told the editors, then the current writers, then the subscribers, before offering a statement to the public on the website, which should come next week. The next step is to start talking to their creditors.

The possibility of closing the magazine was discussed back even before I became a consulting editor in late 2001. Jen and Jason would have had to close up shop after just the first few issues had they not gotten the line of credit from Sky Bank (which is still Clamor’s biggest creditor besides the founders themselves).

It was one of those next few issues that I saw on the rack outside the entrance to the Clovis Press, a bookshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that no longer exists (replaced by a cheese shop). I was so taken with it that the first thing I did when I moved to the midwest a couple of months later was call Clamor HQ and ask if I could help.

Michael Simmons, in telling The Nation in 2001 about his favorite media sources, called it “the best periodical to come out of the antiauthoritarian Battle of Seattle generation.” That sounds like a good way to start describing Clamor’s place in the annals of independent publishing.

Clamor Magazine was also a fine, collective accomplishments of the zine world and, more generally, of those who believe in participatory media. Clamor published over 1000 writers and artists in its 7-year, 38-issue run. Some historian should check to see if that’s some kind of record.

Clamor spread the word about a lot of important stories and to a lot of people who wouldn’t have otherwise heard those stories. The Internet notwithstanding, chain store newsstands and those one or two channels on satellite TV are pretty much the only way to broadcast challenging political ideas into unfriendly territory.

In my view, the challenge of serving as a point of entry for both new writers and new readers while also speaking to a devoted base of supporters proved too much for the project.

That is not to detract at all from the business challenges described in the letter to subscribers. Publishing a magazine is an expensive operation and almost impossible to sustain without an external funding source. For Clamor, whose publishers never had personal wealth or ready access to rich folks like many on the coasts do, the only external funding source they could find were small business loans and credit cards.

Independent publishing gets even harder when your primary advocate, the Independent Press Association, is failing to pay you what it owes and failing to keep your magazine on the newsstand. Clamor’s closure is a black eye for the IPA.

(I don’t think it really compares to the recent closure of the irreverent LiP magazine since that publication never got past being a vanity project, Jenn Whitney’s article on Indymedia notwithstanding. The NewStandard, which is also facing major financial challenges, is an online outlet with a completely different business model.)

My hope is that emerging media projects, as the letter suggests, will step up to take on more of the three very important tasks Clamor took on: providing an outlet for new writers; politicizing new readers; serving as a forum for established activists.

Wiretap, for example, is an ideal place for new writers. As it grows increasingly independent from Alternet, I think it is becoming a great place for anyone to publish. It’s online and not in print, but the world wide web is probably the right place for first-time writers. And it pays.

From my admittedly limited perspective, Left Turn is currently the premier printed forum for inter-activist reporting. Reborn for the global justice movement (the rebranded and renewed antiglobalization movement), it has a more specific politic than Clamor did and cultivates writers more intentionally. That makes it more limited in some ways, more focused in others.

The editors of Left Turn maintain strong and principled alliances with the people, organizations, and campaigns reported in its pages. It’s less likely than Clamor has been, however, to have those stories of small or unsung victories. It’s those stories, the ones that seem random until you get them all on a page together, that gave Clamor its voice-in-the-wilderness quality for so many people – that, the consistent DIY-you-can-do-it tone, and the serious midwest pride.

That’s the thing we’ll be losing most dramatically with the closure of Clamor: the ability to reach new people with an honest, accessible voice. As far as I know, no one is really doing that for young potential activists now that Clamor is gone. (I sometimes call this the NCOR problem: what to do with the thousands of eager, young, and – in the NCOR case – white folks now that you can’t just tell them to go to the next big protest.)

Clamor didn’t do it perfectly, but that’s a critical task that someone needs to do. Maybe The Ave, assuming it’s still going, could do more of that, or Punk Planet – it’s useful in some ways to divide the task into hip hop and punk, though that combination may have been what gave Clamor some of its threat potential. Still, giving people information in a palatable format is different from plugging them into ways to take action.

