War on Journalists: DHS Detains US Reporter, Journalist Murdered in Ukraine

July 26th, 2016 - by admin

Mazin Sidahmed / The Guardian & Sputnik – 2016-07-26 02:15:18


Department of Homeland Security Detains Journalist Returning from Beirut
Mazin Sidahmed / The Guardian

(July 21, 2016) — The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has come under scrutiny over its policy of detaining journalists, after a Middle East correspondent for the Wall Street Journal said she was detained and asked to hand over her cellphones at Los Angeles international airport last week.

In a long Facebook post on Thursday, Maria Abi-Habib described how she was met by DHS officials while waiting in immigration after a flight that started in Beirut.

An officer, she wrote, explained it had been decided to pick her up after officers saw her name on the manifest, and realised she was a journalist who had traveled “to many dangerous places”.

The DHS enjoys broad authority at US borders and customs to search and detain incoming passengers. This power has come under new scrutiny in the digital age, as laptops and cellphones carry a great deal of personal information.

Journalists have found themselves targeted. Geoffrey King, director of the technology program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote a blog about a brief detention in 2014 at Miami airport. He has also written about several other journalists who have been detained and had their electronics confiscated at US airports.

Speaking to the Guardian, King said the trend of DHS searching journalists’ electronic equipment was extremely troubling.

“We’ve been concerned about this particular issue for several years,” King said. “If you don’t have any reason to suspect somebody of something, then you shouldn’t be able to go into their devices just because they’re travelling internationally.

“In addition, and more specifically, that is particularly dangerous for journalists. It can put journalists in physical danger, it can put journalists in legal danger. It does at a more fundamental level harm the independence of journalists and their ability to report the news.”

In her Facebook post, Abi-Habib wrote that one officer escorted her to a back room, where she met another.

After questioning her, the officer asked her to hand over her cellphone, saying she wished to collect information. According to Abi-Habib: “I told her I had first amendment rights as a journalist she couldn’t violate and I was protected under. I explained I had to protect my sources of information.

“‘Did you just admit you collect information for foreign governments?’ she asked, her tone turning hostile. “‘No, that’s exactly not what I just said,’ I replied, explaining again why I would not hand over my phones,” Abi-Habib said.

Abi-Habib told the officers her cellphones were owned by the Wall Street Journal, and they would have to contact the paper’s lawyers if they wanted to confiscate them. Thirty minutes later, after the officer had consulted with her supervisor, Abi-Habib was allowed to leave.

Abi-Habib’s Facebook post, which spread widely on social media, raised questions about DHS officials detaining journalists and searching electronic equipment without a warrant.

Abi-Habib shared a DHS document the officer gave her, which outlined the department’s right to take electronics and search them anywhere within 100 miles of a port of entry. This, Abi-Habib pointed out, would encompass all of New York City.

King said there has been some indication from the courts that electronics should not be open to warrantless search, regardless of proximity to borders.

The US Supreme Court recognized the immense amount of private information on small electronic devices in the 2014 case Riley v California, which held that “the police generally may not, without a warrant, search digital information on a cellphone seized from an individual who has been arrested”.

This case and others could show the DHS will eventually have to follow suit. What remains unclear is why the DHS would want to confiscate a journalist’s phones.

Michael German, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice and former FBI special agent, said: “This is clearly a longstanding problem where journalists, particularly journalists who are writing critically of US foreign policy, seem to be targeted in this way.”

Abi-Habib had recently published a piece about dozens of state department officials calling on the government to launch targeted airstrikes against the regime in Syria.

German said her detention was clearly an exploitation of the border loophole to the fourth amendment warrant requirement. The fourth amendment requires the government to acquire a warrant before searching personal property. This is waived at borders, in order for the government to be able to find contraband.

US Customs & Border Protection spokesman Dan Hetlage said in a statement: “Due to the restrictions of the Privacy Act, CBP does not discuss individual travelers, however, all international travelers arriving to the US are subject to CBP inspection.

This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices. Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the US.

Ukrainian Regime Turns Into ‘Mass Grave’ for Journalists – Moscow

MOSCOW (July 20, 2016) — Ukrainian political system is turning into “mass grave” for journalists and journalism in general, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday, commenting on the killing of journalist Pavel Sheremet in a car bomb attack in Kiev.

Earlier in the day, a car bomb claimed Sheremet’s life in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. The Ukrainian general prosecutor confirmed Sheremet’s death, classifying it as murder.

“A vehicle with Pavel Sheremet was blown up in Kiev. [He was] a professional journalist, who was not afraid of telling the authorities what he thinks about them — to different authorities and at different periods of time. And he was respected for this. Ukraine (not the country, but the system) is turning into mass grave for journalists and journalism,” Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.

President Petro Poroshenko ordered investigators to ensure the perpetrators of the attack are brought to justice.

Sheremet is a well-known journalist who worked in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. He had worked in Kiev for the last five years for the Ukrayinska Pravda news portal and Radio Vesti broadcaster.

In April 2015, Ukrainian opposition journalist Oles Buzina was shot dead in Kiev by two masked gunmen near his home. The incident occurred less than a day after former lawmaker and government critic Oleh Kalashnikov was murdered at his residence in the Ukrainian capital. Another Ukrainian journalist, Donetsk-born Serhiy Sukhobok, was also killed the same month near his house in Kiev.

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly urged the Ukrainian authorities to investigate the killing of journalists.

Well-Known Journalist Killed in a Car Explosion in Kiev

(July 20, 2016) — A renowned Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet has died in downtown Kiev when the car he was driving blew up minutes after the engine started. Ukrainian general prosecutor has confirmed that Pavel Sheremet was murdered — an explosive device was found in the car.

According to the reports, the car belonged to his employer, the head of Ukrainskaya Pravda newspaper. Alyona Pritula, the founder and chief editor of Ukrainskaya Pravda media outlet, was not inside the car at the moment of the explosion.

The explosion took place at about 7:45 am, after the journalist got into the car, started the engine and drove about several dozen meters. The vehicle has burnt out completely.

Pavel Sheremet was a well-known Russian journalist and political analyst specializing in relations between Russia and Ukraine. Over the last five years, he lived and worked in Ukraine for Ukrainskaya Pravda news outlet.

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