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28802: Potemaksonje (News) IRI AND RSF (fwd)


Reporters Without Borders and Washington?s Coups:
International Republican Institute grants uncovered
by Diana Barahona and Jeb Sprague

British press baron Lord Northcliff said, "News is
something that someone,  somewhere wants to keep
secret, everything else is advertising."  If this is
true, then U.S. government funding of Reporters
Without Borders must be news, because the organization
and its friends in Washington have gone to
extraordinary lengths to cover it up. In spite of 14
months of stonewalling by  the National Endowment for
Democracy over a Freedom of Information Act request
and a flat denial from RSF executive director Lucie
Morillon, the NED has revealed that Reporters Without
Borders received grants over at least three years from
the International Republican Institute.

The NED still refuses to provide the requested
documents or even reveal the grant amounts, but they
are identified by these numbers: IRI 2002-022/7270,
IRI 2003-027/7470 and IRI 2004-035/7473. Investigative
reporter Jeremy Bigwood asked  Morillon on April 25 if
her group was getting any money from the I.R.I., and
she denied it, but the existence of the grants was
confirmed by NED assistant to the president, Patrick

The discovery of the grants reveals a major deception
by the group, which for years denied it was getting
any Washington dollars until some relatively small
grants from the NED and the Center for a Free Cuba
were revealed (see Counterpunch: ?Reporters Without
Borders Unmasked?). When asked to account for its
large income RSF has claimed the money came from the
sale of books of photographs. But researcher Salim
Lamrani has pointed out the improbability of this
claim. Even taking into account that the books are
published for free, it
would have had to sell 170 200 books in 2004 and 188
400 books in 2005 to earn the more than $2 million the
organization claims to make each year ? 516 books per
day in 2005. The money clearly had to come from other
sources, as it turns out it did.

The I.R.I., an arm of the Republican Party,
specializes in meddling in elections in foreign
countries, as a look at NED annual reports and the
I.R.I. website shows. It is one of the four core
grantees of the NED, the organization founded by
Congress under the Reagan administration in 1983 to
replace the CIA?s civil society covert action
programs, which had been devastated by exposure by the
Church committee in the mid-1970s (Ignatius, 1991).
The other three pillars of the NED are the National
Democratic Institute (the Democratic Party), the
Solidarity Center (AFL-CIO) and the Center for
International Private Enterprise
(U.S. Chamber of Commerce). But of all the groups the
I.R.I. is closest to the Bush administration,
according to a recent piece in The New York Times
exposing its role in the overthrow of Haitian
president Jean-Bertrand Aristide:

"President Bush picked its president, Lorne W. Craner,
to run his
administration's democracy-building efforts. The
institute, which works in more than 60 countries, has
seen its federal financing nearly triple in three
years, from $26 million in 2003 to $75 million in
2005. Last spring, at an I.R.I. fund-raiser, Mr. Bush
called democracy-building 'a growth industry.'"
(Bogdanich and Nordberg, 2006)

Funding from the I.R.I. presents a major problem for
RSF?s credibility as a ?press freedom? organization
because the group manufactured propaganda against the
popular democratic governments of Venezuela and Haiti
at the same time that its patron, the I.R.I., was
deeply involved in efforts to overthrow them. The
I.R.I. funded the Venezuelan opposition to President
Hugo Chavez (Barry, 2005) and actively organized
Haitian opposition to Aristide in conjunction with the
CIA (Bogdanich and Nordberg, 2006).

The man who links RSF to these activities is Otto
Reich, who worked on the coups first as assistant
secretary of state for Latin American affairs, and,
after Nov. 2002, as a special envoy to Latin America
on the National Security Council. Besides being a
trustee of the government-funded Center for a Free
Cuba, which gives RSF $50,000 a year, Reich has worked
since the early 1980?s with the I.R.I.?s senior vice
president, Georges Fauriol, another member of the
Center for a Free Cuba. But it is Reich?s experience
in propaganda that is especially relevant. In the
1980?s he was caught up in investigations into the
Reagan administration?s illegal war on the
Sandinistas. The comptroller general
determined in 1987 that Reich?s Office of Public
Diplomacy had ?engaged in prohibited covert propaganda
activities.? (Bogdanich and Nordberg, 2006).