In an organized movement, entry point organizations like Indyvoter, Movement Strategy Center, and Students for a Democratic Society would take responsibility for publishing a magazine to attract new people. They might not see it that way and publishing is resource-intensive no matter who does it, so I don’t expect they’ll be taking it up anytime soon. But without some coordination and a shared sense of obligation, no one will be able to sustain such a project.

Movement media rarely emerges from such a process, of course. Indymedia is the rare exception. Usually, a small group starts a publication, people take to it or don’t, it lives for a while, then dies when the money runs out (which usually happens in the first year), or when the political situation changes, or when the publishers’ life situations change.

All three of those things seemed to happen to Clamor at the same time. It’s sad, but fine. It was a good run. The Allied Media Conference and the online infoSHOP direct, two projects born from Clamor that actively support other media projects, will continue.

So when the letter to subscribers says, “there are independent media projects being born at this very moment with even greater promise,” that is in no small way thanks to the infrastructure, inspiration, and advice Clamor’s publishers have provided us over the last seven years.

Please see this Emergency Message from Clamor Magazine

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Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction…

Our country is focused on the civil war in Iraq; we are failing to notice the one emerging on our doorstep.

Sarah Ferguson has posted an extensive article addressing the question, “Who shot Brad Will?” The NYC IMC statement on the Caña Cadeza Investigation still stands.

Since Brad’s murder on October 27, three other journalists have been killed in Mexico: Roberto Marcos García, José Manuel Nava Sánchez, and Misael Tamayo Hernández. They were not working in Oaxaca, where many other reporters have been attacked by government forces, but those deaths compound Mexico’s standing as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists.

Jaime Arturo Olvera Bravo, Enrique Perea Quintanilla, and Ramiro Téllez Contreras were killed earlier this year and Rafael Ortiz Martínez and Alfredo Jiménez Mota are missing.

Over 100 journalists and media activists have signed the letter for press freedom in response to Brad’s death. It states, in part,

When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer… Hoodlums and political operatives who wish to operate under cover of darkness often feel safe in silencing independent reporters through acts of violence and intimidation. Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction of press freedom in the middle.

The attacks on journalists in Mexico are symptoms of a much, much bigger problem: a new dirty war has begun in response to widespread political unrest.

From Oaxaca, the country’s poorest state, to the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, to the capitol Mexico City where López Obrador continues to reject the legitimacy of incoming president Felipe Calderón, the country is growing increasingly unstable. Drug traffickers control or terrorize much of the north and there is severe corruption at all levels of the government. Meanwhile, the Bush administration is militarizing the US-Mexico border.

We are on the eve of either a great uprising or a civil war,” Subcomandante Marcos stated at a press conference on the day of our Thanksgiving. And then things got even worse

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Why you should sign the letter for press freedom in response to the death of Indymedia journalist Brad Will

This post is meant to encourage you to read and sign this letter for press freedom.

Brad Will’s death has been used as an excuse by Mexican President Vicente Fox to send thousands of federal troops to repress the political uprising in Oaxaca. US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza signalled his support for that move when he called for a return to “lawfulness and order.”

This is a very ugly precedent. As Al Giordano from Narco News told the Village Voice, “Anytime the local forces of repression can’t contain a rebellion in Mexico and want the feds to storm in, the recipe now exists: Kill a foreign journalist.”

Mexico was already ranked as the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists by Reporters Without Borders. Since Brad’s death, violent attacks on journalists have greatly increased, especially in Oaxaca.

“Press freedom” is not my primary focus in media activism. If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ve mostly heard me talk about new wireless technologies and digital expansion. Before October 27, I hadn’t been much involved with Indymedia for quite some time, and even then I was pretty focused on IMCs within the US.

But it is important that we protect the wing of our movement that makes personal sacrifices to tell vital stories. Without the courage to speak truth to power, our efforts to build open lines of communication – no matter how successful – will never set us free.

Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media has written an eloquent letter to Ambassador Garza emphasizing precisely this point:

All American citizens must be protected by the full power of our government wherever they travel in the world. This is especially the case when that citizen is a journalist attempting to report the truth in a dangerous situation. When the members of the press are subjected to physical attack, it is our values of freedom and of democracy which suffer…

Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

I’ve revised it and posted it to the Friends of Brad Will site to allow more people and organizations to sign on.

