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.”

US Sanctions Shut Down ‘The Empire Files’ with Abby Martin

For immediate release – Aug 22, 2018

The Empire Files is temporarily appealing for donations on a one-time and monthly basis to continue production in the midst of US attacks on the TeleSUR Network.

As a result of US sanctions against Venezuela, The Empire Files has been forced to completely shut down operations.

The Empire Files, which airs on TeleSUR throughout Latin America and on Free Speech TV and The Real News Network in the United States, has been funded through a contract with the TeleSUR network. As Abby Martin’s primary broadcast, it has released over 100 documentaries, interviews and on-the-ground exposés from battlefields in Palestine, Venezuela and beyond.

As a result of financial attacks by the US government on the primary source of TeleSUR’s funding, production was halted before the completion of Empire Files Season Two.

Season Three, contracted for 26 episodes, was scheduled to begin on July 1. But with the US government blocking wire transfers that originate in Venezuela, the ability to receive funding has not been possible.

For over a year, funding has been sporadic and often delayed. The Empire Files has been operating by alternating between waiting for late payments and funding production out-of-pocket.

However, with US attacks and sanctions intensifying, the ability to receive funds appears to have been cut-off completely.

Contract TeleSUR journalists elsewhere, including at Empire Files, have had funding blocked by the US government for over 6 months. Even wire transfers not originating in Venezuela, but ally countries which also fund TeleSUR, have been severed.

There appears to be no solution, and no end in sight, to this ongoing financial attack.

The Empire Files officially halted all production on May 27, and had to cut all staff prior to that. But we have been holding-off on an official announcement in hopes that the wall put in place by the Trump Administration would be overcome.

We are making this announcement now because, after numerous attempts and constant rejections of all types of fund transfers, we do not believe this barrier will be removed in the near future.

The depth of US attacks

The US State Department has been involved in regime-change projects in Venezuela since the election of the late President Hugo Chavez, first expressed by a violent coup in 2002. During that coup, Venezuela’s state media and pro-government media were shut-down by the US-backed junta. Yet economic sanctions on Venezuela were not implemented until the Obama Administration, in 2015.

The Trump Administration has taken these sanctions to new heights. The most recent escalation came on May 21, 2018, the day after President Maduro democratically won reelection—apparently to punish the Venezuelan people for electing the “wrong” candidate.

Today, the US sanctions on Venezuela are the worst sanctions on any country in the region since those against Nicaragua in the 1980s, according to Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research—a time when the Reagan Administration was waging a full-blown, bloody war against the Nicaraguan people. Similarly it is Venezuela’s poor and working class who are, by design, suffering most from the sanctions today.

These economic attacks cannot be viewed on their own, but part-in-parcel of a regime-change operation—while this is just one front in the US strategy, the sanctions are coupled with violent US-backed coup attempts in Venezuela, including the August 4 assassination attempt on President Maduro.

TeleSUR has always been included as a target for its association with the government. A thwarted US-backed coup plot in 2015 included plans to bomb the TeleSUR news building in Caracas. In 2017, a TeleSUR news team was ambushed by US-backed opposition forces and nearly lynched—one TeleSUR reporter was shot in the back during the assault.

Likewise, Abby Martin and Empire Files producer Mike Prysner were the target of pro-coup politicians and journalists based in Caracas and Miami, leading to hundreds of death threats and causing them to flee Venezuela where they were conducting on-the-ground reporting.

In addition, TeleSUR—along with the other main left-wing news source on Venezuela, Venezuela Analysis—were recently targets of online censorship. Already hit with “warnings” and “sensitive content” bans on YouTube and Twitter, their pages were recently deleted (although later reinstated) by Facebook. This was the second time the TeleSUR English page was removed without warning or explanation by Facebook. Facebook is currently collaborating with the Atlantic Council—stacked with CIA agents, Iraq war architects, Big Oil and the weapons industry—to decide which media outlets “sow discord.”

With only rhetoric of increased aggression coming from the Trump Administration, including threats of all-out US military bombing and invasion, there is no reason to think this multi-pronged attack will subside.

The future of The Empire Files

The entire Empire Files team—which has included a variety of dedicated videographers, editors, animators, graphic designers, composers, audio engineers, writers, researchers, interns and more—has spent nearly three years doing dedicated, rigorous, and sometimes life-threatening work to deliver a high-quality, politically important show once a week.

