World Tribunal on Iraq
Media Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity
Exposing the Politics of Disinformation
Aula Magna del Rettorato
Università degli Studi Roma Tre
10-13 February 2005
Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal
[…] Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit any of the foregoing crimes [crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity] are responsible for all acts performed by any persons in execution of such plan.
The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) is an international peoples’ initiative aimed at seeking the truth about the War and Occupation in Iraq. It is comprised of various sessions around the world, culminating in Istanbul, Turkey on March 20, 2005.
The Italian leg of the WTI will examine the issue of Media Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity. Below is a statement describing the Session.
1. What We Know: On the War, Media and Disinformation
The case for war against Iraq was made by the governments of the so-called Coalition, led by the United States and the United Kingdom, under various guises. Against the overwhelming opposition of the membership of the United Nations, and the unprecedented uprising of peoples’ anti-war movements globally, it was asserted that what was being undertaken was a noble violence for the common good, and more particularly for the good of the Iraqi peoples. The same message of good against evil was repeated throughout the subsequent Occupation of Iraq, and is still being repeated now as the process of political transition stumbles along. At stake are the ‘authority’ and the ‘legitimacy’ of military-political action – of War, Occupation, and ‘Assistance’.
Increasingly, there are revelations about the lies, falsifications, disinformation, misrepresentations and silences, upon which was based the call to war against Iraq, accompanied the brutality of occupation, and directed the politics of ‘transition’. It is commonplace now to hear of outrage regarding the truths of War and Occupation that are belatedly being acknowledged. Much of the ‘mainstream’, corporate-controlled Media stands implicated, for these truths were not previously unknown. To some extent, it seems, the Media are willing to admit their ineptitudes - the New York Times, for example, has ‘apologised’ to its readers for its admitted inadequacies of investigation and truth-telling in the run-up to war in Iraq. However, although this is welcome, it is not sufficient.
More than a simple recognition of professional failings is required. The World Tribunal on Iraq calls for a people’s judgement. Towards this end, the WTI resolves to convene a session to examine the role of the Media in war, to clarify issues of accountability and to judge possible media wrongs against truth and humanity.
2. Invoking a Language of Judgement: Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity
The Italian Session of the WTI is based on a fundamental assumption of a peoples’ power, and right, to judge the bearers of information for the message that they bear. It takes seriously the duties of truth-telling imposed by society upon our agencies of information and journalistic messengers, even more so in times and conditions of grave consequence. Contrary to the demand for ‘media patriotism’, it is indeed a greater burden to truth that is borne by the profession of journalism during times of war. That burden of the social responsibility in truth-telling is clear, inter alia:
UNESCO International Principles of Professional Ethics in Journalism.
Principle III: The Journalist’s Social Responsibility
Information in journalism is understood as a social good and not a commodity, which means that that the journalist shares responsibility for the information transmitted and is thus accountable … ultimately to the public at large…
Principle IX: Elimination of War and Other Great Evils Confronting Humanity
The ethical commitment to the universal values of humanism calls for the journalist to abstain from any justification for, or incitement to, wars of aggression …
International Federation of Journalists Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists.
1. Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist .…
3. The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/she knows the origin. The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents.
The Italian Session on Media Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity, therefore, aims to go beyond simple recognitions of media ‘failure’, to transform the discourse of some general notion of professional inadequacies to one of specific contexts of social responsibilities. Thus, the Session will examine the role played by the Media in the War against, Occupation of, and subsequent political ‘transition’ in Iraq from the perspectives of the following constituencies of the violated and contexts of wrongs:
1. Against the Peoples of Iraq:
2. Against the Peoples of the ‘Coalition’:(in addition to the above)
3. Against Humanity:(in addition to the above)
In examining the above contexts of Media Wrongs, the Session will hear specific evidence relating to the Media’s treatments of the following issues:
The Justifications for War – the veracity of the ‘intelligence’ on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq and the claimed link between the Iraqi government and global ‘terrorism’; the imminence and the ‘reality’ of the threat of Iraq to global security; the majority international legal opinion of the illegality of war without a specific and explicit UN mandate; the UN process of weapons inspections and subsequent debates within the Security Council and General Assembly; the evidence of US and UK ‘bugging’ of state and UN officials during the course of Security Council deliberations; the voices of global anti-war and peace movements; the perspectives of the Arab and non-western worlds on the prospects and strategies for security in the Arab region; the continuing realities of post-war Afghanistan as antecedent to the war in Iraq; geopolitical and historical contexts of aggression against Iraq; the likely civilian and social consequences of aggression within Iraq; the credibility of any post-war planning for social, economic and political reconstruction.