Many already have, including Free Press, New America Media, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, Prometheus Radio Project, People’s Production House, National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Media Alliance, as well as DeeDee Halleck (Deep Dish), Craig Newmark (founder of Craigslist), Lisa Rudman (National Radio Project), Noelle Hanrahan (Prison Radio) and seven separate Indymedia centers (NYC, LA, AZ, Philly, Santa Cruz, Indybay, US).

It’s already a broad and powerful effort, but it needs to grow further to ensure our right to report.

In signing the letter, the NYC IMC made the following statement:

The New York City Independent Media Center urges all US IMCs and US-based media organizations to join us in signing this letter calling for the US to press for a full investigation into the death of Brad Will, Indymedia reporter, and for freelance and community journalists to be given the same backing and protection given journalists employed by large corporations.

For an update on the investigations into Brad’s death, see Chris Anderson’s wrapup.

The sad fact is that there is no level of government, US or Mexican, with the credibility to conduct a full and fair investigation.

As recently released documents from the National Security Archives show, the US has a terrible track record of covering up for government-sponsored atrocities in Mexico.

The Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, under the supervision of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, is the least credible of all. I don’t trust it when police investigate themselves in Warren, Michigan, and I certainly do not believe it when it happens in Oaxaca.

So when a reporter for Milenio, whose photographer Oswaldo Ramirez was injured alongside Brad Will, asked the NYC IMC to comment on Cadeza’s accusation that APPO protesters shot Brad, we released this statement:

Here’s what we do know: the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, has a proven track record of sending plainclothes paramilitaries to commit murder and other human rights violations against the people of Oaxaca. We do not trust him or any of his underlings – underlings who include Oaxaca Prosecutor General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza. We have absolutely no confidence in the results of the “investigation” of Brad Will’s murder carried out by Prosecutor Cadeza.

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$2.8 billion and nothing’s on…

I have no doubt that a Democrat-controlled House will mean good things for net neutrality and other policy issues over which extremist Republicans have held sway. But until we get rid of the biennial voluntary corporate media subsidy we call electoral campaigns, nothing is going to change.

So, for my 2006 election analysis, I refer you to the Michigan IMC’s special election coverage from 2004 (awesome PSA mp3) since that is the last time I can recall really kicking the corporate media’s ass at its own game.

Unfortunately, the 36 hours of live radio we produced were not recorded, but here are some of the articles we wrote:

Power conceding nothing without demand, as usual, by Jenny

John Kerry’s concession speech was almost word-for-word the same speech given by Al Gore in 2000: “I just had a good conversation with President Bush… the most important thing now is for the country to be united… we should all just be proud that we’re American, blah, etc.” These are profoundly insulting words to anyone who went to the polls on November 2nd thinking that this man had even one or two vertebrae, that he would defend the voting rights of targeted communities or that he actually represented an alternative to George Bush…

The Democratic Party would do well to prioritize substance over “electability” in future elections in order to avoid repeating this shame and disappointment at having arrived in 2004 at the exact same place it was in 2000.

But liberals and semi-radicals shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for that to happen. If all the “get out the vote” energy that has been mobilized around this election is to have any lasting strength, it is going to have to start building power outside of, even in opposition to, the great farce of national electoral politics. Rather than having coalitions driven by young voters’ tepid support for a pathetic Democratic candidate, they should be driven by real campaigns to end U.S. imperialism at home and abroad.

Election unresolved as Ohio residents fight disenfranchisement, by Joshua Breitbart

The final vote tally may require counting provisional and absentee ballots, which will take more than 11 days. Although races in New Mexico, Iowa, and others have not been called, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes appear to be decisive in determining the presidency…

Ohio activists are not waiting for the courts or the Democrats. Making good on a November 1 promise to take action if there was significant voter suppression and intimidation on election day, a coalition of groups has called for a statewide walkout and convergence on Columbus, the state capitol, as well as local actions in Toledo, Cincinatti, Cleveland, Oxford, and Athens…

“As with 2000, George Bush is trying to seize power after a disputed election made artificially close by widespread disenfranchisement,” said an anonymous post to Indymedia.us. “If there was ever a time to engage politically, to do more than just vote as a way of taking control of your life, it is right now.”