In early 2002, once George Bush had given him a recess
appointment to the State Department, ?Reich was soon
tasked to orchestrate a massive international media
defamation campaign against Chávez that has continued
until this day? (Conkling and Goble, 2004). Did Reich
introduce RSF to the I.R.I. grants and coach the group
in its propaganda efforts against Aristide, Chavez and
Cuba? A look at the group's methods indicates this may
be the case; the propaganda against Aristide, a former
priest, was as crude as any of Reich?s trademark
slanders of Latin American leaders. RSF branded the
Haitian president a ?predator of press freedom? after
linking him, without any evidence whatsoever, to the
murders of journalists Jean Dominique and Brignol
Lindor. It prominently featured photographs of the
journalists? bodies on its web site, turning them into
poster victims of Aristide?s alleged repression
against the press.

In 2002 RSF wrote, ?A journalist was beaten to death
in the town of Petit-Goâve on 3 December 2001 by a
gang of killers with ties to local politicians and
President Jean-Bertrand Aristide?s Lavalas
("Avalanche") movement. ? The murder happened at a
time when press freedom in Haiti was steadily
deteriorating in the wake of the killing of Jean
Dominique, head of the radio station Haiti-Inter, on 3
April the previous year? (Lionet and Avila, 2002).
Note the intentional mistranslation of Lavalas (which
means flood, not avalanche), and the way RSF tied the
gang of killers to ?Aristide?s Lavalas movement,?
implying that the president himself was in charge of
the gang.

The article is riddled with this kind of innuendo and
outright falsehoods: ?In this atmosphere, the killing
of Lindor was seen by the entire media as a new
warning.? Here RSF has already tried and convicted
Aristide by implying that he ordered the murders of
the journalists to send a warning to the opposition
media not to be critical of him. But Jean Dominique
was murdered in April of 2000, many months before
Aristide was even elected, and there is likewise no
evidence the president had knowledge of the Lindor

In the same piece RSF called the Aristide government
an ?authoritarian regime,? accused him of calling for
lynchings by the ?necklace? method (see origin of this
slander below), described Aristide supporters as
?street thugs? and concluded that all of these alleged
actions the group imputed to the government were ?part
of a wider strategy by the authorities to make use of
para-legal militias to intimidate the media.?
The propaganda would have been bad enough if RSF
hadn?t taken additional steps to help strangle the
desperately poor, aid-dependent country ? a tactic it
has also tried to employ against Cuba (Barahona,

AP quotes Secretary General Robert Menard, referring
to the government?s alleged failure to bring
Dominique?s killer to justice, ?President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide is responsible for this
obstruction, and we will list him among the Predators
of Press Freedom, if no progress is made in coming
months" (Norton, 2001). The article continued, ?Menard
said he hoped the list, which would be sent to world
governments and financial institutions, would help
influence the European Union to prolong the suspension
of some $100 million in foreign assistance.?

The economic sanctions imposed by the United States
caused inflation to soar and deprived the government
of the money it needed to operate or defend itself. To
illustrate RSF?s double standards, Colombia has a
dismal record when it comes to prosecuting the killers
of journalists, but Menard has never lobbied the
United States or the EU to cut off aid to the Uribe

But Reporters Without Borders wasn?t content with a
mere cutoff in aid; by January 2002 Menard was calling
on the U.S. Congress and the EU to take ?individual
sanctions? against Aristide and Prime Minister Yvon
Neptune, including ?the refusal of entry and transit
visas? and ?the freezing of any foreign bank accounts
they have? (Norton, 2002).

Following the Feb. 29, 2004 ouster of Aristide, RSF
ignored nearly all of the violence and persecution
against journalists critical of the foreign-imposed
Latortue government, instead claiming that press
freedom had increased. RSF's 2005 and 2006 reports
failed to condemn the extrajudicial execution of
community journalist and radio reporter Abdias Jean,
whom witnesses say was killed by police after he had
snapped shots of three youngsters the police had
killed. It also ignored the arrests of journalists
Kevin Pina (Pacifica Radio) and Jean Ristil, and
failed to properly investigate several attacks on
pro-Lavalas radio

Asked for his response to news of the grants, Pina had
the following to say: "It was clear early on that RSF
and Robert Menard were not acting as objective
guardians of freedom of the press in Haiti but rather
as central actors in what can only be described as a
disinformation campaign against Aristide's government.
Their attempts to link Aristide to the murder of Jean
Dominique and their subsequent silence when the
alleged hit man, Lavalas Senator Dany Toussaint,
joined the anti-Aristide camp and ran for president in
2006 is just one of many examples that expose the real
nature and role of organizations like
RSF. They provide false information and skewed reports
to build internal opposition to governments seen as
uncontrollable and unpalatable to Washington while
softening the ground for their eventual removal by
providing justification under the pretext of attacks
on the freedom of the press."