The Consequences and Costs of War – the human and social realities of ‘surgical strikes’ and ‘collateral damage’; the allegations of illegality and criminality of the conduct of war and occupation; the truths of ‘reconstruction’ and profiteering; the torture and abuse of civilians and detained persons throughout the occupation; the realities of ‘sovereignty’ in the transition process from occupation to Iraqi self-rule; the nature and content of Iraqi resistance to occupation; the costs of war to the treasuries of the ‘coalition’; the impact of war on security, both within Iraq and globally; the political consequences of the war across the world with respect democratic rights and governmental accountability; the prospects for the resolution of the Palestinian cause for justice and the end of the Israeli occupation of Palestine in light of the war; the realities of human suffering left unregistered in the social conscience of the centres of privilege.
The aim of the Session is not to ‘sentence’ individual ‘criminal conduct’ of media personnel. Rather, it is to assess if the peoples towards whom the Media owe their duties of truth-telling have been betrayed, systematically and structurally, by the commission of the above-mentioned media wrongs against truth and humanity. In addition to the intention of recording a peoples’ judgement, further aims of the session are: first to suggest means by which a political process of consolidation of social standards for truth-telling may be undertaken, so that media conduct may in future be more readily held to task; and secondly, to broaden the horizons of ‘truth-telling’ from the domination of the corporate-controlled Media of the powerful states to include voices and perspectives of truth that are truly more reflective of global concerns.
3. The Proceedings and Participants:
The Session will be conducted over the course of 3 days wherein will be heard presentations of evidence and analysis in relation to the issues outlined. It will be constituted by a Tribunal Panel of Judgement, a Panel of Advocates, a Panel of Inspection, and the Jury of the Audience.
The Panel of Judgement will be charged with the responsibility of providing a reasoned statement of judgement at the conclusion of the proceedings, and any recommendations they see relevant to the protection of the people’s right to truth, and the Media’s obligations to Truth and Humanity.
The Panel of Advocates is charged with the responsibility to conduct investigations relevant to the substance of the proceedings, to identify and present evidence and witness testimony during the course of the session, and to make whatever calls for action that may be considered by the Panel of Judgement. The Panel also has a prior responsibility to disclose all of its documentary evidence to the Panel of Inspection for verification.
The Panel of Inspection is charged with the responsibility to examine the veracity of the evidence and testimony presented. Prior to the proceedings, the Panel of Inspection will have rights of examination of the evidence in order that they may verify its credibility. Also, the Panel will be charged with the responsibility to ensure the right to reply of any persons implicated by the testimony is respected. Such persons will be invited by the Panel either to provide oral testimony during the Session, or written testimony that will be presented in the Session.
The Jury of the Audience, comprising the audience attending the session as a whole, representative of a wider humanity, is the bearer of the burden of public conscience. They will so be requested to provide their judgements upon the issues considered by the Session. These statements of judgement will also constitute part of the official record of the Session.
It is anticipated that the evidence presented to the Session will include both testimonial and documentary evidence. Where presence is not possible, evidence may also take the form of recorded testimonies, and video and multimedia presentations.
It is hoped that the WTI Italy Session on Media Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity will contribute to an evolution of a Peoples’ Law language by which Media conduct is considered, and encourage further a culture of peoples’ scrutiny of institutionalised dissemination of information. May the people reclaim our rights to truth.
Statement of Endorsement
I / We endorse the initiative of the WTI-Rome Session
I sign in my personal name O
I sign in name of my organisation O
If you would like to provide additional support, either financial or back-up services, please contactWTI Italy at the following address:
Contact: Jayan Nayar – Walter Musco
Peoples’ Law Programme
Lelio Basso International Foundation
Proceedings for the WTI Rome Session on Media Wrongs Against Truth and Humanity
10 February 2005
7.00 pm – 8.00 pm: Opening Ceremony and Introductory Statements
8.00 pm – 11.30 pm: Concert: Peoples’ for Truth and Against War
11 February 2005
10.00 am – 10.30 am: Introduction - The Right and Duty to Truth
10.30 am – 1.30 pm: Truth-Telling in Context
On Ownership, Message and Profits
1.30 pm – 2.30 pm: Lunch
2.45 pm – 5.00 pm: Media Wrongs Against the Peoples of Iraq: Aggression
5.00 pm – 5.30 pm: Coffee
5.40 pm – 7.30 pm: Media Wrongs Against the Peoples of Iraq: Silence.
12 February 2005
10.00 am – 1.30 pm: Media Wrongs Against the Peoples of the ‘Coalition’: Deception and Incitement
1.30 pm – 2.30 pm: Lunch
2.45 pm – 6.00 pm: Media Wrongs Against Humanity: Exclusion andUsurpation
13 February 2005
10.00 am – 1.30 pm: Celebrations of Compassionate Truth-Telling
1.30 pm – 2.30 pm: Lunch
2.45 pm – 5.00 pm: Voices of Truth, Humanity and Wisdom
5.00 pm – 9.00 pm: Break
9.00 pm – 10.00 pm: Presentation of Preliminary Findings and Summary Statement of Judgement
10.00 pm – 10.15 pm:Concluding Statements