Every year, Project Censored gathers the most important stories that didn’t get the attention they deserve 

Project Censored 2017: The news that didn't make the news

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9. DNC claims right to select presidential candidate

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A key story about 2016 election has mostly been ignored by the media – a class-action lawsuit alleging that the Democratic National Committee broke legally-binding neutrality agreements in the Democratic primaries by strategizing to make Hillary Clinton the nominee before a single vote was cast. The lawsuit was filed against the DNC and its former chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, in June 2016 by Beck & Lee, a Miami law firm, on behalf of supporters of Bernie Sanders. A hearing was held on suit in April 2017, in which DNC lawyers argued that neutrality was not actually required and that the court had no jurisdiction to assess neutral treatment.

As Michael Sainato reported for the Observer, DNC attorneys claimed that Article V, Section 4 of the DNC Charter – which instructs the DNC chair and staff to ensure neutrality in the Democratic presidential primaries – is actually “a discretionary rule” that the DNC “didn’t need to adopt to begin with.” In addition, DNC attorney Bruce Spiva later said it was within the DNC’s rights to “go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way.” Sainato also reported that DNC attorneys argued that specific terms used in the DNC charter – including “impartial” and “evenhanded” – couldn’t be interpreted in a court of law, because it would “drag the Court … into a political question and a question of how the party runs its own affairs.”

Jared Beck, representing the Sanders’s supporters, responded, “Your Honor, I’m shocked to hear that we can’t define what it means to be evenhanded and impartial. If that were the case, we couldn’t have courts. I mean, that’s what courts do every day, is decide disputes in an evenhanded and impartial manner.” Not only was running elections in a fair and impartial manner a “bedrock assumption” of democracy, Beck argued earlier, it was also a binding commitment for the DNC: “That’s what the Democratic National Committee’s own charter says,” he said. “It says it in black and white.”

Much of the reporting and commentary on the broader subject of the DNC’s collusion with the Clinton campaign has been speculative and misdirected, focused on questions about voter fraud and countered by claims of indulging in “conspiracy theory.” But this trial focuses on documentary evidence and questions of law – all publicly visible yet still treated as suspect, when not simply ignored out of hand.

As Project Censored notes, “[E]ven Michael Sainato’s reporting – which has consistently used official documents, including the leaked DNC emails and courtroom transcripts, as primary sources – has been repeatedly labeled “opinion” – rather than straight news reporting – by his publisher, the Observer.”

10. 2016: A record year for global internet shutdowns

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In 2016, governments around the world shut down internet access more than 50 times, according to the digital rights organization Access Now, “suppressing elections, slowing economies and limiting free speech,” as Lyndal Rowlands reported for the Inter Press Service.

“In the worst cases internet shutdowns have been associated with human rights violations,” Rowlands was told by Deji Olukotun of Access Now. “What we have found is that internet shutdowns go hand in hand with atrocities,” Olukotun said.

Kevin Collier also covered the report for Vocativ, noting that Access Now uses a “conservative metric,” counting “repeated, similar outages” – like those which occurred during Gabon’s widely criticized Internet “curfew” – as a single instance. The Vocativ report included a dynamic map chart, designed by Kaitlyn Kelly, that vividly depicts Internet shutdowns around the world, month by month for all of 2016, as documented by Access Now.

“Many countries intentionally blacked out Internet access during elections and to quell protest. Not only do these shutdowns restrict freedom of speech, they also hurt economies around the world,” Project Censored notes. “TechCrunch, IPS and other independent news organizations reported that a Brookings Institution study found that Internet shutdowns cost countries $2.4 billion between July 2015 and June 2016” – a conservative estimate according to the study’s author, Darrell West.

As Olukotun told IPS, one way to stop government shutdowns is for Internet providers to resist government demands. “Telecommunications companies can push back on government orders, or at least document them to show what’s been happening, to at least have a paper trail,” Olukotun observed.

In a resolution passed in July 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Council described the internet as having “great potential to accelerate human progress.” It also condemned “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.”