No matter who wins, resistance will continue, by Mike

Everyday, from Iraq and Palestine to South Africa to Detroit and Highland Park, people are fighting an imperial system that seeks to obliterate them. We should be honest enough with ourselves to admit that the conditions which oppress so many in this country and throughout the world will not substantially change no matter which of the two leading candidates succeeds in capturing the US presidency…

Nevertheless, it is important that we watch these US presidential elections and participate in them in a manner that we find appropriate…

And its especially important to not devalue the importance voting on local ballot initiatives such as Proposal 2, which, if passed, would write anti-gay discrimination into the Michigan constitution, and Proposal E in Detroit, which would erode democratic control of Detroit’s school board.

But once these elections are over, we should look forward to channeling all that energy that has been put into electoral politics into larger movements for justice.

AK Gupta has a piece on his new blog which tells you if the Democrats listened to Jenny’s advice. Hint: they didn’t. And see his “Thoughts on the Midterm Elections.”

p.s. (People keep sending me alerts about Rumsfeld’s resignation. Big whoop. When he goes on trial for war crimes, call me.)

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It didn’t start with Lenin Cali Najera and it won’t end with Brad Will

This has been noted in the Indymedia coverage of Brad’s death, but not prominently enough: Brad Will is not the first Indymedia journalist to be killed.

Lenin Cali Nájera

Lenin Cali Najera was shot and killed under suspicious circumstances on June 29, 2004. He was a founder of CMI Ecuador, as well as a leader of the youth of Pachakutik, an indigenist political party.

He was shot in the neck in what authorities called a robbery, but his mother said, “They went to kill him directly and took his wallet, but the girl who was at his side, they did nothing to her.” He was 23.

He wasn’t holding a camera at the time, but Indymedia was a central part of the political work for which his family and friends believe he was killed.

The distinction between activism and journalism is a US phenomenon, arising from the contradiction of an undemocratic media in a society where freedom of the press is supposedly a central tenet. Historically, it was accepted that you used the media you owned to espouse political views.(1)

US IMCs, especially NYC, honor that division on a practical, rhetorical, and legal level, if not an ideological one. But outside the US, that hardly even makes sense. I’ve worked with an IMC in South America where members were required to be members in other social movements, so you couldn’t just do media. The legitimacy of your reporting comes precisely from that connection, rather than from the lack of it.

Brad’s death has shined a light on this contradiction, as US corporate media have been forced to acknowledge that Brad was carrying out the function of a journalist even while clearly holding political views. There was a time when no corporate media outlet would utter the name Indymedia, let alone label it a news organization. Now they all have.

(In a possible sign of retrenchment, the New York Times published an AP story that said, “Among those killed in the Oaxaca conflict was Bradley Roland Will, 36, an activist journalist from of New York who was shot in the stomach while filming a gun battle on Oct. 27.” As a poster to the Justice for Brad email list said, “Anyone wanna bet that the ‘from of’ typo above resulted from a prior draft that said ‘from Indymedia of New York.’”

This was after the Times already published this correction earlier in the week: “An article on Sunday about violent protests in Oaxaca, Mexico, gave the incorrect name for the collective that publishes the newspaper for which Bradley Roland Will, a photographer who was killed there, worked, and misstated the newspaper’s publishing schedule. The collective is the New York City Independent Media Center — not the Indypendent, which is the name of the newspaper the center publishes. The newspaper is published semimonthly, not weekly.”)

A broad and growing coalition of media organizations is asserting that freelance and community journalists deserve the same respect and protection. A letter to the US Ambassador to Mexico – penned by Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media and signed by the New York City Independent Media Center, Robert McChesney of Free Press, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and a growing list of others – states,

Violence against reporters on the edge is harbinger to destruction of press freedom in the middle. Our government and mainstream press should feel the same outrage over this killing as over the death of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

If anything, reporters who give of their own resources and work under such dangerous circumstances are even more deserving of our respect and protection because of the great personal sacrifice they endure in the quest for the information we need to exist as a free people.

