Loud & Clear: US Sanctions Suppress Journalist Pushing Back on ‘Corporate Tyranny’

From podcast Loud & Clear with Brian Becker:

“As a result of US sanctions against Venezuela, ‘The Empire Files’ has been forced to completely shut down operations,” read an ominous statement from the hit TV documentary series hosted by journalist Abby Martin on Wednesday.

Martin used “The Empire Files” to travel the world and report on major hotspots of political conflict, breaking through mainstream narratives and telling the complicated truth in a way that was easy to understand. The program, which ran on TeleSur, was mostly funded by the Venezuelan government and its allies.

The YouTube page boasts nearly 100,000 subscribers and more than 4.5 million views on its videos. In videos on the page, Martin interviewed teenage Palestinian icon Ahed Tamimi — before she was sentenced to eight months in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier who was on her property — and reported from the front lines of protests and environmental catastrophes.

But last Wednesday, Martin and her producer Mike Prysner had to cease production “just after we hired a stellar team of journalists in Gaza who sent us incredible, unseen footage & interviews from the Great March of Return,” Prysner tweeted. The Great March of Return protests have been met with grave repression from the Israeli military, which has killed more than 171 demonstrators and thousands injured, according to Gaza Health Ministry.

“We’re living in a pretty abysmal state of journalism right now, where to challenge this corporate tyranny and imperialist regime change narratives from the US empire, you have to go outside that corporate media apparatus, and that’s really hard to do, and get funding for that,” Martin told

There have been many attacks against Venezuela and TeleSur, Martin noted, including then-President Barack Obama declaring in 2017 that Venezuela posed a national security threat to the United States, which Martin added was “maybe because they have the largest oil reserves in the world.”

But it didn’t escalate to the point of taking aim at Venezuelan-supported media until “after the democratic reelection, that landslide reelection of [President Nicolas] Maduro, back in May. Of course, the Venezuelan people were punished for choosing the ‘wrong leader,’ quote unquote, that the US empire didn’t want. So they slapped inordinate sanctions against them that you have not seen in the region since Nicaragua in the 1980s, when we were waging a full-blown bloody war against the Nicaraguan people,” Martin said.

‘The Power to Curate Our Reality’: Facebook Censors TeleSur, Independent Media

Despite Washington’s line, sanctions don’t just affect the ruling party but the “poor, vulnerable, working class people — affecting food and medicine from getting to the poorest people of Venezuela,” she said.

Collateral damage from that, Martin added, was “seizing the ability for TeleSur to pay any contract journalists, and that’s been the result of the last six months… we have not been able to receive payments in and out of Caracas, and not just Caracas, but every single other allied country that links up with TeleSur, so the US government has completely disabled TeleSur’s ability to pay journalists and to receive funding or loans, of course, from outside of the country.”

The acclaimed journalists aren’t giving up. After the pair announced a GoFundMe to help keep the show afloat, hundreds of people donated, and even more voiced their support.

Feature film and documentary director Oliver Stone said that Martin and her team are “dedicated to bringing us insightful news that is not available on normal American outlets. Her dedication to the truth cannot be overestimated. It is crucial that we keep this show alive.”

Martin pointed out to Loud & Clear host Brian Becker and Sputnik News’ Walter Smolarek, who filled in for John Kiriakou, that the closure of her show benefits the same people whom it was started to push back against.

“This is a kind of a back-handed attempt, a happy circumstance, for the Trump administration, because TeleSur is one of the few programs that is really challenging his corporate media hegemony, which is why TeleSur was created in the first place, as a joint project of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez — to challenge that regime change narrative that was assaulting their countries and trying to overthrow their leaders.”

Empire Files’ Best of 2017 Roundup

Nearing the end of Season II, The Empire Files team expresses our deepest gratitude to so many of you who have followed our reports, written feedback, and shared our work. 2017 was no-doubt a watershed chapter in the advancement of US Empire, and we are honored to have your support telling the stories that were marginalized and distorted by corporate press as weapons of propaganda for US militarism. We’re excited that our reports have been seen on a growing number of countries in Latin America on TeleSUR Spanish as well as across the United States on Free Speech TV. Don’t miss the launch of our new podcast archiving our full episode library.

