The Top 10 Censored Stories of 2004

News the mainstream press deemed unfit to print

| January-February 2005

While the mainstream media dutifully kept tabs on the electoral map throughout 2004, a number of crucial stories on President Bush’s fight for corporate rights and his spotty record on civil liberties and the environment were either ignored or underplayed. According to Peter Phillips and Project Censored, compilers of Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Stories   (Seven Stories Press, 2004), all of last year’s top 10 underreported stories involve the Bush administration.

In the book’s preface, Phillips, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University who serves as director of Project Censored, believes reporters inside the mainstream media can’t help but ignore what really matters. “Most journalists want to tell the Watergate stories about the powerful,” he writes. “However, huge, often overwhelming forces of power, greed, and spin challenge journalists inside their own media systems, resulting in corporate cultures of self-censorship and fear.”

Here is an overview of the top stories.

The top 1 percent of the U.S. population now owns about a third of the country’s wealth, and the highly touted American middle class is fast disappearing. In an interview with Buzz Flash, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Cay Johnston reports that the Bush administration passed legislation to accelerate the divide domestically. The Guardian and Multinational Monitor point out that the top 400 income earners in the United States make as much a year as the entire population of the 20 poorest countries in Africa. They conclude that leaving this sort of inequity unchecked on the international stage will only exacerbate global discord and undermine democracy.

The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), passed by Congress in 1789 so sea pirates could be prosecuted on American soil, was cited throughout the 1980s as a way to put international human rights violators on trial in U.S. courts. Thanks to the act, Holocaust survivors were able to secure reparations and American companies have been held accountable for their actions in other countries. According to and Asheville Global Report, Attorney General John Ashcroft, concerned that the ATCA could be interpreted too broadly or compromise relations with allies in the war against terror, was seeking to strike this law from the books. Human Rights Watch calls the move ‘a craven attempt to protect human rights abusers at the expense of victims.’

Two important reports, one from U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and the other from a group of 62 scientists, criticized the Bush administration for “purging, censoring, and manipulating scientific information in order to push forward its pro-business, anti-environmental agenda.” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., writing in The Nation, said that the Bush administration, along with business leaders and conservative think tanks, “are engaged in a campaign to suppress science that is arguably unmatched in the Western world since the Inquisition.”

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