From the hidden casualties on the US-Mexico border, to environmental disasters in the endangered rainforest, to the most-viewed reporting on the crisis in Venezuela—interviews with President Rafael Correa, Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Ahed Tamimi, and other important figures—profiles of often-unheard voices of migrant domestic workers, young revolutionary activists, immigrant children, hurricane victims, third-party candidates and more—to in-depth educational documentaries on socialism, the crimes of the US Empire, and histories and crises hidden by the mainstream media—The Empire Files has been extremely proud to make this small contribution to a broader movement for change.

But we do not intend to stop this project as long as there are possibilities to continue.

We are prepared to resume production of weekly programs for TeleSUR as soon as blocks on funding are lifted, or circumvented—however, this could mean six months, a year, or never. We know our colleagues at TeleSUR have been fighting for a solution for us and other contractors, and will continue to do so.

In the meantime, we are appealing to our supporters for donations on a one-time basis or as monthly sustainers to restart production, rehire staff and release new episodes for as long as funding permits. Current expenses include $6000 for Empire Files journalists in Gaza. 

Unreleased Empire Files content from Gaza and Colombia

In the immediate term, we hope to raise enough funds to complete post-production on our recent, unreleased footage.

Most importantly, our urgent footage and interviews captured by Empire Files journalists in Palestine’s besieged Gaza Strip. This includes never-before-seen footage of the Great March of Return, including new instances of brutality by Israeli forces against unarmed protesters at the border fence, interviews with the family of slain medic Razan Al-Najar and wounded medical workers, and much more.

In addition, we have hours of unreleased footage of Abby Martin on-the-ground in Colombia’s “peace zones,” featuring interviews with FARC leaders and members, and a rare first-hand look at the countries historic peace process as it hangs in the balance after the victory of the far right in the June 17 Presidential election.

If we raise enough money to cover the cost of releasing all of this important content over a span of several episodes, we can then dedicate funds to new filming and production that is not subject to attacks by the Pentagon. This includes documentaries on everything from Trump’s war machine, to the hidden repression of environmental activists.

We ask for your support to expose the crimes of the US Empire at this critical time, as well as your solidarity with TeleSUR and Venezuela’s right to self-determination.

Click here to make a one-time donation on GoFundMe
Click here to become a monthly sustainer on Patreon
We are now accepting Bitcoin donations here:
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For media and interview requests, contact [email protected]

Empire Files: Abby Martin Fact Checks Congressman Sabotaging Colombia Peace Deal

Colombia’s presidential election could determine the fate of the historic peace deal ending their 53-year civil war. While most in the country want to honor the agreement, Colombia’s right wing has been a fervent opponent.

In Bogotá, Abby Martin interviews Congressman Edward Rodriguez, a leading member of the far-right Democratic Center Party founded by former President Uribe. She challenges him on his party’s ties to death squads, drug cartels and potential to reignite the war.

Martin also visits the government office dedicated to compensating the civilian victims and speaks with Director Ana Maria Almario about their monumental task.

 

acTVism Munich: Interview with Abby Martin – Corporate Media, Imperialism & People Power

Corporate Media, Imperialism, People’s Power

 

On May 6, 2018, the excellent grassroots media project acTVism Munich organized an event with Glenn Greenwald, Jill Stein and Abby Martin called “Freedom & Democracy: Global Issues in Context 2.0″ in Munich, Germany.

In an interview with organizer Zain Raza, Abby explains her trajectory as an anti-war activist turned professional journalist for RT America, the inverted reality in America where criticism of the government is smeared as Russian propaganda, her critique of corporate media and passion for a free media; and why her current work centers through the lens of US Empire.

View the entire event including excellent interviews with Jill Stein and Glenn Greenwald and an audience question and answer session at the end.

 

Freedom & Democracy: Global Issues in Context 2.0

The Joe Rogan Experience #1111 — Abby Martin

Abby Martin on the Joe Rogan Experience #1111

 

Abby goes on the The Joe Rogan Experience Podcast to talk about everything from the demonization of “the Left,” Trump at the helm of US Empire, Kanye West’s meltdown, the Israeli lobby smear campaign for her previous appearance and the Israeli military’s massacre of Great March of Return nonviolent protesters on the Gaza border.

 

Abby Martin on Great March of Return Massacre

Abby talks about the Great March of Return massacre of nonviolent protesters on the Gaza border, including the Israeli Defense Force’s deliberate targeting of children, journalists and rescue workers.