We need a broad defense of Indymedia to make sure no more of our number are murdered, beaten, or jailed.

Beyond our colleague and fellow gringo, we can do a better job supporting all journalists under attack, including those who are being beaten and jailed right now in Oaxaca, according to Reporters Without Borders:

  • Mario Mosqueda Hernández of the Centro de Medios Libres de México who “was beaten and dragged along the ground by 10 federal policemen”
  • Gilardo Mota of the local weekly Opinión who was “held for 48 hours and was roughed [sic] by federal police”
  • photographer Alberto López Cruz of the local daily Extra, attacked by police who took his camera
  • and two unidentified Guatemalan journalists who are reportedly missing.

See more of my articles on Indymedia.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Killed for the Truth, Paid for the Lies, and Impunity for the Murderers

Here are two small but important details about Brad’s death:

He was wearing an Indymedia t-shirt when he was shot. One bullet must have gone right through the (((i)). Maybe that shouldn’t matter to me but it does. I have that t-shirt, as do many people I love.

Second, Brad lived for nearly an hour after he was shot. The initial photos made it seem like he died on the spot. Other reports suggest he died minutes later on the way to a hospital. In fact, protesters carried his body for a long distance, drove a car until it ran out of gas, unsuccessfully tried to wave down a couple of trucks – it started to rain – and then, about five blocks from the Red Cross station, he died. I don’t know if this should matter either, but it does.

One of the people who carried him said that Brad would squeeze his finger to let him know he was still with them. Another told an interviewer that he felt terrible that he did not understand English, so he could not gather Brad’s last words.

THE GUILTY PARTIES

As announced by Reporters Without Borders, we know the names of the men who shot at Brad, one of whom presumedly killed him. They are municipal policeman Juan Carlos Soriano, municipal personnel chief Manuel Aguilar, public security director Abel Santiago Zárate, and Pedro Caramona, the mayor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto de Santa Lucia del Camino.

The governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, immediately announced that these men had been arrested. This was reported in the New York Times and other reputable outlets. It was a lie.

Milenio, a Mexican outlet whose photographer, Oswaldo Ramírez, was injured by the same hail of gunfire that killed Brad, is reporting that the men are in fact at large.

“This ‘disappearance’ came to light after Milenio made inquiries and found that none of the suspects where found in any of the police buildings (jails, offices) in Oaxaca, even though the governor said that they were already arrested,” reads a translation.

The story is confirmed by Noticias with an article titled, “Crímenes sin castigo” or Crimes Without Punishment. Noticias also reminds us that the death of Emilio Alonso Fabián, a Oaxacan teacher killed the same day as Brad in a separate incident, has gone completely uninvestigated.

This is beyond outrageous. It is criminal. Who is implicated? Who will bring justice?

THE EXPLANATIONS

US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza suggested Brad was killed during a shootout between “what may have been local police in Santa Lucia del Camino and the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca,” but there is no evidence that APPO ever used guns. Brad’s own footage of the incident shows slingshots and stones, but no guns except in the hands of the government-backed paramilitaries.

Ambassador Garza also urged the Mexican government to stabilize the situation. He said, “Mr. Will’s senseless death, of course, underscores the critical need for a return to lawfulness and order in Oaxaca.”

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack denied the matter required US intervention. “That is really going to be up to the Mexican Government to deal with,” he said. He declared there was no evidence of human rights violations and assured his questioner that the situation would not destabilize the already-challenged regime of incoming president Felipe Calderon.

Felipe Calderon will be visiting George Bush in the White House on November 9.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Dr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, disagrees with McCormack. On October 30, Stavenhagen “expressed his concern about the serious human rights violations reported to have taken place on 27 October 2006 in the city of Oaxaca and neighbouring towns. According to information received, the acts were perpetrated by a paramilitary group.”

