Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Business Partnership: The Associated Press And Police States.

It is a despotism of the sort where you cannot meet with a gathering of friends without running the risk of being hauled up on charges of subversion. You cannot organize a book club - you will only rarely find an unofficial book of any kind anyway - and while you may avail yourself of a clandestine lending library you will risk imprisonment for doing so. You can get arrested for being in possession of a banned novel, there's barely any access to the internet, what you may think is yours can be expropriated at a moment's notice, you can't change jobs without the boss's permission, the boss is the government, and you are not allowed to leave the country without permission from the boss. Join a punk band and you can be arrested for "pre-criminal dangerousness."

There is no free press, but the Associated Press has just partnered with the state propaganda agency. The country is Cuba, the agency is Prensa Latina, and Associated Press is offering you a bargain: "Don't miss our collection of exclusive, iconic black and white photos of Castro from our image partner Prensa Latina, based in Havana, Cuba." What does AP tell us about Prensa Latina? The agency "now has a worldwide presence and transmits each day in Spanish, English, Portuguese, Italian, Russian and Turkish"! Thor Halvorssen asks: "Is any of this undeniable reality of life under Castro mentioned in a single caption of the thousands of photographs offered by the AP?" He answers: "Not once. Castro, they repeat, is a 'revolutionary hero.'"

It gets worse. The Prensa Latina deal follows an Associated Press management decision to enter into a series of agreements with the chief propaganda arm of one of the most brutal and savage polices state in history - the so-called Democratic People's Republic of Korea, in Pyongyang. At right is a June 28 photo of Associated Press CEO Tom Curley signing over the last shreds of his journalistic credibility to Kim Pyong Ho of the so-called Korean Central News Agency at their get-together in New York.

The deal gives the Associated Press what its own public-relations bumpf calls "unprecedented access." In return, Associated Press readers in the world's democracies get fluff like this: "A little boy skips along grasping a classmate's hand, his cheeks flushed and a badge of the Great Leader's smiling face pinned to his Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt. Men in military green share a joke over beers at a German-style pub next door to the Juche tower. Schoolgirls wearing the red scarves of the Young Pioneers sway in unison as they sing a classic Korean tune I, too, learned as a child. . ."

One of the agreements gives AP exclusive rights to video from KCNA’s archive, "providing a new source of video content from North Korea to AP’s members and customers around the world." Says Curley: "We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to providing coverage for AP’s global audience in our usually reliable and insightful way." Reliable. Got that? In return, the DPRK regime gets AP's "cooperation on journalistic and photo/video technology issues." And heck, the regime sure could use some help with its "issues."

Take this latest KCNA news dispatch, for example. Headline: Kim Jong Il's Songun Revolutionary Leadership Praised by Foreign Political Party. "Pyongyang, August 17 (KCNA) -- The Socialist Party of Benin-Baanitee made public a statement on August 10 on the 51st anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il's start of his Songun revolutionary leadership. The statement said that his Songun revolutionary leadership made it possible for socialist Korea to steadily advance, winning one victory after another, adding that the Korean People's Army could grow to be invincible armed forces thanks to the Songun revolutionary leadership."

On it goes like that. Not the least bit interesting, not even newsworthy, and nothing in any KCNA dispatch about the Songun revolutionary leadership advancing so invincibly that it is sending appointed academics to Canada to figure out how a real economy works, and nothing from AP's partner journalists on the outbreaks of famine in the country, or about their government's inability to cope with flooding without the help of dole handouts from the Americans. Certainly no comment from glorious leader leader Kim Jong-Il. But then, to be fair, he is unreachable at the moment, holidaying on his yacht and hanging out at his swank seaside villa.

I'm thinking of starting a regular series: Journalism Fail Survivor Apprentice. This week's winner, hands down, is the Associated Press.


Blogger dmurrell said...

Terry. Fine investigative reporting here. I realize that the AP was politically correct, but I had no idea this agency had sunk so low.

9:43 AM  

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