On July 1, 2016, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed a nonbinding resolution signed by more than 70 countries lauding the Internet’s “great potential to accelerate human progress,” and condemning “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.” It noted that, “the exercise of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression, on the Internet is an issue of increasing interest and importance.”

Yet, “understanding what this means for internet users can be difficult,” Azad Essa reported for Al Jazeera in May 2017. Advocates of online rights “need to be constantly pushing for laws that protect this space and demand that governments meet their obligations in digital spaces just as in non-digital spaces,” he was told by the U.N.’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.

ENDNOTES

1. Widespread lead contamination threatens children's health and could triple household water bills
Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell, “Unsafe at Any Level: Millions of American Children Missing Early Lead Tests, Reuters Finds,” Reuters, June 9, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/lead-poisoning-testing-gaps/
M.B. Pell and Joshua Schneyer, “Off the Charts: The Thousands of U.S. Locales Where Lead Poisoning is Worse Than in Flint,” Reuters, Dec. 19, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing/
Farron Cousins, “America is Suffering from a Very Real Water Crisis That Few are Acknowledging,” DeSmogBlog, Jan. 24, 2017, https://www.DeSmogBlog.com/2017/01/24/america-suffering-very-real-water-crisis-few-are-acknowledging

2. Over $6 trillion in unaccountable Army spending
Dave Lindorff, “The Pentagon Money Pit: $6.5 Trillion in Unaccountable Army Spending, and No DOD Audit for the Past Two Decades,” This Can’t Be Happening!, Aug. 17, 2016, http://thiscantbehappening.net/node/3262.
Thomas Hedges, “The Pentagon Has Never been Audited. That’s Astonishing,” Guardian, March 20, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/20/pentagon-never-audited-astonishing-military-spending

3. Pentagon paid British PR firm for fake Al-Qaeda videos
Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith, “Fake News and False Flags: How the Pentagon Paid a British PR Firm $500 Million for Top Secret Iraq Propaganda,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Oct. 2, 2016, http://labs.thebureauinvestigates.com/fake-news-and-false-flags/

4. Voter suppression in the 2016 presidential election
Ari Berman, “Welcome to the First Presidential Election Since Voting Rights Act Gutted,” Rolling Stone, June 23, 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/welcome-to-the-first-presidential-election-since-voting-rights-act-gutted-20160623
Sarah A. Harvard, “How Did the ‘Shelby County v. Holder’ Supreme Court Decision Change Voting Rights Laws?,” Mic, July 29, 2016, https://mic.com/articles/150092/how-did-the-shelby-county-v-holder-supreme-court-decision-change-voting-rights-laws
Ari Berman, “This Election is being Rigged–But Not by Democrats,” Nation, October 17, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/this-election-is-being-rigged/
A.J. Vicens, “John Roberts Gutted the Voting Rights Act. Jeff Sessions is Poised to Finish It Off,” Mother Jones, November 28, 2016, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/voting-rights-act-whats-to-come-jeff-sessions-trump
Ari Berman, “GOP Voter Suppression and the Trump Win,” part of the feature “The Overlooked, Under-Reported and Ignored Stories of 2016,” Moyers & Co., December 28, 2016, http://billmoyers.com/story/overlooked-reported-ignored-stories-2016/
Ari Berman, “Wisconsin’s Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016 (Trump Won by 22,748),” Nation, May 9, 2017, https://www.thenation.com/article/wisconsins-voter-id-law-suppressed-200000-votes-trump-won-by-23000/.