Below is a summary of our work in 2017––we are looking forward to helping cut through the imperialist propaganda and featuring more untold histories and censored voices in the year to come. 

In a year when so much of the corporate media was hyper-focused on President Trump, Abby Martin and the Empire Files crew sought to cover underrepresented domestic and international issues that affects real people.

Inside the Empire, that meant the ongoing opioid epidemic in a discussion with leading attorney Mike Papantonioexamining why 91 Americans die each day due to opioids, and how Big Pharma’s desperate pursuit of profit is attempted murder upon all injured Americans.

It meant examining the new Administration’s assault on the freedom of assembly in the form of controversial J20 arrests, where more than 200 demonstrators faced decades in prison for conspiracy and other charges.

And it meant examining overarching issues in America, like racism, inequality, the dysfunction of capitalism and the US Empire’s need to prop up the system.

Always connecting struggles in here to the victims of US Empire, Empire Files revealed the censored history of how the US Empire destroyed and subjugated the Philippines, Colombia, Palestine, Venezuela and more.

While the mass media’s most-reported story in 2017 was fear-mongering and aggression towards Russia, Empire Files sought to explore what could happen if this trend continues how the US Empire looted Russia after it led the overthrow of the Soviet Union, and Russia’s own history of defeating the oligarchs a century ago.  

The Places

 In 2017, Abby Martin and the Empire Files crew traveled both domestically and abroad to cover the year’s most important stories: From Houston, Texas a month after Hurricane Harvey to cover the government’s inaction in communities that were affected the most, to Washington, D.C. to dive deep into the protests surrounding the inauguration of President Trump.

Alongside Trump’s major announcement to declare Jerusalem the official capital of Israel, Abby Martin’s interviews with Israelis in Jerusalem, who wished exile and worse upon Palestinians, gave an eye-opening counter-narrative to the corporate media’s depiction of the situation. Martin’s report was so controversial that she became the target of a smear campaign by Israeli organizations.

Amidst a relentless regime-change operation in Venezuela by the Pentagon and Venezuelan oligarchs, Empire Files went into the heat of the battle, producing the only widely-seen coverage countering US propaganda–everything from being tear gassed with opposition protesters, to using hidden cameras to investigate food shortages, to explaining the reality of the country’s economic crisis, to pro-government protests ignored by Western media. 

Most recently Empire Files travelled to Colombia, covering the historic peace deal that ended a 53-year civil war–and went deep into the jungles to investigate a breech of trust that left 8 farmers massacred by police. 

In each location, Abby Martin spoke with victims of violence and colonization funded and perpetrated by the US Empire – points of view never found in the mainstream.

The Voices

Those voices, those marginalized individuals deemed too inconvenient to the Empire’s agenda, were amplified through Empire Files in 2017.

Early in the year, Abby Martin spoke with Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa shortly before he left office after 10 years, as well as top officials in the Venezuelan government, and the rare voice of former Israeli infantryman Eran Efrati.

Profiling academics rarely seen on television, interviews with Dr. Gerald Horne, Rosa Clemente and Chris Hedges gave essential perspective on the resurgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists under Trump. 

Brining grassroots voices to the forefront, Empire Files was especially honored to interview Filipina domestic workers fighting human trafficking, young radical organizers in the People’s Congress of Resistance, Sikh Americans responding to racism and Islamophobia, poor and working-class Venezuelans fighting US regime change, peasant farmers in Colombia in the wake of a state massacre, and unsung heroes who saved lives in the Hurricane Harvey. 

Without these voices, these stories simply could not have been told.

You can view the full library of Empire Files episodes here, and be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see what we have coming in 2018!

7 Must Watch Empire Files Reports From Palestine

Below are seven reports providing essential context to the so-called ‘Israel-Palestine’ conflict

settler terroristsWith the very existence of Palestine at stake, it is important to learn, and help others learn, the essential facts behind the Israeli settlement project.