Vicente Fox immediately seized upon Brad’s death as a pretext to send 4000 federal troops to Oaxaca, using violence in an attempt to dislodge the protesters.

The speed with which Fox reacted suggests to some that Brad’s death was planned, that it was an assassination to create a pretext for federal involvement after the teachers’ had agreed to end their strike. Previous paramilitary attacks on the APPO barricades had mostly occurred at night.

This author on the Centro de Medios Libres site specifically explains, “Why the Mexican Government killed Bradley Will

Among the shots of smoke and confusion of the main stream coverarge of the events in Oaxaca, some thing stands out. Televisa and other major mexican news chains always go back to the shooting of NYC Indymedia voluteer Brad Will. But the coverage is not limited to his brutal and senseless death, but also shots of Brad filming in Oaxaca. Someone friendly with the major news chaings had footage of Bradely Will before he died: talking to friends in the Zocalo of Oaxaca, walking with members of the APPO through the streats of Oaxaca. There are at several images of this sort. And their message seems to be clear: Brad was bieng watched, and filmed, before his death.

Other people have wondered how Brad, who seemed to be standing behind many people when he was shot, could have been hit by not one, but two bullets.

Leaving aside this question of whether Brad’s killers are guilty of first or second degree murder, we have two explanations of what happened to my colleague.

One is that local government officials, backed by at least the governor, shot at protesters who had no guns as part of a series of human rights abuses. This view is supported by the photographic and video evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts and the statement of a UN official. This narrative concludes when the people who shot Brad and anyone who directed them, and anyone who directed that director and so forth, are held accountable. This could only happen with the removal of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz from power.

The second is the “shootout” or “violence out of hand” explanation as offered without evidence by Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Vicente Fox, Tony Garza, and Sean McCormack. This narrative concludes when the state has “restored order,” quite possibly through violence.

THE JOURNALISTS

When dealing with two conflicting narratives in a situation like this, the sensible thing to do is let the journalists sort it out. And frankly, whichever side is less interested in press freedom – in this case, the side that shot two journalists – is usually the one trying to protect a faulty explanation.

So let me close with a couple items related to the media that are covering this story which you might find interesting:

First, Rebeca Romero of the Associated Press is “widely believed to be on Ulises Ruiz’s payroll,” according to this account. Even before the current events in Oaxaca, at least one commenter leveled that critique:

Is this person on the government payroll? I have been living here for 17 years and this type of article is a typical product of journalists who receive ‘chayote’, bribes from those in power. Or is it advertising by the government? I have not seen such a poorly informed and slanted piece of journalism in the international press before. I’m shocked.

Second, I encourage you to read this blog post, where the author takes on “Mark in Mexico,” a blogger who’s been spewing the most right-wing versions of all of the stories:

Whoever this Mark in Mexico is — I tried fairly hard to track the guy down, and he appears to have no real life prior to popping up as the proprietor of this school, about which I can also find no information — I have to say that his main role has been to amplify disinformation.

This tells me that we need more independent media covering Oaxaca, as we wrote in the NYC IMC statement on Brad’s death.

Mike Burke provided critical research for this piece. See more of my articles on Indymedia.

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Statement from the NYC IMC on the Murder of Brad Will

THE NEW YORK CITY INDEPENDENT MEDIA CENTER RESPONDS TO THE DEATH OF BRAD WILL

October 29, 2006
New York City

Brad Will was killed on October 27, 2006, in Oaxaca, Mexico, while working as a journalist for the global Indymedia network. He was shot in the torso while documenting an armed, paramilitary assault on the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, a fusion of striking local teachers and other community organizations demanding democracy in Mexico.

The members of the New York City Independent Media Center mourn the loss of this inspiring colleague and friend. We want to thank everyone who has sent condolences to our office and posted remembrances to http://www.nyc.indymedia.org. We share our grief with the people of our city and beyond who lived, worked, and struggled with Brad over the course of his dynamic but short life. We can only imagine the pain of the people of Oaxaca who have lost seven of their neighbors to this fight, including Emilio Alonso Fabian, a teacher, and who now face an invasion by federal troops.