5. Big data and dark money behind the 2016 election
Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus, “The Data That Turned the World Upside Down,” Motherboard (VICE), Jan. 28, 2017, https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/how-our-likes-helped-trump-win
Carole Cadwalladr, “Robert Mercer: The Big Data Billionaire Waging War on Mainstream Media,” Guardian, Feb. 26, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage
Jane Mayer, interviewed by Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman, “Jane Mayer on Robert Mercer and the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon,” Democracy Now!, March 23, 2017, https://www.democracynow.org/2017/3/23/jane_mayer_on_robert_mercer_the
Travis Gettys, “Before Helping Trump Win with Data Mining, Cambridge Analytica Tipped Elections with Old-Fashioned Tricks,” Raw Story, March 24, 2017, http://www.rawstory.com/2017/03/before-helping-trump-win-with-data-mining-cambridge-analytica-tipped-elections-with-old-fashioned-tricks/
Jane Mayer, “The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency,” New Yorker, March 27, 2017, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency

6. Antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" threaten health and foundations of modern medicine
Melinda Wenner Moyer, “Dangerous New Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Reach U.S.,” Scientific American, May 27, 2016, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/dangerous-new-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria-reach-u-s/
Madlen Davies, “How Big Pharma’s Industrial Waste is Fuelling the Rise in Superbugs Worldwide,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Sept. 15, 2016, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2016-09-15/how-big-pharmas-industrial-waste-is-fuelling-the-rise-in-superbugs-worldwide
Katie Morley and Madlen Davies, “Superbugs Killing More People Than Breast Cancer, Trust Warns,” Telegraph, Dec. 10, 2016, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/10/superbugs-killing-people-breast-cancer-trust-warns/

7. The toll of U.S. Navy training on wildlife in the North Pacific
Dahr Jamail, “Navy Allowed to Kill or Injure Nearly 12 Million Whales, Dolphins, Other Marine Mammals in Pacific,” Truthout, May 16, 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36037-the-us-navy-s-mass-destruction-of-marine-life

8. Maternal mortality a growing threat in the U.S.
Elizabeth Dawes Gay, “Congressional Briefing Puts U.S. Maternity on Exam Table,” Women’s eNews, April 15, 2016, http://womensenews.org/2016/04/congressional-briefing-puts-u-s-maternity-on-exam-table/
Kiera Butler, “The Scary Truth About Childbirth,” Mother Jones, January/February, 2017, http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/childbirth-injuries-prolapse-cesarean-section-natural-childbirth.

9. DNC claims right to select presidential candidate
Michael Sainato, “Wikileaks Proves Primary was Rigged: DNC Undermined Democracy,” Observer, July 22, 2016, http://observer.com/2016/07/wikileaks-proves-primary-was-rigged-dnc-undermined-democracy/
Ruby Cramer, “DNC and Clinton Campaign Operations Started Merging Before Sanders Dropped Out,” BuzzFeed, July 27, 2016, https://www.buzzfeed.com/rubycramer/dnc-and-clinton-campaign-operations-started-merging-before-s
Joshua Holland, “What the Leaked E-mails Do and Don’t Tell Us About the DNC and Bernie Sanders,” Nation, July 29, 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/what-the-leaked-e-mails-do-and-dont-tell-us-about-the-dnc-and-bernie-sanders/
Michael Sainato, “DNC Lawyers Argue DNC Has Right to Pick Candidates in Back Rooms,” Observer, May 1, 2017, http://observer.com/2017/05/dnc-lawsuit-presidential-primaries-bernie-sanders-supporters/

10. 2016: A record year for global internet shutdowns
Devin Coldewey, “Study Estimates Cost of Last Year’s Internet Shutdowns at $2.4 Billion,” TechCrunch, Oct. 24, 2016, https://techcrunch.com/2016/10/24/study-suggests-internet-shutdowns-may-cost-countries-billions/
Kevin Collier, “Governments Loved to Shut Down the Internet in 2016–Here’s Where,” Vocativ, Dec. 23, 2016, http://www.vocativ.com/386042/internet-access-shut-off-censorship/
Lyndal Rowlands, “More Than 50 Internet Shutdowns in 2016,” Inter Press Service, Dec. 30, 2016, http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/12/more-than-50-internet-shutdowns-in-2016/
Azad Essa, “What Can the U.N. Do If Your Country Cuts the Internet?” Al Jazeera, May 8, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/country-cuts-internet-170504064432840.html

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