The head of the journalism organization, Robert Menard, sees no problem with the money from the National Endowment for Democracy
"Exactly, we receive money from NED and that does not cause us any problem", the head of Reporters Without Borders Robert Menard admitted in a discussion forum of the Nouvel Observateur in mid-April. But the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is not just any organization. It – and its subordinate foundations – are subordinate to the U.S. Department of Auben. The foundation was founded in 1983 during the Cold War under the Reagen administration to fight communism and strengthen democracy worldwide. It began by pursuing a policy of destabilizing Cuba and Sandinista Nicaragua.
The French organization has been in existence for twenty years "Reporters Without Borders" (RSF), twenty years of unchallenged presidency by Robert Menard, and twenty years of persistent rumors of close ties with the CIA and U.S. government agencies. In recent times, evidence has been mounting and research has pointed directly to RSF’s funding by U.S. government agencies. Most recently, journalist Diana Barahona of the U.S. journalists’ association The Newspaper Guild reported on RSF funding by NED, but also suggested the possibility of influence by the French government, especially with regard to Haiti. RSF also receives funds from the French government.
In a forum of the French weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Menard was asked directly by a netizen about Barahona’s research. He acknowledged the financing by NED, but said immediately that this does not cause him any problems. But it should. The funds received by NED do not appear in the organization’s financial statements. This, however, gives rise to distrust and, even if RSF remains uninfluenced by the aforementioned and unnamed donors, could damage the nonetheless important work of the organization. The reputation of the organization and its critics rests, after all, on its independence.
According to its own data for the financial year 2003, RSF had a budget of 3.472.122 Euros. 11% came from the French state, 12% from the Mazenes, 4% from donations, 15% from the EU, 10% through selective actions. And then there is the biggest item: 48% is said to have been generated by publications, for which the organization cites the sale of its own publications. That was almost 250.000 books sold, each costing 8 euros. This is not really credible – or did the NED stock up so much on photo books??
The NED, which has also supported opposition movements in Serbia and Ukraine, is not necessarily a guarantor of clean politics. "The first recipient of money from the NED", according to ex-CIA agent Philip Agee, "was the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), which at the time was the rallying point for the most extreme Castro opponents in the U.S., both in terms of individuals and organizations. But the first real test for this new system came in Nicaragua." In 1979, the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) chased away the bloody Somoza dictatorship. The logistics, the organization and the support of the Contras was done from Honduras, where John Negroponte was ambassador at that time. Under Bush, Negroponte became U.S. ambassador to the U.N., then U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, and more recently, top intelligence official (John Negroponte to become top U.S. intelligence official). This CIA intervention was financed during the term of President Reagan and Vice President Bush also by arms sales to the Iranian Mullahs (Iran-Contra-Affair).
RSF has long been accused of selective perception of violations of press freedom. In Europe, this can be observed in the Basque Country. In 2004, the Basque underground organization ETA was listed as a particular threat to press freedom, although it had not carried out any deadly attacks and had not taken action against members of the press or press organs for years. The "preventive" The Basque newspaper, on the other hand, is criticized in the annual report as "Suspicion of collaboration" with ETA (Basque newspaper and website closed). No mention of the fact that the de facto ban had been in place for more than a year when the report was published. No evidence of collaboration has been presented to date, nor is there any evidence of collaboration. For this, the journalists have credibly indicated to have been tortured (Basque journalists tortured). Then, as now, there is no criticism of the lack of investigation of the accusations. It is also not criticized that in Spain, for the 1998 "preventive" closed newspaper and Radio Egin, or in the case of the magazine Ardi Beltza (2000), no trial has been carried out to date. However, the militancy against Cuba under Fidel Castro and Venezuela under Hugo Chavez is particularly striking.
The latest annual report of the RSF, published on the occasion of the International Day of Freedom of the Press on 3. The report, which was presented in May, confirmed the suspicion that. It cites 53 journalists killed, and considers Iraq to be the "most dangerous place" for journalists. However, it has been more reluctant to report journalists shot by U.S. forces, except for the bombing of the al-Jazeera bureau and the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. Journalists killed or kidnapped by insurgents received much more attention.