All we want in compensation for his death is the only thing Brad ever wanted to see in this world: justice.

  • We, along with all of Brad’s friends, reject the use of further state-sponsored violence in Oaxaca.
  • The New York City Independent Media Center supports the demand of Reporters Without Borders for a full and complete investigation by Mexican authorities into Oaxaca State Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s continued use of plain-clothed municipal police as a political paramilitary force. The arrest of his assailants is not enough.
  • The NYC IMC also supports the call of Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos “to compañeros and compañeras in other countries to unite and to demand justice for this dead compañero.” Marcos issued this call “especially to all of the alternative media, and free media here in Mexico and in all the world.”

Indymedia was born from the Zapatista vision of a global network of alternative communication against neoliberalism and for humanity. To believe in Indymedia is to believe that journalism is either in the service of justice or it is a cause of injustice. We speak and listen, resist and struggle. In that spirit, Brad Will was both a journalist and a human rights activist.

He was a part of this movement of independent journalists who go where the corporate media do not or stay long after they are gone. Perhaps Brad’s death would have been prevented if Mexican, international, and US media corporations had told the story of the Oaxacan people. Then those of us who live in comfort would not only be learning now about this 5 month old strike, or about this 500 year old struggle.

And then Brad might not have felt the need to face down those assassins in Oaxaca holding merely the ineffective shields of his US passport and prensa extranjera badge. Then Brad would not have joined the fast-growing list of journalists killed in action, or the much longer list of those killed in recent years by troops defending entrenched, unjust power in Latin America.

Still, those of us who knew Brad know that his work would never have been completed. From the community gardens of the Lower East Side to the Movimento Sem Terra encampments of Brazil, he would have continued to travel to where the people who make this world a beautiful place are resisting those who would cause it further death and destruction. Now, in his memory, we will all travel those roads. We are the network, all of us who speak and listen, all of us who resist.

The New York City Independent Media Center
www.nyc.indymedia.org
4 W. 43rd St., Suite 311
New York, N.Y. 10036
USA / EEUU
212-221-0521

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Indymedia Journalist murdered by government paramilitaries in Oaxaca; Marcos calls on alternative media to demand justice

Mexican government-backed paramilitaries attacking the popular occupation of the city of Oaxaca killed human rights activist and Indymedia journalist Brad Will.

Brad was a familiar figure to those who squatted the Lower East Side, occupied the countryside of Brazil, and built the Other Campaign in Mexico.

Even if he sometimes was a challenging person to get along with, no one who knew him doubted his commitment to global justice. Surely no one ever will.

Even after many of the other people who had lived through the days of N30 and A16 had left the struggle behind, Brad kept fighting, going to where globalization bared its fangs and staring it down, camera in hand.

I would say that Brad was a human rights activist first, a journalist second. He should be remembered as a hero of the New York City Independent Media Center because he always knew something that others of us are just coming to understand: Journalism is either in the service of justice or it is a cause of injustice.

Read Al Giordano’s obituary for Brad, which includes this statement from Zapatista Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, responding to the news about Brad’s death while speaking at a public meeting of the Other Campaign in Buaiscobe, Sonora:

We know that they killed at least one person. This person that they killed was from the alternative media that are here with us. He didn’t work for the big television news companies and didn’t receive pay. He is like the people who came here with us on the bus, who are carrying the voices of the people from below so that they would be known. Because we already know that the television news companies and newspapers only concern themselves with governmental affairs. And this person was a compañero of the Other Campaign. He also traveled various parts of the country with us, and he was with us when we were in Yucatán, taking photos and video of what was happening there. And they shot him and he died. It appears that there is another person dead. The government doesn’t want to take responsibility for what happened. Now they tell us that all of the people of Oaxaca are mobilizing. They aren’t afraid. They are mobilizing to take to the streets and protest this injustice. We are issuing a call to all of the Other Campaign at the national level and to compañeros and compañeras in other countries to unite and to demand justice for this dead compañero. We are making this call especially to all of the alternative media, and free media here in Mexico and in all the world.

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