Abby Martin goes on-the-ground to the epicenter of this struggle and talks to the most impacted, in seven reports that are a must-watch for anyone wanting to understand the so-called “Israel-Palestine conflict” and the viability of the two-state solution:

1. Inside Palestine’s Refugee Camps: bit.ly/2cViSQ1

2. The Untold History of Palestine & Israel: bit.ly/2iFHU4g 

3. Home Demolitions for Illegal Settlements Surging: bit.ly/2gJbntE 

4. Inside the Hotbeds of Israeli Settler Terror: bit.ly/2hBGeLu

5. Israeli Army Vet’s Exposé – “I Was the Terrorist”: bit.ly/2AWEsyL

6. Silencing Palestine – Prison & Repression: bit.ly/2zTs1QH

7. Everyday Israelis Express Support for Genocide: bit.ly/2BedU8I 

FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

Inside the Hotbeds of Israeli Settler Terror

SettlerTerrorThumbnailAbby Martin goes on-the-ground to the epicenters of state-backed settler terrorism in Palestine’s West Bank, in Part II of her report on illegal Israeli settlements.

Israel’s massive expansion of illegal settlements, built on stolen land and demolished Palestinian homes, is advanced by extreme violence from both the state forces and the settlers.

But the attacks on innocent Palestinians by Israeli settlers goes far beyond fists and rocks.

This installment visits both the rural countryside of Duma—interviewing the surviving members of the Dawabsheh family, victims of a horrific arson attack that left three dead—and the urban center of Hebron, a glaring example of Israeli apartheid under intense military occupation.

Inside the Hotbeds of Israeli Settler Terror

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WATCH PART I // Illegal Israeli Settlements & Palestinian Home Demolitions Surging

FOLLOW // @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

Cuba: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

revolutionLeader of the Cuban revolution, Fidel Castro, has died on his own terms, after surviving at least 638 assassination attempts by the CIA. Unlike the glorification of brutal theocratic leaders like Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah, the establishment will be giving no accolades to Castro. 

Capitalism’s defenders vociferously attack Cuba as a freedomless dystopia, while downplaying the country’s amazing achievements under socialism.

You cannot look at Cuba in isolation without understanding the long history of economic and political sabotage in the country on behalf of the U.S. Empire. From the crippling embargo, to the sponsoring of political dissent to the creation of an immigration policy designed for defection, the U.S. government has done everything in its power to undermine Cuba’s success.

Despite its severe economic restrictions, Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the U.S. and a near perfect literacy rate of 99.8%. Cuba’s system of free preventative healthcare is one of the best in the world.

The country’s philosophy of medical solidarity trains anyone to become a doctor, and has sent the world’s largest contingent of medical professionals to fight Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. From Haiti to Pakistan, Cuba is usually the first country on the front lines helping with every natural disaster and medical emergency. Today, more than 50,000 Cuban healthcare workers are operating in 66 countries around the world.

Because it provides basic amenities like food, shelter and healthcare for all citizens, Cuba also has one of the lowest crime rates in the Western Hemisphere.

Cuba is not perfect, yet far from the “police state” it is painted to be. I didn’t see one police officer when I was there, and people spoke freely about their discontent with the government. There was even a government sponsored art space that was full of cutting, self-reflexive political commentary.

In a three part series finale to Breaking the Set, I explain the history of Cuba-U.S. tensions and highlight underreported aspects of society and culture in an on-the-ground report.

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Cuba Part I: Revolution, Sabotage & Un-Normal Relations

BTS explains the history of Cuba and U.S. attempts of regime change, and talks to average Cubans both in Havana and in Miami about their views on the state of U.S. relations. Featuring an interview with Kenia Serrano, a high ranking Cuban parliament member, about everything from internet access to the crackdown on free speech in the country.

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Ebola Solidarity & Castro’s Daughter on LGBTQ Rights

BTS covers Cuba’s exemplary medical achievements with a Cuban doctor and students at the Latin American School of Medicine, an international medical school that trains anyone to become a doctor for free, as well as the U.S. programs that actively undermine international health efforts. Featuring an interview with Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raul Castro, and director of Cuba’s sex ed program CENESEX about LGBTQ rights in the country.

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The Evolution of Revolution

BTS focuses on reforms to the country’s economic and agricultural models, giving an overview of how Cuba’s cooperative and food system works, as well as operating private enterprise. Feauturing an interview with Ricardo Alarcón, Cuba’s former minister of foreign affairs and president of the People’s National Assembly of Power.

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@AbbyMartin