However, at the end of April, RSF’s coverage of incidents in Iraq became – conspicuous? – again more critical. In early May, the organization wrote a letter to General Abizaid demanding the release of CBS News cameraman Abdel Amir Hussein, who was arrested in Mosul in early April and has since been detained without evidence at Abu Ghraib. Already on 26. April, a few days after admitting to receiving funds from NED, they expressed concern about several arrests of journalists, some of whom have been in Iraqi or U.S. custody for months without formal charges. Is this supposed to dispel the suspicion of being influenced by the US government, or did it happen by chance??
Whatever may be true or false about the rumors that have arisen, it is a mistake for an NGO to make a secret about its sponsors or to be suspected of dependence. It is strange, for example, that RSF only mentions the case of Sami Al-Haj, a cameraman for al-Jazeera, once in passing. He was arrested in December 2001 at the Afghan-Pakistani border and has presumably disappeared in Guantanamo since then. Domestically, the U.S. is rated good in terms of press freedom, but in U.S.-controlled areas such as Iraq, it is down to the 108th percentile. Place from a total of 167 fallen. This, in turn, does not seem to protect.
In the report for America, it is noticeable that RSF talks at the beginning about, "Freedom of the press is generally respected in the region". But this does not apply to Cuba; freedom of the press is also violated in Colombia and threatened in Venezuela. Then the organization speaks of "12 journalists killed", three more than in the previous year: Mexico (3), Nicaragua (2), Peru (2), and in other countries one dead journalist in each case. It is noticeable that Cuba is not among them, where no journalist has been murdered since 1959. In addition, the Latin American Journalists’ Association (CIAP-FELAP) reports that 20 journalists have been murdered on the continent and 117 worldwide. Instead of a general freedom of the press, the local organization speaks of a general freedom of the press "fatal singularity" and a new "Record" for America in the number of journalists killed.
However, it is not quite as simple as some people make it. In any case, RSF tries to keep the balance. Some one-sidedness can therefore by no means be attributed a priori to the possible influence of donors. For example, the recently published report states:
Yet worrying attacks on freedom of expression occurred there in 2004. Several journalists in the United States were being prosecuted for refusing to reveal their sources to courts. Some even risk going to prison or being held under house arrest, all new in a country where the national constitution says people do not have to testify against themselves.
Diana Barahona had also pointed this out in her article, concluding that it would be difficult to "full freedom of the press", which the Paris organization certifies the U.S. is not that far off. She mentioned the trap of Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper. The New York Times journalist and the Time magazine journalist were sentenced to 18 months for refusing to name sources of information. They had exposed a CIA agent. The suspicion of silence here, however, RSF has dispelled. On the case of the black journalist Mumia Abu Jamal, on the other hand, nothing can be found at RSF. Only a massive campaign prevented his death sentence from ever being carried out and commuted to life imprisonment (death sentence against Abu-Jamal overturned). Although he is Ehrenburger of Paris, the Paris RSF has not cared about the case. There were many inconsistencies in the proceedings against the inconvenient journalist, who has been in prison for almost 25 years
Besides Cuba, allegedly the only country in the Americas that imprisons journalists, and thus on a par with China, the organizations are also pushing hard against Venezuela. Here, too, we can see a consistency with U.S. policy. For example, Barahona points out that the NED also provided alleged $20 million in support to the groups and media involved in the 2002 coup against the Chavez government (The (not so) covert U.S. intervention in Venezuela). Although these media outlets have not had their licenses revoked after Chavez’s return, the RSF speaks of an "authoritarian system" and openly sides with the coup plotters. Now they are joining forces against a questionable media law that has never been applied (Chavez on the media front).
These similarities with U.S. policy and the peculiarities in the assessment of press freedom, given the admission that Reporters Without Borders is also funded by the NED, may lead to the suspicion that independence from donor interests could be limited. It would be important for RSF to put its cards on the table so as not to undermine the reputation that the organization rightly enjoys and not to jeopardize its important work. It is not completely unimportant from whom one receives money, because interests are connected with it. At the National Endowment for Democracy in particular.