We asked the group?s Haiti expert based in Paris why
RSF had ignored the murder of Abdias Jean, and he
said, ?We asked the police about the killings of
Abdias Jean and we were told by the police that it was
an attack made by the police but that they didn?t know
he was a journalist. He was taking pictures.? He
admitted that none of the witnesses to the murder had
been interviewed, while all the
unpublished information he had on the case was based
on the testimony of the police, known for their
widespread killings and abuses. Regarding the arrest
of Pina and Ristil he said, ?Generally when somebody
is put in jail, we wait to see how long they will
stay.?They were released so we did not take up that
case.? Considering RSF never took up the case of
Abdias Jean, the likelihood it would stick its neck
out for Pina, a critic of both the interim government
and of RSF,
is negligible.

He who pays the piper calls the tune. Taking its cues
from the State Department, RSF has been guilty of
demonizing governments that the U.S. wanted to
overthrow, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Haiti, while
downplaying the human rights abuses of strategic
allies such as Mexico and Colombia. Because it was
able to hide I.R.I. grants which would have alerted
people to its ulterior motives, RSF has been an
effective tool in the Bush administration?s covert
attacks on recalcitrant Latin American leaders. The
organization has also leveraged its image as an
independent human rights organization to get its
message into the U.S. media and university textbooks.
This would be an impressive feat for a small group of
individuals with no apparent journalistic credentials
were it not for the fact that they have the richest,
most powerful patrons in the world.

Diana Barahona is an independent journalist with an
interest in Latin American politics. She can be
reached at dlbarahona@cs.com

Jeb Sprague is a graduate student, freelance
journalist, and a correspondent for Pacifica Radio?s
Flashpoints.  Visit his blog at

Special thanks to Jeremy Bigwood and attorney Michael
D. Steger.

Barahona, D. (2005, May 17). Reporters Without Borders
Unmasked: It?s Secret Deal With Otto Reich to Wreak
Cuba?s Economy. Counterpunch.org.

David Ignatius (Sept. 22, 1991). Innocence Abroad: The
New World of Spyless Coups. The Washington Post.
Retrieved from ProQuest database. ??A lot of what we
do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,?
agrees [Allen] Weinstein.?

Bogdanich, Walt and Nordberg, Jenny (2006, Jan. 29).
Mixed U.S. Signals Helped Tilt Haiti Towards Chaos.
The New York Times. Retrieved from ProQuest database.

Barry, Tom (2005, Aug. 4). Profile: International
Republican Institute.
International Relations Center. Retrieved July 4,
2006, from

Conkling, Will and Goble, Sam (2004, July 13). Otto
Reich: A Career In
Disservice. Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Lionet, Christian and Avila, Calixto (2002, Sept. 10).
Zero tolerance for the media : an enquiry into the
murder of journalist Brignol Lindor. Reporters Without
Borders.  Retrieved on 7 July 2006 from

Necklace slander: The ?necklace? allegations, as
explained by Erwin Stotzky in his book Silencing the
guns of Haiti , refered to a 1991 speech given by
Aristide at the UN in which he vowed to ?turn the
streets red? employing the well-known kreyol protest
mechanism of burning tires, with no explicit reference
to ?necklacing? or any method of violence. Soon after
the speech, the Haiti Observateur, a right-wing
opposition paper, twisted the kreyol metaphor into the
allegation of support for ?necklacing,? which was
recycled tenfold over the years by foreign media, CIA
reports, and conservative think tanks such as the
Heritage Foundation.

Norton, Michael (2001, Nov. 24). International press
freedom group blasts Haitian government for stalling
progress in Jean Dominique murder investigation.
Associated Press. Retrieved 7 July 2006 from
Lexis-Nexis database.

Obstruction: Three suspects (Ti Lou, Guimy and
Markington) were arrested in connection with
Dominique's murder under the Aristide government but
they mysteriously escaped in a ?prison mutiny? under
Latortue?s watch in February of 2005 and were never

Norton, Michael (2002, Jan. 10). Journalists Group
Urges Sanctions for Haiti?s President. Associated
Press. Retrieved 7 July 2006 from Lexis-Nexis
database. ?Aristide is personally responsible for the
deterioration of press freedom in Haiti and sanctions
should be taken against him personally,? Menard said.

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